Remembering Yosi Piamenta on Chanukah 2021

Was he one of the greatest guitarists ever?

Travel is not merely achieved by physical means, in my opinion. Vestiges of it can also be accomplished via books, food, beverages, videos, art — and especially music…

Remembering Yosi Piamenta on Chanukah 2021

…and as Chanukah — which is also known as the Festival of Lights due to the miracle of how a small quantity of oil for the menorah of the Temple of Jerusalem miraculously lasted for eight consecutive days — starts at sundown tonight, Sunday, November 28, 2021, I wanted to write an article which is dedicated to the music of Yosi Piamenta, who unfortunately passed away on Sunday, August 23, 2015 after undergoing surgery for cancer.

I cannot remember the first time I met Yosi Piamenta; but it would certainly be at a Chassidic Jewish wedding. My cousin is a wedding photographer — I consider him to be one of the best photographers — and although he has photographed weddings of virtually every faith and denomination, he is well known in the Orthodox Jewish community for his work. He hired me to be his assistant when I was 16 years old; and I worked with him for years, significantly learning a lot about photography while simultaneously earning enough money to purchase the best camera equipment money could buy and travel worldwide.

At any particular reception — after one band would finish a set of traditional Jewish music — another band would take the ersatz stage…

…and one member of this band would be off in a corner, dressed informally, with what appeared to be a worn bandanna on his head — certainly not attire to wear at a formal wedding reception. He would be inconspicuously strumming his electric guitar in tune along with the other members of the band. His raggedly grayish beard and mustache was not unlike most of the other men in the building…

…and then came that first note of what would be one of the best lead guitar performances I had ever seen or heard. My cousin and I — who both like rock music — were mesmerized.

As the sweat flew like bullets off of his forehead, Yosi Piamenta was in complete control of that electric guitar as his fingers flawlessly played every note. He did not just own that guitar. He owned that guitar.

My cousin and I would eventually see him perform at many Chassidic Jewish weddings, excitedly exclaiming “Yes! He’s here!” every time we saw him appear — and with a telling gleam from the corner of his eye, Yosi began to recognize us too; and when he did, we knew we were in for a treat.

During some of the sets which he would play, Yosi would look at us with a mischievous grin and start playing obviously recognizable licks and samples from songs by Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and other artists who are considered to be legends in rock music and work them into the music which the band was playing. Yosi did not work with the same band every time; so it was not as though this was rehearsed…

…and I am still not completely convinced as to whether the guests at the wedding receptions — many of whom only spoke Hebrew and Yiddish — knew what Yosi was actually doing. Chassidic Jewish men who listen to Led Zeppelin? Why not?!?

But Yosi did not simply play rock music to emulate how the songs were played originally. After viewing many of his performances personally — and from only a mere few feet away — I am convinced that Yosi Piamenta could hold his own against any of the best of the best guitar players. Name any of them — Mark Knopfler, Muddy Waters, Eddie Van Halen, Carlos Santana, Chuck Berry, Brian May, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page — Yosi Piamenta should be included on this list as well.

Hear it for yourself if you do not believe me: for example, the song Od Yishama — which translates into yet again there shall be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem​ — starts off the album Piamenta Live New York City Performance, which illustrates how Yosi Piamenta masterfully handles not only hard rock music, but also the blues, klezmer, nigunim, and even psychedelia.

Just listen to the mind-blowing lead guitar solo work of Yosi Piamenta in the song Hashem Or Li.

If blues is what you want to hear, look no further than the song Red House — which may be where your rebbe stays and is in English — and get ready to be blue in a good way:

Final Boarding Call

Music is a subjective matter of taste, of course — so whether you like it is obviously completely up to you…

…but simply listening to these songs by Yosi Piamenta — and other songs which are not only on the aforementioned album but other albums as well — does not do justice when compared to watching his live performances in person; but it is like going on a musical journey and virtually traveling all over the world when considering all of the different styles of music which he was able to play and seamlessly incorporate.

Please give his music a listen and see what you think — and hopefully you will enjoy it. You do not have to be Jewish to appreciate the music of Yosi Piamenta.

Although I have met Yosi Piamenta countless times, we never did get to know each other — but Yosi: this article is dedicated to you and your amazing musicianship…

…and Happy Chanukah in the year 5782! May your latkes and doughnuts be as delicious as ever; may you win at spinning the dreidels; and may the candles in your menorah last longer than usual over the next eight days.

Yossi Piamenta performed at a concert in the Old City of Jerusalem in October of 2009. Source: Wikipedia as licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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