Plume Varia's Hanukkah Song Is a Balm Amid Rising Anti-Semitism

Hanukkah starts Sunday night — not that you'd know it in Denver.

Like it or not, the Christmas spirit has been with our city for weeks, since the Trans-Siberian Orchestra blasted into the Pepsi Center with heavy-metal carols and Mile High stages have been turned over to various incarnations of The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol and other Christmas-themed fare.

For Jews looking for signs of their holiday, there's a drought of celebrations outside of religious communities in Denver. That was the experience Shon and Cherie Cobbs of Plume Varia had last year, driving through the Colorado foothills, searching through streaming platforms for Hanukkah music that reflected the quiet, peaceful nature of the Festival of Lights.

Sure, there's "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" and the Adam Sandler Hanukkah song. But there's little fodder out there — particularly from secular artists — nodding to the reflective side of the holiday.

As musicians themselves, the couple decided to fix that with "Hanukkah Light." They wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the track, had it mastered by Grammy Award-winning engineer Marco A. Ramirez, and released it on streaming platforms and YouTube this week.

Listen for yourself here:

"Hanukkah Light" is a meditative, somber song. It's earnest and rooted in the idea that there is a mitzvah — a commandment from above — for Jews to light candles in celebration of the holiday.

Hanukkah is celebrated in part by lighting candles each evening at sunset, from Sunday, December 2, through Monday, December 10, bringing a little brightness into the world and in a quiet way retelling a story of Jewish resistance remembered — but also often drowned out — with doughnuts, latkes, dreidels and chocolate coins.

In brief, the story goes like this: A temple was taken over by a king who forced Jews to give up their traditional ways. Eventually the temple was reclaimed by a group of rebels (much more violent than antifa) led by Judah Maccabee, whose against-all-odds victory allowed Jews, once again, to follow their customs and live peaceful lives — at least until the next Jew-hating king waged war against them.

The holiday is all about remaining visibly Jewish, joyful and celebratory in the face of hostility. It's a story of resistance and gratitude that rings especially true this year, as anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise, alt-right racist groups have mobilized nationwide, and in the wake of the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Plume Varia's simple, quiet song is a profound gift to a people in mourning, preparing for a reflective holiday and struggling with the question of how to resist a new wave of hate.

The song is available for download on Plume Varia's Bandcamp page.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris