Mama Doni is a whole lotta (Jewish) fun. With a larger-than-life personality and infectious joy, Mama Doni is one of today’s most popular children’s singers with music that celebrates the Jewish culture. Celebrity Parents spoke with Mama Doni about creating quality Jewish music, being a balanced mom, and how she hopes her music inspires ruah in everyone.
So let’s talk about your background.
I’ve always been immersed in the Jewish culture. I felt so passionate about growing up Jewish. My kids went to a Jewish preschool, and I was invited to be the class mom. I did a Shabbat Friday, and read a story to the kids and sang to them. The head of the school asked me afterwards to be the music teacher.
Wow, it was one of those crossroads moments.
It was. I said yes; I just felt it was the right thing to do. So I trained to become a music teacher.
And when did you decide to focus your music on Jewish culture?
Everything I was doing was coming out of Jewish ideas. I started looking for cool music for Jewish kids’ music that had a fun, funky hip way but couldn’t find anything. I decided to write my own songs, and after a few months, I basically had an entire album. I sent it to the International Jewish Music Festival, and it won the Simcha Award in Amsterdam. Since then, I’ve traveled all over the country doing shows. It’s been amazing.
What I find amazing is that you started performing only two years ago, and you’ve gone on to create four highly successful albums.
When I was younger, I would write children’s stories, and I’ve always liked performing. I think all of it was already there, and when I became a mom, it all came together. I have so much fun doing what I’m doing. I get to share the Jewish culture in a cool way. It’s great to connect people to their Jewish identity, and to also share the culture with those who aren’t Jewish. The music is really intended for families of all backgrounds.
What I love about the music is that it’s truly an eclectic mix.
I love all kinds of music. I grew up in a family where we would put on a record and listen to it for a month! We listened to everything from The Sound of Music to Saturday Night Fever to Beethoven. So I’ve incorporated all of those styles in my own music; I’ll take a reggae song and give it a Jewish twist. And frankly, as a mom, I don’t want to listen to bad kids’ music.
I know. It’s torture when you’re driving and you’re stuck listening to the same bad songs over and over.
Absolutely. I wanted to create music that is clever and fun. Moms say, “I listen to it…alone!” [laughs]
Now that your music career has really taken off, how do you find balance between work and family?
I couldn’t have handled this ten years ago, but now being a mom, you learn how to do a lot at once. I’ll see which child needs me more; who needs my heart today, and I balance it. I make time for the kids and I’ll go out to dinner with husband, Chris. I’m not going to say that it’s not hard, but because I love what I’m doing, and I love my family, it somehow works. Everything is okay, and everyone is happy.
As we were shooting, you mentioned that one way you spend quality time with your kids is by cooking with them.
We make challah together for the Shabbat. And when we do, the house smells awesome! Sometimes it might be a pizza Shabbat dinner, so we’ll have challah and pizza. Other times, it might be a matzoh ball soup Shabbat night, but it’s always a fun thing to do as a family. The night before, I tell the kids to come up with the craziest idea for their challah; we’ve done peanut butter challahs, and chocolate challahs, even cheese challahs. It doesn’t matter what it looks like; it’s just having being together and having fun.
Speaking of fun, your fourth album just came out. Shabbat Shaboom. Love the name.
Thanks! [laughs] It’s a great album. It’s a celebration of Shabbat, and it has fun songs on it. There’s a Latin Jewish Macarena, and we even have a disco song called Sabbath Queen. It’s all about what the Shabbat means to me, which is a time for your family to be together to relax from your every day life.
What would you say is the overall message of your music?
I really hope that people get a good sense of the Jewish culture. You can feel connected to it if you’re Jewish, and if you’re not, then you’ve learned something new. There’s fun and joy in that. There’s something called “ruah”, which means joy and spirit. Ruah is my absolute favorite word. It’s living large, being yourself, and being full of energy and passion. To find their sparkle and find that part of you that’s real. If I can help people find their own ruah that they have inside, then that’s what I hope people get from my music.