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Tango controversy - what do you think?

It started innocently enough. (Doesn't everything?) Lori Cahan-Simon spotted a Yiddish Tango on YouTube and called it "terrific," (presumably thinking of the obvious—Yiddish Tango, on YouTube—Sexy Yiddish!) The singer, Zully Goldfarb is one of the featured artist on the CD, "Yiddish Tango, " available from our friends at Hatikvah Music. But the Yiddish words have meaning. The song is a farewell, written by someone about to be sent to Auschwitz. Just because it's a tango, doesn't make this particular song appropriate to this setting:

Indeed, Lloica Czackis, well known as an expert and a performer of Yiddish tangos, wrote:

"Terrific? What's terrific about it? The tango gloss? We can find that in any video "for export". Are we going to be charmed by whatever we're presented only because it's exotic and unknown?

"The song in this video is 'Makh tsu di eygelakh' by Dovid Beygelman. Beygelman, a well-known composer and orchestra director in pre-war Lodz, wrote it, to words by Isaiah Shpigl, before being sent to Auschwitz, never to return. The song is a lullaby, a farewell. Nothing can be more painful than to sing as a mother or a father saying a final goodbye to one's child.

"So where's the place for the lipstick? What are the sexy dancers doing there? Are we so forgetful? Can we be so macabre as to make a mockery of our own history? I find this totally inappropriate.

"There was a lively discussion some months ago about the Polish singer/actress Justyna Steczkowska and her interpretation of 'Yidl mitn fidl.' Many people felt this was an 'appropriation' of 'our' culture. I personally don't believe one has to be Jewish to interpret Jewish music. But one should have the sensitivity and respect towards our material. One should also try to learn about the context of the music we perform. My point is not about 'authentic' performances. But only if we know the material and it's context can we produce an consistent interpretation.

Adrienne Cooper and Zalmen Mlotek interpret this song in 'Ghetto Tango'."

Lloica Czackis

What do you think? Email me