NEW YORK – A group of Yeshiva University students have become a somewhat-unlikely YouTube sensation, by transforming Mike Tompkins’ a cappella cover of Taio Cruz’s hit song “Dynamite” into an irrepressibly catchy and entertaining Hanukka parody, “Candlelight.”
The Maccabeats, an all-male a cappella group at the Orthodox Jewish university, authored and put together the video. The video is a hilarious montage of spoofs on music videos, battle scenes between Jews and Greeks, the inexplicable appearance of a NASA astronaut, and at least one sufganiyah whose fillings cannot be contained.
Immanuel Shalev, associate director of the Maccabeats, spoke with The Jerusalem Post a few days before the group was slated to open for Matisyahu in a special Hanukka concert. Shalev formed the Maccabeats four years ago, along with co-founders Michael Greenberg and Julian Horowitz.
“I always get videos from my friends, my mom, and pretty much every Jewish relative around the Jewish holidays -- they're usually pretty standard, a Muppet singing "shana tova" or celebrities eating matzah,” Shalev said. “We figured we could probably do a really fun and entertaining video.”
The group’s other hit video, a cover of Matisyahu’s “One Day,” has also surpassed 100,000 hits on YouTube.
“That went pretty well, and I figured that we are the Maccabeats, so Hanukka is pretty much our holiday,” Shalev said.
Shalev was listening to ‘Dynamite’ on his way home from school, and inspiration struck.
“"I throw my hands up in the air sometimes" just became "I flipped my latkas in the air sometime" in my head,” Shalev said. “We got really excited about the idea.”
Making the video took about a month, Shalev estimates, with three weeks devoted to filming and editing by Uri Westrich, who directed the video.
The video has received over 200,000 hits on YouTube, and the numbers keep growing. The song is also available for download on iTunes.
“ Honestly, we're really humbled by the response,” Shalev said. “We have a great time singing together, especially about themes that are so important to us religiously. We try to have fun while still doing that which is important to us - and what's amazing is that others relate to it in so many different ways.”
“Parents love it because it gets their kinds into Hanukka. Kids love it because it's fun. This one comment on Facebook really reminded us of why we do what we do - "Thanks Cousin Gayle for sending me this video. After shopping with my kids for Hanukka gifts, I forgot what the meaning of the holiday is."" Shalev said.
Among the tremendous number of responses to the video, Shalev said, was one from a family of Noahides in Texas, who described themselves as transitioning from celebrating Christmas to Hanukka.
“They wrote us to let us know that "Candlelight" is their family's new theme song,” Shalev said.