|Born||Brooklyn, New York|
|Origin||New York City, New York|
|Genres||Jewish music, folk rock, world music|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, cantor, music teacher|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, oud, saz, percussion|
|Associated acts||Pharaoh's Daughter, Darshan|
Basya Schechter is an American Jewish singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, cantor, and music teacher. She is the lead singer and founder of the world/folk rock band Pharaoh's Daughter and has released two solo albums.
Raised in the Hasidic Jewish community of Borough Park, Schechter left Orthodoxy after high school but maintained a love for the traditional Jewish music of her youth. Her own music often blends concepts from Jewish music with a variety of indigenous styles and sounds from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, among others.
Schechter was born to an ultra Orthodox Jewish] family and grew up in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Her father was in a short-lived barbershop quartet managed by Don Kirshner during the 1950s; after the group's demise, he returned to school and became an accountant. During Basya's childhood, he often sang with her on Shabbat and exposed her to Israeli artists like Tzvika Pick, Shimi Tavori, and Kaveret. Her parents divorced when she was nine; she went to live with her father, who remarried when she was 14. She has said that due to her chaotic family life, she was less restricted than others in her community.
She attended the local Bais Yaakov for much of her schooling, where she choreographed several high school dance performances. After high school, she briefly attended an Orthodox girls' seminary in Jerusalem before being asked to leave due to her rebellious behavior; she subsequently spent time in Egypt, where she was introduced to Middle Eastern music. Returning to New York, she attended Barnard College as an English major, during which time she began writing and performing songs. In her late twenties, she held various jobs, including a brief stint as editor of the Street News homeless poet page, and went backpacking throughout Africa, the Aegean Region, and Kurdistan, studying the music and instruments of various countries.
Schechter formed Pharaoh's Daughter in 1995 while in college. The band's name is a reference to Schechter's given name, a Yiddish variant of the Biblical daughter of Pharaoh, Bithiah. They debuted in 1999 with the independent album Daddy's Pockets and were signed to Knitting Factory Records later that year. The label then released the band's second album, Out of the Reeds (2000). Their most recent album, Dumiyah, was released in 2014.
Schechter released her debut solo album, Queen's Dominion, in 2004 on Tzadik Records. The album was conceived by Schechter and percussionist Jarrod Cagwin and was produced by her and Albert Leusink (Swingadelic, System Band).
In 2011, she released Songs of Wonder, an album of musical arrangements of the Yiddish-language poetry of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. She had been introduced to Heschel's poetry in 2005 after receiving a volume of it from a congregant at B'nai Jeshurun. Prior to its release, the album was premiered at Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture Festival.
Schechter is a cantor and musical director for the Romemu congregation. She has also been the cantor at the Fire Island Synagogue since 2012. She previously played percussion during Friday night services at B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue on the Upper West Side. In 2015, she, Suzanne Vega, and Roma Baran provided vocal support at a Passover seder hosted by Laurie Anderson at Russ & Daughters. Later that year, she appeared with writer Shulem Deen at a Jewish Week-sponsored literary forum at Congregation Rodeph Sholom on the subject of leaving Orthodoxy. She is a former arts fellow at the Drisha Institute.
Schechter has been romantically involved with Rabbi Shaul Magid since 2013.
- Queen's Dominion (2004, Tzadik)
- Songs of Wonder (2011, Tzadik)
With Pharaoh's Daughter
- Daddy's Pockets (1999)
- Out of the Reeds (2000)
- Exile (2002)
- Haran (2007)
- Dumiyah (2014)
- Anthony Coleman, With Every Breath: The Music of Shabbat at BJ (1999) – percussion, background vocals
- Various, W.O.W. Women of Williamsburg Project – main artist ("In A Box")
- Sanda Weigl, Gypsy Killer (2002) – hand percussion
- B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue, Tekiyah: High Holy Days (2004) – vocals, percussion
- Dan Zanes, The Welcome Table (2008) – vocals, oud
- Mycale, Mycale: Book of Angels Volume 13 (2010) – group member, vocals
- EarthRise Soundsystem, The Yoga Sessions (2010) – featured artist, oud
- Darshan, Deeper and Higher (2015) – vocals
- The Epichorus, L'Oud and the Abstract Truth (2016) – kanjira
- Divan (2003)
- Leaving the Fold (2008)
- All of the Above: Single, Clergy, Mother (2014)
- Thunder in Guyana (2003)
- Beyond Eyruv (2006)
- Leaving the Fold (2008)
- Fidelity (2008)
- Alexander Gelfand (Nov 17, 2011). "Basya Schechter Sculpts World Music". The Forward.
- Toni Schlesinger (Nov 23, 1999). "Basya Schechter". The Village Voice.
- Sara Ivry (Nov 29, 2011). "Wonderstruck" (podcast). Tablet.
- Sara Ivry (Sep 29, 2014). "Basya Schechter Mixes Prayer Songs With Brass, Oud, and Radiohead" (podcast). Tablet.
- Matthew Shaer (Aug 5, 2010). "Pharaoh's Daughter lead singer mines her ultra-Orthodox roots for melodies". The Christian Science Monitor.
- Natalie Bogan (Feb 3, 2005). "Pharaoh's Daughter shaped by founder's world travels". Lawrence Journal-World.
- Ben Jacobson (Dec 27, 2007). "Homecoming premiere for Jewish cool's mother". The Jerusalem Post.
- Ben Jacobson (Sep 7, 2005). "A pack of kings and one queen". The Jerusalem Post.
- Josh Fleet (June 27, 2011). "Words Of Wonder: How Jewish Poems Become Songs Of Praise". The Huffington Post.
- Anne Cohen (Sep 20, 2013). "Romemu's Popular Rabbi and New Age Prayer Brings Growth — and Challenges". The Forward.
- Batya Ungar-Sargon (Aug 3, 2015). "How music and meditation jazzed up Jewish life on N.Y.'s Fire Island". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
- Michael Kaminer (April 7, 2015). "The Weekly Dish". The Forward.
- Robert Goldblum (Aug 25, 2015). "Losing Their Religion, Finding Their Voices". The Jewish Week.
- Susan Reimer-Torn (June 10, 2013). "A Showcase of Arts and Texts". The Jewish Week.