Di Naye Kapelye / Traktorist
For weeks the news has been gathering. "New CD by Di Naye Kapelye." "I've heard this amazing new CD from Di Naye Kapelye." It arrived today. It is so much better than amazing.
Di Naye Kapelye is the band formed by American-of-Hungarian-ancestry Bob Cohen who headed off to visit the land whence came his parents many years ago, and never left. Listening to an early iteration of the band back in 1996 was one of the highlights of my travels in the region.
The band consists of Bob, fellow American Yankl Falk to represent the Left Coast, and the best local musicians he can find. Given that Bob has been traveling through the wilds of Eastern Europe for decades, jamming and collecting songs, this makes for quite a wild, skilled ensemble. The repertoire, of course, is of the region—songs from all over Eastern Europe from folk tunes to Hasidic nigunim to Communist-era propaganda (hence the title and wonderful Soviet-style graphic on the front cover). This may be the only klezmer album ever recorded that includes Hasidic nign and 1950s Romanian communist ode to the Yiddish tractor—the title track.
Even as I try to put this music into some type of box to describe it, the boxes keep breaking. Listen to Michael Alpert wailing on "A briv fun Yisroel", another 1950s-era Yiddish communist ode, and then a few minutes later the kaval-like vioră cu goarnă. You got your wild hutsul music. You got your token 1915 Americanish klezmer tune (later a hit from Naftule Brandwein). You got cantor Yankl Falk's wonderful voice perfect on an Arkady Gendler tune, "Pirim." You have the gang—even 13-year-old Aron Cohen takes a solo— on "Az nisht keyn emine (one of the aforementioned hasidic nigunim). You have some of the most divine string ensemble playing, featuring an orchestra of instruments from tsimbl to viola, that you'll hear anywhere. Heck, one village band wasn't enough. They pull in whole village band of Tjaciv to supplement the regulars.
The repertoire leave no part of Eastern Europe unscathed. There is even yet another recording of "Mashke," one of the band's signature tunes, even better than the previous recordings—Meyshke and Yankl are in top form here. Then they return the favor and close the album with Alpert's "Chernobyl," one of my favorite contrafactas (a melody applied to new words; this one many of us know better by the chorus, "hu tsa tsa"), an absolutely brilliant bit of writing by Alpert first recorded on the first Brave Old World album (an album that I still travel with). In Yiddish, the lyrics equate the Chernobyl hasidim, and their radiance-based mysticism, with the radiance of the local nuclear power plant disaster of not so long ago.
I fear I slight the instrumentals, but only because I don't know where to begin. It's the band and their friends and amazing people they meet along the way. Especially notable is the "Hutsul Medley," which was, unfortunately, the last recording session for tsimbl player Misu Csernavec, who passed away only a few months later. And, as I mentioned caval earlier, there is a wonderful dance tune titled simply, "Modavian Caval," part of a medley attached to a doina-ish folk tune, "Pastekhl." The piece also features the cimpoi (Moldavian bagpipe).
Bob, Yankl, and the band create magic. There are other great bands playing music from this region, but Cohen has a sense of breadth and balance that make Di Naye Kapelye concerts and recordings always exciting, always breathtaking. This isn't just this week's amazing batch of hutsul music; it's this week's amazing batch of hutsul music in context … a wonderous melange of music that best represents the mixed up world in which we live and makes it better. If I call this a "must have" CD I am being redundant, but I'll do it anyway.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 17 Dec 2008.
Personnel this recording:
Bob Cohen: violin, vocals, koboz, mandolin, Carpathian drum, vioră cu goarnă (Stroh fiddle), cimpoi (Moldavian bagpipe)
Yankl Falk: vocals, clarinet
Antal (Puma) Fekete: kontra, Carpathian drum
Gyula (Kosztya) Kozma: bass
Ferenc Pribojszki: cimbalom, caval, Carpathian drum
with special guests:
Michael (Meyshke) Alpert: vocals, violin, percussion (3, 4, 6, 12)
Aron Cohen: vocals (6)
Josh Dolgin: accordion, piano (4, 10)
- The village band from Tjaciv (Técső), Carpatho-Ukraine: (5, 11, 15, 16)
- Joska Csernavec: bayan accordion
- Misu Csernavec: tsymbaly
- Jura Csernavec: drum, plonka, voice
- Ivan Popovics: violin
- Nit bay motyen (after Abe Elenkrig) 3:12
- Traktorist (Emil Saculets) 2:07
- Pastekhl/Moldavian Caval (trad. Moldavian) 5:55
- Schwartz's Sirba/A briv fun Yisroel (Abe & Sylvia Schwartz/I.Schwartzmann) 2:53
- Baj van medley (trad., from Tjaciv, Ukraine) 2:51
- Az nisht keyn emine (trad. Hasidic nign) 4:58
- Hamanul from Dragomiresti (Dimitru Covaci) 2:22
- Uncle Arpi's nokh a bisl (trad., arr. Uncle Arpi) 1:49
- HoAnderes (trad. Vizhnitzer Hassic nign) 3:05
- Sadegurer Hosid (Joseph Moskowitz) 1:41
- Hutsul Medley (trad., arr. Técső band) 3:51
- Mashke (Mikhl Gordon) 5:47
- Pirim (Arkady Gendler) 2:50
- Moldvai Zhok (after Belf's Orchestra) 2:38
- "7:40" (trad., arr. Técső band) 4:02
- Chernobyl (Michael Alpert) 3:29