Di Naye Kapelye / Aleph

Review | Personnel | Songlist

More about Di Naye Kapelye

A review of the eponymous Di Naye Kapelye CD, 1998

Di Naye Kapelye also appear on the compilation: Klezmer Music : A Marriage of Heaven and Earth/p>

For bookings:

Bob Cohen
Budapest 1071
Bajza u.4 / I.2

E-mail: zaelic@chello.hu

Album cover: A fuzzy black aleph with other symbols of 'first recording'. Di Naye Kapelye

Bob Cohen
Di Naye Kapelye
Budapest 1071
Bajza u.4 / I.2

Cassette only, available, $15, post-paid.

This cassette starts off with a modest, pleasant "Naftule's Freylachs," and then gets more and more intense. Listening to this is like discovering a whole new world. There are options in the klezmer world beyond doing the same, tired songs over and over, or writing new klez-inspired music--nice, often wonderful, but moving beyond something that was.

Bob Cohen has achieved authenticity in the most rewarding way: He goes to towns all over Romania and Hungary (often accompanied by, or accompanying, ethnomusicologist and wizard cymbalom player Josh Horowitz, of Budowitz) and finds older players, Jewish or Gypsy, and records what they remember. The result is a style of playing that feels so natural and authentic, so demanding of dance and dance and dance, that, for a few moments, other klezmer bands seem artificial and irrelevant.

In one of many conversations we had about the music, in Budapest and Berlin, Bob would drop gems like:

"So, how do you find the local violin players? You go to the guy who repairs the violins and ask, 'So, who around here really knows those old tunes...."

The authenticity of the sound is emphasized by the wonderful liner notes often in the style of "from the singing of Cili Schwartz, of Iasi, Romania [who] learned it from her uncle, Alter Baris...." A problem with field recordings is that copyright and authorship can be difficult to ascertain (grin).

The reality that this band is different, and wonderfully so, sinks in already by the second tune, when Christina puts aside her accordion for a big drum, and Bob saws away at something that sounds like a cross between klez and Irish folk--until, that is, Bob begins bellowing, "Ot azoy" (that's the way) and a slew of incomprehensible Yiddish. (It is authentic that the band leader bellow out occasional lyrics like this, and that they be incomprehensible to those, like myself, whose yiddish is weak, or who can't make out the words in the first place.) I wouldn't object to more tuneful vocals, but would that be authentic? On this song, and on "Di Mashkes" and on "In Odessa"--in short, on those songs where Bob shouts, it works, and begins to feel as natural as chicken soup with matza balls.

One of the features that makes this cassette most enjoyable is the pleasant alternation between tunes that feature the clarinet (the Tarras and Brandwein numbers, especially) with the intensity of medleys such as the "Yismekhu / In Ades / Varshaver Freylachs" where you can imagine being at a real, rural wedding where the dancers are spinning around and around, first more slowly as everyone joins the circle or line, then faster and faster for twenty, thirty minutes until exhaustion forces a short pause and the next song. And then, there are the medleys in the middle, such as the "Jewish tunes from Szatmar" to which I feel I could listen forever--just put them on a tape loop and play it over and over and over until I go slowly out of my mind with a big smile on my face! Regardless of what I am doing, when that medley comes on, I have to stop what I am doing and tap my toes happily. (In common with much Romanian folk music, there are moments here that are very close to American bluegrass, as well.)

To me, this is a "must have" recording. As I traveled through Eastern Europe in the Fall of 1996, I dropped off copies of the cassette with friends. Whenever I returned, the cassette was still being played, over and over and over and we couldn't seem to get tired of it. (The only thing better than the cassette, of course, is to see the band in concert.) At some point, in fact, I declared this the "official party favor and souvenir" of the trip. Like recordings by Budowitz and Brave Old World, this cassette presents a depth, and a level of sheer danceability and fun, that are rare and always welcome.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 10/1/96

Personnel, this recording

Bob Cohen: violin, mandolin, drum, vocals
Christina Crowder: accordion, drum, vocals
Elina Jutta Jelys: clarinet
Géza Pénzes: bass, koboz, vocals

Jack "Yankl" Falk: vocals, on "Szatmár tunes"


  1. Naftule's Freylachs (Naftule Brandwein)
  2. Hora and Freylach from Podoloy (Bughici family)
  3. Yale ve Yove Tants (Dave Tarras)
  4. Odessa Bulgarish (trad.)
  5. A Kholem / A Dream (trad., then Leon Schwartz)
  6. Tants Istanbul (Tarras)
  7. The Buhusher Csángó (trad., from Tudor Bogdan and Cili Schwartz)
  8. Yismekhu / In Ades / Varshaver Freylachs (from Belf Orchestra / from research of Moishe Beregovski / Shloimke Beckerman)
  9. Bosnian Nign (trad., from Cili Schwartz)
  10. Jewish tunes from Szatmár (trad.)
  11. Di Mashkes / The Whiskey (trad., from poem by Mikhl Gordin)
  12. Dem Rebbns Tants (from Art Shryer's Orchestra)

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