Orquesta Kef / Música Judía
Blame it on my ignorance of Argentinian Jewry, but it didn't occur to me until this CD arrived that a band with the intriguing name "Kef Orchestra" based in Buenos Aires would be playing modern Yeshivish. That's fine, because the band is tight, excellent, and energetic, so who really cares where the music was recorded?
Thus, after the excited music and shouts of the first set of wedding tunes, the band concludes with a vocal medley and swings into Mordechai Ben David's "Maaminim Bnei Maaminim." The male harmonies are delightful.
Because the KlezmerShack world of Jewish music tends to be outside the Orthodox community (by choice), it is rare that I hear popular religious music. It wasn't until I listened to the enthusiastic drumming here that I realized how much modern Yeshivish has absorbed from the rhythmic simplicity and excitement of rock and roll. (This is different from the horrible thumpa thumpa and boxy thrall to written meter of bad American klezmer bands. This is quite wonderful.) Orquestra Kef would have been quite welcome at the recent weddings of several of my cousin's kids.
What makes Yeshivish different from "American post-revival klezmer?" To me, the beat is somewhat different - more rock-influenced as different from the jazz riffs that are part of most American klezmer drumming. The musicians do a lot more singing, as well, in a lovely transformation of table nigun onto the dance floor. The song repertoire is also very different (there are some totally odd cowboy Americanisms pulled into one of the dance medlies, "Yippie Ai Ai Ai" here), with little or no Yiddish theatre music - here, there is only the medley from Fiddler on the Roof ("Shermix"). There are many more older Israeli dance songs such as "Mayim" and "Tzena Tzena" mixed in with a delightful spread of music from modern Orthodox starts such as the aforementioned ben David.
In the case of Orquesta Kef, there are also occasional hints of a North African legacy (starting with the band name: Arabic or Judeo-Arabic for "Simkha Orchestra") as on the Middle Eastern-tinged version of "Eliahu Hanavi", the "Keferino Leolam" medley, or "Iabanat Skandaría". It's like listening to a combination of a modern American haredi wedding band merged with classic Israeli bands such as "Tzlilei Ha-Kerem".
This album is a surprisingly good find. You may have to send off to Argentina to get a copy, but it will be well-worth it.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 6 Feb 2005
Personnel this recording include:
Iván Barenboim: alto sax, clarinet, flute, chorus
Ariel Liberczuk: keyboard, voice, chorus
Cristian Martinelli: trumpet
Alberto Mirchuk: voice, chorus
Gastón Mohadeb: percussion, voice, chorus
Lionel Mohadeb: drums
Rafael Surijon: bass
Osqui Amante: timbales (5)
Iosi Baumgarten: song voice (9)
Adrián Mirchuk: accordion (1, 9)
Martin Rur: sax solo (10), flutes (8, 3, 5), chorus (3)
Miguel Rausch: egg shaker (5), crazy voices (4)
Gastón Saied: misc voices (8, 4, 1, 3)
Victor Volpi: guitars (1, 3, 5, 8)
- Sher 5 (trad., medley arr. Ariel Liberczuk) 7:14
- Maaminim Bnei Maaminim (Mordechai ben David) 5:31
- El Majamedlei (trad., medley arr. Ariel Liberczuk) 5:05
- Eliahu Hanavi (trad.) 4:28
- Shiru Lamalej (Hillel Palai) 6:26
- Shermix (trad., medley arr. Ariel Liberczuk) 6:49
- Keferino Leolam (Mezcladito; prod. Gastón Mohadeb) 1:42
- Iabanat Skandaría (trad.) 3:32
- Utzu Eitzo (trad.) 5:16
- Mashiaj (Mordechai ben David) 6:02