The Nikolayev Kapeliah / Vodkazak

loud, cheesy benguiat with cliched drawing of chassidim drinking in violin case The Nikolayev Kapeliah
Zalman Goldsein/Jewish Learning Group, Inc., NKCD-01, 2002

Sameach Music
CD no longer available (see below for re-release info):

This page is maintained online for historic purposes. The CD was re-released in 2010 and remixed (including Aaron Alexander on drums) as "Chassidic Breeze." This CD is no longer available in this form.

This could just as easily be called "The amazing Alicia Svigals and friends play chasidic nigunim." By the middle of the opening medley, as Svigals violin reaches supersonic speed and virtuosity, the blind are walking and the lame are seeing. But it isn't all Svigals. Bass duties are shared by veteran Marty Confurious (most recently mentioned on these pages supplying bass to Adrienne Greenbaum and friends ) and Nicki Parrot (Svigals' bandmate in Mikveh). Then there is that amazing plucked instrument guy, Jeff Warschauer, and master accordionist Sy Kushner. And the audience. The audience in that opening, live medley, is blown away the way, singing along and clapping with infectious enthusiasm (cliché note to self: wouldn't it be scary to be trying to review non-infectious enthusiasm?).

What we have here, are a couple hundred years or so of hassidic melodies, most of which reflect their very eastern European folk roots, occasionally, as on "Tal Yasis", reflecting Jewish Cantorial modes, performed on accoustic instruments by people who have been doing this for a long, long time. And, as is true any time you get good musicians together who like each other, playing music that they love, the result is something very special. The switch back and forth between three such masterful solists as Svigals, Warschauer, and Kushner keeps everything fresh. In fact, if it weren't for the physical production: cheesy CD cover and mistakes in the liner typography, I'm not sure what I'd find to complain about.

What makes a nign a "nign", as opposed to "klezmer music"? I'm not sure. Some nigunim are clearly for dancing. But nigunim, "nigns" are also used to enter an active meditative state, where the repetition of the melody over and over induces trance. (This may be why nearly half of them seemed to be called "Nigun Hisvaadus"--"Becoming-Oneness tune".) So, think of this as pre-electronica trance music. But then, as Svigals put it recently, "[when] you listen again, imagine the melodies being sung with those Hasidic syllables [e.g., "ya ba bai" or "chiri bim chiri bam"] and some table banging!"

And, yet, there are runs, like the intense, bluegrass train-whistle-blowing part of "Mashke", with Svigals and Warschauer and Kushner working back and forth that are less trance by repetition than trance by sheer virtuosity and wonder. And, sometimes, as on the "Nigun L'Shabbos V'Yom Tov" that follows, or "Nigun Hisvaadus" and "Nugun Gaaguim", there is a quiet captured by that same virtuosity that evokes a different road to meditative wonder. Warschauer's mandolin is perfect. Kushner's accordion sublime. Svigals violin consciousness-transforming. And, sometimes, as I thought the first few times through, without looking at the liner notes, letting it all wash over me, it sounds like that wonderful cross, mentioned earlier, between Russian balalaika music and Jewish cantorial singing. Not to be missed. And don't forget to tell your friends, the balalaika music fans, as well.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 3/23/03

Personnel this recording:
Alicia Svigals: violin
Jeff Warschauer: mandolin
Sy Kushner: accordion
Marty Confurious: bass
Nicki Parrot: bass


  1. Live in Concert 7:17
    1. "Nye Zhritsi"
    2. "Ailu Omrim"
    3. "V'nislach"
    4. "Zol Shion Zein"
    5. ""Chotsh Mi Chudi"
  2. Nigun Rikud (Sefer Hanigunim No. 167) 3:24
  3. Nigun Ashreinu (Sefer Hanigunim No. 268) 3:15
  4. Mashke 4:21
  5. Nigun L'Shabbos V'Yom Tov (Sefer Hanigunim No. 93) 3:16
  6. Nigun Hisvaadus (Sefer Hanigunim No. 130) 2:27
  7. Nigun Gaaguim (Sefer Hanigunim No. 92) 3:49
  8. Nigun Simcha (Sefer Hanigunim No. 149) 2:32
  9. Tal Yasis (Sefer Hanigunim No. 50 - 51) 4:51
  10. Ochein Atoh (Sefer Hanigunim No. 105) 2:38
  11. Ech Do (Sefer Hanigunim No. 325) 2:08
  12. Nigun Hisvaadus (Sefer Hanigunim No. 120) 4:50
  13. Nigun Simcha (Sefer Hanigunim No. 337) 3:13
  14. Nigun Hisvaadus 3:15
  15. Nigun Hisvaadus (Sefer Hanigunim No. 123) 2:38
  16. "Klimovitcher" Nigun (Sefer Hanigunim No. 208) 1:31
  17. Nigun "Binyomin Althoiz" (Sefer Hanigunim No. 115) 1:14
  18. Kol Bayar (Sefer Hanigunim No. 23) 3:56

All tunes appear to be from Chasidic tradition, as recorded in Sefer Hanigunim.

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