Time for another post on Halachics!
The Jerusalem Report has an article about a Hareidi singer who sounds too much like a girl for the liking of Hareidi radio stations. The stations dropped the songs of singer Eliyahu Faizkov after receiving complaints from listeners.
Apparently, the audience of pirate haredi radio stations such as Radio 10, Kol Haneshema and Radio Beit Yisrael does not want anyone to receive the false impression that they are transgressing Jewish law.
A few months back, I blogged about an a cappella album that was released specifically for Sefirah, when many observant Jews will not listen to music played with instruments. The album used a human voice and music production technology to mimic actual instruments. At the time, I said:
The issue does present some interesting halachic possibilities. Should a computer like the one used to modify the vocal tracks be considered an instrument for the purposes of prohibiting listening to the album? Alternatively, can we rest on an essentialist doctrine that claims that even though your ears can’t tell the difference between the voice and the instruments, your ears don’t decide the halacha, and the use of instruments affects the spiritual worlds in real ways that the voice simply cannot duplicate?
I also explained that I thought the halachic analysis missed the point, and I think the new situation demonstrates this. There is not a single posek who thinks that it is prohibited to hear a male singer, no matter how much like a woman he might sound. But radio stations (even pirate radio stations!) have an audience with appetites for a particular product. In the case of Hareidi listeners, there simply is no demand for music that sounds like it is being sung by a woman.
Maybe the lack of demand stems from ignorance over the singer’s masculinity, but my bet is that even those who are aware that the singer is male would prefer that the radio station not play his songs. I think the concern is that other Hareidim, less-connected to the Hareidi music scene, will assume that the voice is female, and that the owner of the radio is not sufficiently pious. Perhaps Faizkov needs to realign his career strategy to this reality, and seek to perform live, or perhaps with artists whose appeal is outside of the Hareidi world, where his talent for mimicking the female voice would be quite marketable.