Kosha Dillz in his music video for "Schmoozin'." (Screenshot/YouTube)
Kosha Dillz in his music video for "Schmoozin'." (Screenshot/YouTube)

Rapper Kosha Dillz organizes virtual Passover music fest

Kosha Dillz is supposed to be on a multicity U.S. tour right now. Instead, the 38-year-old rapper is stuck in Los Angeles, where he is trying to find creative ways to celebrate Passover online — as well as generate some income for himself and other artists who have lost gigs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

To that end, Kosha Dillz is headlining his own Passover-themed virtual music festival on Facebook — right now! The more than 13-hour Seder Stream Festival is taking place today, April 14, and the last act is scheduled to go on at 9 p.m. Check it out here.

The lineup includes both Jewish and non-Jewish acts, including the Grammy-nominated blues band Southern Avenue, Howi Spangler of the rock band Ballyhoo, and other musicians, DJs and even burlesque dancers. The performers will be accepting donations as well as raising money for charities of their choice, including Value Culture, a S.F.-based arts nonprofit.

“I had 22 shows cancelled,” explained Kosha Dillz, who was born Rami Even-Esh in New Jersey to Israeli immigrant parents and who raps in English, Hebrew, Yiddish and Spanish. “That’s a significant amount of income. I usually do an event at South by Southwest, which was cancelled [in March], so I took some acts from that project and merged them with other acts for the festival.”

Kosha Dillz organized the festival with his friend, Adam Swig, the S.F.-based founder and CEO of Value Culture.

The festival marks the first livestream show for Robert Vickers, who has been performing around the Bay Area for years as Bud E. Luv, a parody of a Las Vegas lounge singer. Vickers said he has a toe in Jewish culture as the husband of a Jewish woman.

In addition to the festival, Kosha Dillz and Swig have collaborated to set up the Seder Stream Facebook group, which collects and promotes livestreams of Passover seders from around the world.

Among the dozens seders that have been shared: a seder conducted in Yiddish, an LGBTQ seder with transgender author-activist Abby Stein, an election-oriented political seder, and seders geared toward fans of cannabis, Harry Potter and the video game Minecraft.

“It’s been like a Passover miracle to us,” Swig said of the Facebook group.

On the second night of Passover, Swig and Kosha Dillz participated in a Zoom seder originating in Australia — which was in the middle of the night in California.

“The coolest part about seder hopping with Seder Stream is seeing all the different ways people are adapting and celebrating the Passover traditions this year,” Swig said.

For Raphi Danan, a British entrepreneur living in Jaffa, Israel, taking part in a virtual seder led by Americans was “the peak of all of the virtual encounters” he has had under quarantine. He learned about it from the Seder Stream Facebook group.

“I have never been to that side of the pond, so I really wanted to see what it was like for a community of people in San Francisco and L.A. to come together and celebrate the ultimate redemption,” Danan said, “and it was really beautiful to see.”

Kosha Dillz immigrated to Israel six month ago, saying he needed a change of pace and because “the musical talent there is the best in the world.” He continues to tour internationally, and has performed at numerous festivals, including Coachella last year. He recently released a new song with Matisyahu called “For the Ones.”

Kosha Dillz said he is committed to helping other independent artists like him survive this crisis. “I’m known for being a hustler and hard worker, and I want to switch the tone to being a giver right now,” he said.

Last week, Kosha Dillz livestreamed himself leading a short seder, which he then edited to five minutes and uploaded to YouTube.

‘We’re in a plague right now, and we’re gonna get out of it, and one day rappers will make money again on tour,” he jokes in the video.

After Passover ends on Thursday, April 16, Kosha Dillz and Swig plan to promote another Facebook group they run, Shabbat Streams, which has been collecting streams of Shabbat services from around the world.

“Not everyone’s into their grandma’s Jewishness,” Swig said. “It’s important to recognize where you come from, but it’s important to chart a new path, too. What we’re trying to do is allow people to experience a whole different Jewishness, which they didn’t have access to before.”

Added the rapper: “We’re proud of our identity. We just do it our own way.”

Andrew Esensten
Andrew Esensten

Andrew Esensten is a freelance journalist in San Francisco. Previously, he was a staff writer for the English-language edition of Haaretz based in Tel Aviv.