The AudioFile: Heavenly Audio Gear

Image by Leah Perrotta
In my Brooklyn neighborhood, I’m surrounded by Christians, Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews, Rastafarians, Santeria initiates, and the occasional Sikh. The MP3 player market must have similar diversity, right?naïveriffic! Well, not quite… in fact, I was disappointed at the dearth of religious zeal wrapped in a shamelessly commercial product–though Kosher cell phones do give me some hope.

This week, I’m temporarily gettin’ religion, thanks to a photo someone forwarded me of an actual prototype of a crucifix-shaped MP3 player. No, not just a silly first-gen iPod shuffle cap — a real live (and snazzy looking) Jesus-pod. But WWJLT? So where’s my Ankh-phone, or my DAP of David? The possibilities abound for enterprising zealots.

Wanted: Divine Cans
I’ve seen more than one online forum post asking which headphones are best for someone who wears a turban. For tightly wrapped turbans that completely cover the ears, ear clips, earbuds, and over-the-head headbands are all no good. Even street-style headphones, which go around the back of your neck, have clips on them that go behind your ears.

I’ve been racking my brain all week to think of some sort of commercially available solution, but I can’t! Sure, you could jury-rig something that might stay on, but if you can just go to your local headshopbuy an MP3 player/crucifix… Well, you’d think someone would look into making money off this. (Got ideas? Leave em below in the comments, but keep em tasteful…)

Keepin’ it ‘Rael
One answered prayer in audio tech is the advent of kosher cell phones — handsets approved by the Rabbinic Commission on Communications for orthodox Jewish groups like the Hasidim. Such phones lack amenities like Internet, text messaging, and a camera, and you can only use them to call other kosher phones. Many even have ringtones that mimic Hasidic melodies (nigunim).

For the less extreme but still devout, a clip-style iPod Shuffle as a yarmulke clip seems like an excellent marriage of faith and function. But at least it doesn’t require any DIY like some dorkier more sophisticated ideas — like a yarmulke with a solar-powered Bluetooth transmitter!

Rockin on the Fringe
The audio possibilities presented by religious headgear are infinite, but some seem so appropriate that it’s practically a sin that they don’t exist. Seriously, if I don’t see a Rastafarian hat with a few integrated 1-inch speaker drivers pretty soon, I may just have to make one myself.

I’ve gotten to know one of the Santeria initiates who lives near me — he’s recognizable because he’s always clad all in white. He’s usually wearing beaded necklaces that correspond to his metaphysical needs of the day, which naturally set me to thinking: a Santeria bead FM transmitter with touch-sensitive beads that let you dial the FM stations while they attract or repel various spiritual energies. A simple analog jack on the back of the necklace would be a perfect connector for any ultra-tiny music player.

From there, of course, my mind wandered to voodoo doll iPod cases. (C’mon, I can’t believe there isn’t one already….)

The Heaven’s are the Limit
I could spend pages and pages writing about imaginary audio gear for the faithful: Hindu statues that double as wireless multichannel speakers. Incense-holders that function as wireless USB hubs. (Hey I said imaginary, not imaginative.) But that’s besides the point.

Religion is making a big comeback these days, especially give the current climate of fundamentalism that seems to pervade current events. Where are the rest of the hucksters trying to cash in on people’s beliefs? Man cannot live by Hasidic ringtones alone.

At least Creative’s Zen line of players is already ahead of the curve–load em up with koans and you’re ready for enlightenment on the go!

(The illustration above was created by Leah Perrotta, a Brooklyn-based artist and all-around lovely gal. Check out more of her work here.)