With his trademark white Yamulke and Rasta-like payot, Raz Hartman comes across as being a cool frum Jew, comfortable with his religious perspectives and wanting to share it with other people – which he's done through his music.
Combining traditional Hebrew and religious melodies with Middle Eastern rhythms, Hartman is one of Israel's best-kept musical secrets. His album, Shabbat Olam, features his piano-based interpretations of several Sabbath songs – he describes the CD as featuring, "songs that express my Shabbat experience". He composed all the tracks himself, inspired by traditional tunes and songs from the Sabbath service, and the album has a sparse feel – the songs are mainly piano-based, with only the occasion intrusion from another instrument, such as percussion.
So who is Hartman? Well, he's an Israeli-born singer, pianist and teacher, who trained in California, and returned to Israel to serve in the army, before learning Torah at Yeshiva Bat Ayin in Israel. While there, he performed under the name The Bat Ayin Band.
He is heavily influenced by the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach – better known as the Singing Rabbi – and realised through him that music can spread the Jewish message, and can be celebratory at the same time. It was after meeting Carlebach that he began composing his own music – and he's performed it in the US as well as Israel. Currently, Hartman lives in Jerusalem with his wife and two children, and teaches Torah when he's not singing.
For more information: http://cdbaby.com/cd/razhartman