VIDEO: Darshan duo mixes mysticism, hip-hop in area concerts

What happens when hip-hop melds with kabbalistic mysticism, Jewish liturgy and ethereal musings? What happens is Darshan, a musical duo coming to the Bay Area next week.

Darshan, the musical marriage of Shir Yaakov Feit and Eden Pearlstein, is the product of opposites uniting to create something that meshes unexpectedly. Feit’s peaceful and melodic musical arrangements and Pearlstein’s hip-hop vocals blend to evoke a Jewish perspective that is traditional and fresh at the same time.

“We don’t necessarily make liturgical music, though we do pull from the psalms and the Torah and the Zohar, and genres of Jewish literature, from an inside perspective. We’re in conversation with those texts. That was an innovative move for me to walk deeper into our tradition,” said Pearlstein, who goes by ePRHYME on stage.

Eden Pearlstein (left) and Shir Yaakov Feit

The New York-based Darshan performs Thursday, Jan. 28 in Berkeley, with Bambi as the opening act. The concert is the first performance of the Sinai Sessions, a creation of the Jewish Studio Project in Berkeley that holds quarterly musical events.

On Jan. 30, Darshan performs two events at Stanford, co-sponsored by Hillel at Stanford and the Oshman Family JCC. At the Third Meal Shabbat at Hillel, Darshan leads a meditative, musical experience. That evening, Darshan takes the stage at Koret Pavilion for a two-hour performance.

“It’s artistry, spirituality and creativity that Darshan bring to their music and to Jewish life,” said Joel Stanley, the JCC’s director of Jewish innovation and a longtime fan of Darshan who helped bring the duo to the Bay Area.

Pearlstein and Feit came up with the name Darshan — which means mythmaker and seeker in Sanskrit and deliverer of the drash in Hebrew — by rearranging letters in their names and blending them together. The two met the summer of 2007 in Connecticut at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center run by Hazon, where Pearlstein was a fellow in the Adamah program and Feit was working as a residential employee. Though mutual friends had encouraged them to meet, they didn’t really become friends until Feit gave Pearlstein a ride to the airport at the end of the summer. It was then that they recognized their musical connection. A few months later, Feit sang a few tracks on Pearlstein’s first solo album.

The following summer, back in Connecticut, they began to truly collaborate, often in the three hours leading up to Shabbat, by writing songs together. Then they started performing together.

“Our souls knew each other,” Pearlstein said.

Darshan released its first professionally produced, full-length album called “Deeper and Higher” this past September. Music from that album can be sampled on the group’s website, www.darshanproject.com.

Two music videos are also available on Darshan’s website. The first, “Aleph Bass,” is an animated, funky take on the Hebrew alphabet and the connection between the cosmic, metaphysical elements that connect us all.

The second video, “Know Return,” Darshan describes as a “poetic meditation on the spiritual cycle of teshuvah [repentance and renewal] that characterizes the months of Elul and Tishrei,” the High Holy Day period.

“The video is deeply psychedelic Kabbalah, and also features some quite intense rapping,” said Stanley.

“Darshan plays with the intention of bringing people together to share a collective conscious awakening through music,” said Pearlstein.

“If our music can serve as a vehicle to transport people deeper into the present moment as well as transcend themselves, that’s the kind of experience we’re trying to have as musicians, and if we all do it together, then it’s even more powerful for all involved.”

Darshan performs 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28 at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. $10-$15. www.jcceastbay.org. Also 4:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at Hillel at Stanford, 555 Mayfield Ave. Free, but RSVP jstanley@paloaltojcc.org, and 8:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at Stanford Koret Pavilion, 564 O’Connor Lane. Prices vary. www.paloaltojcc.org/Events/darshan-in-concert

Shoshana Hebshi
Shoshana Hebshi

Shoshana Hebshi is a freelance writer and former J. copy editor living in the North Bay.