South Africa’s ‘pop-chazzan’ breathes new life into an Israeli folk classic

BY BENITA ZIVE - MAY 24, 2016 11:54

It’s been four years since Johannesburg born Choni Goldman, aka Choni G, won the prestigious Jewish Star - an international American Idol-style competition that showcases the singing talents of Orthodox Jews. Since then, he’s relocated to Cape Town to take on the role of chazzan at Cape Town's oldest and most famous synagogue; performed at gigs in Australia, Brazil and the US; and cemented his reputation as South Africa’s most sought-after Jewish wedding singer. 

What’s next? A debut album featuring ‘Indie electronic and acoustic blends; ancient prayers, and original new modern melodies’, with the first single - a refreshing take on Mosh Ben Ari/Sheva’s "Od Yavo Shalom-Salaam" - being released this week, to coincide with Lag B’Omer. 

The Jerusalem Post caught up with Choni in New York to find out more.

What inspired you to produce a new version of Od Yavo Shalom-Salaam?

The inspiration came at an impromptu jam session in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. I’d done a show at Universal Studios for Chabad of the Valley, and the next night I did a few numbers at an intimate Chanukah party at a Starbucks with a friend. We were busking new arrangements of classic songs and kind of free-styled Shalom-Salaam with a more soulful take on the melody. 

Your music video features South Africans from all walks of life. Music unites us, but do you think it really affects change and brings diverse communities together? 

I didn’t set out to affect change with this track; I really just liked the song! It made sense to include people from diverse cultures in the video. It’s not about politics. It’s a universal message.

What impact has growing up in a traditional rabbinic family had on your musical career? 

My father is the rabbi of a large traditional shul in Johannesburg so I grew up to the soundtrack of choral music, which probably inspired me to become a choirmaster. Aside from religious Jewish music, I wasn’t exposed to many different genres of music growing up - that came later - but I was privileged to experience spiritually and intellectually deep melodies of Chabad nigunim firsthand around my family’s Shabbat table, and melody is still something that comes relatively easily to me.

How do you think people outside Jewish religious circles will respond to your latest single? 

Shalom-Salaam has a spiritual element that most audiences can relate to. I don't have a lot of music out there yet, but for some reason my Hebrew songs tend to get a lot of positive feedback from Christian and Spanish fans. 

Do you play any musical instruments?

Not unless air trumpet and table drumming count.

When can we expect to hear more from you?

I’m hoping to release my new album at the end of the year, or early next year - watch this space!
I recently had to cancel a few days in studio to rest my voice after a busy wedding season, so in the next few months I’m planning to take some time out to work on new music and get into the recording studio when I’m back in Cape Town in a few weeks. 

For Choni’s new music video:; Follow him on:


Yonatan Razel, Choni G and Danny K


Yonatan Razel, Choni G and Danny K

Cape Town celebrated in style as Chabad of the West Coast celebrated at the CTICC with international stars Yonatan Razel, Choni G and Danny K took our city by storm with an incredible energy and passion.


A Jewish Star - 2012 Winner


A Jewish Star - 2012 Winner

SOURCE: The Jewish Insights

A sold out crowd filled Brooklyn College on Monday night for the live finals show of “A Jewish Star” international Jewish singing competition.

After much anticipation and strong performances on stage, Choni Goldman of Johannesburg, South Africa, was chosen as the Jewish Star 2012.

The feeling in the room was electric and fans watched with bated breath as the three finalists were chosen from the first round of performances – Moshe Biton of Teveryah, Choni Goldman of Johannesburg and Shimi Marcovich of Mexico.

In the final round of performances Choni Goldman was chosen as the Jewish Star winner by judges Avrohom Fried, Eli Gerstner, Yossi Green and Mendy Pellin.

Dovid Moskovitz of Flushing, NY, was chosen as the junior winner who wowed the judges and the crowd with an upbeat version of Adon Olam.

“I’ve been involved in music since I was 2 or 3,” he recalled before the show. “I never took voice lessons, but I think I have what it takes to be the next Jewish Star. Music is in my soul.”

Superstar Lipa Schmeltzer had the crowd on their feet with hits including “hentelach” and “abi m’lebt.”

“This was not around when I was young,” Lipa said. “It’s so amazing that Jewish Star gives everyone who wants a chance.”

Goldman was handed his prize – keys to a new car, by Eli Furstand and Abe Greenbaum of Plaza Auto Leasing. He also wins a single produced by Eli Gerstner and will perform on the Chabad Telethon in Hollywood, California, this September.

The show ended with excited fans crowding the stage to congratulate Goldman and Moskovitz on their win.

“It was an amazing event,” said one excited audience member. “Jewish Star is such a powerful and important medium for Jewish music worldwide.”