By: Avi Lekowsky  | 

Music Video with Meaning — An Interview with Yosef Wildes

Yosef Wildes is a senior at Yeshiva University who helps himself and others find peace with themselves in a hectic world. In this interview, we dive into his latest project, “Take Me Shabbos.” We talk about inspirations, meanings and finding spirituality in the most unlikely places.

Avi Lekowsky (AL): Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Yosef Wildes (YW): Hey, I’m Yosef Wildes from Manhattan. I’ve been involved in Yeshiva University (YU) for a while now. I went to MTA for two years, spent two years in Israel, and now I’m in my third year at YU majoring in psychology and minoring in creative writing. Between juggling classes and working as an NCSY Coordinator for West Hartford, me and my apartment put on kumzitzes some Thursday nights. We call it the House of Love and Prayer, and we invite everyone. We appreciate all and always have a great experience. There’s always a sense of trying to create a certain atmosphere in the room of comfort in the middle of the stress of college — the food and singing my roommates help do assists that also.

AL: Music seems to be important to you — how’d you get into it?

YW: Even going as far back as elementary school, I was in the choir. Choir followed me into high school, as well as picking up guitar. Music has always been a part of me and something I’ve loved for a while. Over time, I continued and started making music in yeshiva in Israel. It’s kind of become my favorite thing to play — other people’s songs don’t really do it for me as much as they used to. I love playing around on the guitar, writing lyrics, and making poetry. A poetry class I took here helped me a lot with that. Making music is a great way for me to express myself. It can be healing and allows me to help other people.

AL: What would you say is the backbone to your music — where does the inspiration come from? Would you say it’s something that’s changed over time or stayed static?

YW: Maybe more in the past, it used to be more about expressing myself, and while I’d say that still plays a role today, I think it would be cool to recognize and become more aware of a topic. In the process, the music becomes the vehicle to help heal you in terms of well-being. There’s this concept of daas in Judaism, which refers to the “I,” or the “self” beyond the thoughts and emotions. Once you can tap into this energy, you get closer to yourself and G-d. A lot of it is trying to bring people into that meditative experience.

AL: Your latest project, “Take Me Shabbos,” focuses on the importance and beauty of the seventh day of rest. There’s been tens of thousands of views on social media and people seem to really vibe with it. What is the story behind that and how does it drive a healing experience?

YW: When I make music, I just start strumming the guitar and let whatever’s supposed to happen, happen. Usually the chords and the tune starts to come together, and that’s when I start singing. I never take lyrics and then force them into a song — it’s usually the opposite. It’s almost like the tune expresses the words and the words express the tune. Each goes hand in hand and goes together. 

For this song, I felt a sense of peacefulness and a unifying energy — which to me, relates to Shabbat. Shabbat is all about a sense of being and not a sense of doing, you’re feeling comfort and happiness. The song is all about the buildup: one foot after the next, Shabbat is coming up. Then the lyrics for Lecha Dodi start to appear — ‘Come my beloved towards the Queen of Shabbat and receive it.’ At the end of the video, Shabbat comes in and the harmonies explode and come together. You get taken up by this unique and special day, a day of peace and just connecting with family and friends. The music video tries to make the contrast of the weekday and Shabbat noticeable. You see someone on their phone, on the subway, and then the contrast comes in and you see me in a hoodie and a tallit in nature. Everything comes together in a really meaningful way.

AL: Where did the idea for the visuals come from?

YW: There was a guy named Achi Adamit who helped video and edit everything, along with my dad, who runs the Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE), which sponsored the video. We got together and asked ourselves what we want the story to portray. Jacob Lee is a musician that sings about the human experience who I look up to a lot that uses a trippy elements in his videos  that I wanted to use in mine. The nature scenes were inspired by him, along with the shifting of scenes. Creating a trippy vibe was accomplished through the song, and the video helped accomplish that. 

Since MJE was a big part of it, we wanted to have a participant of the program in the video. The guy, who happens to look a lot like me, was the one on the subway on his phone. After that, he puts on a kippah and walks into shul and the scenes change. The experience of Shabbat takes over everything and helps relay the situation to Jews of all backgrounds and experiences. Everyone comes together from the day of doing to the day of ebbing and being surrounded by this incredible energy.

AL: You mentioned your father’s organization, MJE, and I noticed a lot of your family was in the video — was this a conscious decision? Or did they just happen to be around?

YW: The video serves a dual purpose as a promotion for MJE and the things they try to do, so it was definitely conscious. The Shabbat table as well was also a bit conscious, because we wanted a family feel to it. Sometimes, you need a warm, family environment to give it that feeling.

AL: You spend a lot of time in the video in nature — not the cleanest place. You’re wearing all white and walking barefoot, probably getting a bit dirty. What was the significance behind this?

YW: I spent two months in a hesder yeshiva in Tzfat, and that’s what I wore on Shabbat. It’s what a lot of people do there — wear all white like Yom Kippur. That’s the type of energy I wanted to bring to the video. Tzfat is a very pure place, and the element of spiritual meditation present there is really special. I really love that place, and it helps bring me back to that spirit. There’s also a lot of people in Israel who walk around barefoot, so I wanted to use that to help the “nature-y” vibe of the video. I really wanted to portray a state of being free and not being held down by anything.

AL: Anything else you want to plug? What can we expect from you next?

YW: I’m working on a song with Tani Polansky about the prayer of Nishmat, and how to show that off in an interesting way. I’m also working on this song called “Imagination,” which is being worked on in the studio. It’s about tapping into your creativity and your mind and how far you can go with it. I also love putting on kumzitzes, and am in the process of trying to create a music/meditation type of program to create something therapeutic.

AL: Thanks for stopping by, good luck with everything you do!

Photo Caption: Yosef Wildes 
Photo Credit: Yosef Wildes