The Viral Hip Hop Dance Craze Started By An Orthodox Jew
There’s a new dance craze that’s been sweeping the hip hop community this summer, called #YodelChallenge. Reminiscent of the “Whip Nae Nae” song, #YodelChallenge has racked up hundreds of thousands of views across YouTube with numerous copycat versions. The writer and singer of the “The Yodel,” the song behind this viral movement, is a most surprising person: none other than a twenty-seven year old Orthodox Jew named Pierre Miller.
Though Miller’s foray into music composition and production was recent (he had managed apartments beforehand) his love of it has been lifelong. His Swiss mother, who took him to her country numerous times throughout his childhood, and Holocaust-survivor grandmother introduced him to Viennese waltzes, Mordechai Ben David, Hungarian and Gypsy music, while his Connecticut-born lawyer father instilled in him a love of Hip Hop. “God made everybody differently and where He has the most pleasure is when one shines with the gifts that He gave them.” This eclectic background informs his approach to music. “My goal [is] to make [music] holy and keep that tradition… for the sacredness of what religion gives us, keep it sacred. I write a lot of chassidish songs as well. I love rebbes and I go to tisch.”
So how did a yeshiva bochur end up with a viral Hip Hop hit? The key lies in the sound he created and the message it represents. “The Yodel”combines Swiss yodeling with catchy beats and lyrics. He realized that the sound of his “home country” could be a way to inspire people to be themselves. “Yodeling is very traditional. Technically it’s a mountain language from Germany. It’s very popular in Switzerland. I love how whimsical it sounds and kind of weird. Not a sound you hear everyday.”
“[I wanted] to develop that sound within the seriousness of Hip Hop and target the underdogs who might go through very tough days…They settle for a life of complacency. They are such a bright light to the world…When [you] are having a tough day or going through a tough life, don’t [care] what people say or think. Just do you. Do your yodel. You’re a Newark yodeler, a New York Yodeler. For young people it’s inspirational.”
He reaches out to the black community specifically, knowing that their pain is greater because of how society views them. The reaction has been very positive. “Someone is paying attention to them… a white person who seemingly grew up more privileged…They feel hope and can show who they are through dance.” Miller hopes to reach anyone in need of a boost from his music’s message. “Every single person who woke up in the morning and simply …went off into their day, no matter how hard it was, no one knowing your pain, only you and your heart and God… The real winning is not the money. Who is giving strength to people anymore? If you’re sad and having a tough time in life, the real winning is getting up and doing you.”
When I was making the Yodel video, the Swiss Embassy reached out. A Muslim Swiss girl told me. ‘You’ve really got something. I see people dancing [to your music] to heal the world.’ Politics is so serious. Maybe a little humor will bring people together. A little love and laughter goes a long way.”