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June 19, 2006

History of "Hava Nagila" revealed

I got this from Judith Pinnolis' Jewish Music WebCenter blog. Who knew! James Loeffler, of the Jewish Music Forum, and currently an assistant Professor of Jewish History at the University of Virginia has researched the origins of 'Hava Nagila' and written a lovely article for myjewishlearning.

June 12, 2006

German Goldenshteyn, a"h

Pete Rushefsky has posted this to the Jewish-Music mailing list for Michael Alpert

Dear Friends / Tayere khaverim,

With deep, deep grief and a enormous feeling of loss, I am writing to inform all in the Yiddish/klezmer community that German Goldenshteyn, master Bessarabian traditional clarinetist and a dear, dear friend and colleague since shortly after his arrival in Brooklyn from Ukraine in 1994, died yesterday morning (Sat, June 10), apparently of a sudden heart attack, just one week short of his 72nd birthday.

At the time, he was engaged in his second favorite social activity -- fishing. If there is any positive dimension to his untimely death, it is that he died doing one of the things he loved best, in the midst of the nature he so treasured, and at the height of public appreciation by colleagues, students and audiences that had been steadily building since we first met in early 1995 and Jeffrey Wollock and I began our intensive ethnographic work and performing with him.

I had been to visit him twice this past week, and had spent a wonderful, wonderful day with him on Friday working together on our planned appearances this summer at the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland, and at Yiddish Summer Weimar in Germany. After a day and evening of playing, listening, talking and dining on (tsu lange yor) his wife Mina's virtuoso Bessarabian Jewish cooking and sharing a glass or two vodka, the three of us strolled the late night June streets of Brooklyn as we so often had. We parted with hugs, kisses and Yiddish and Russian farewells at the corner of Ave U and East 21st Street. Who knew it would be the last time I ever saw him alive? In my pocket there is a pen he was writing with scarcely more then 24 hours ago...

As many of you know, German embodied a distinct combination of love, warmth, kindness, humor, irony and playfulness, as well as a street-wise and wryly philosophical attitude toward the world and his fellow human beings. But he was not made of sugar. At times the pain of his devastating early years as child survivor of the Nazi and Romanian Holocaust would well up in him. Tears would pour down his face at the gut-level surfacing of memories he could barely recall, or he could wax fierce and bitter, yet in a way that always passed quickly, like a sudden storm that lashes rain momentarily before giving way again to blue sky and shafts of sun.

He was modest to a fault, but knew exactly who he was, and took gentle pride in his extraordinary diligence at all he undertook—whether his early years as a machinist turning steel at a lathe at the Kirk Agricultural Equipment Factory, or painstakingly notating and indexing the Jewish, Moldavian, Ukrainian and Russian melodies of his native Dniester Valley, played by him and his fellow musicians—Jewish, Moldavian, Ukrainian and Rom—at village and town weddings throughout southwestern Podolia and northern Moldavia.

There is so much to say, there is nothing that suffices. H' teyn v H' kakh. As German would often say: "...vifl yurn got vet mir nor geybn."—as many years as G-d gives me. Hot tears flow, a smile comes remembering his witticisms and hearty laughter, a huge, sad, empty hole remains that he occupied in our lives. Godammit, why did he have to leave now? There is so much more to do, but there will never again be German to share it all with, to watch the determined look on his face as he played, completely in the moment, to share a joke with in his hearty Bessarabian Yiddish or eloquent Russian or downhome Romanian or Ukrainian or his ever-suprising English, to wrangle with over a turn or articulation, to watch as he patiently and lovingly encouraged young musicians, to lift a glass with and toast lekhayim, to bring us the living spirit of shtetl and village weddings, the mud and the snow and the vodka and the gasoline and the fires burning in the night air...

But he has bequeathed us a legacy of melodies deep and fiery, merry and heartrending, and it is ours now to carry on and play, celebrate, dance to, study, pass on to yet future generations, and tell them that we once knew a German, and he gave us these tunes to make our own...

German Goldenshteyn a"h is his survived by his wife Mina, their daughter, son-in law and grandson Klava, Borya and Alex Rozentul, numerous relatives, neighbors and landslayt (compatriots) in New York, Philadelphia, Vienna, Israel and Ukraine, and an entire community of musical friends and colleagues throughout the world.

German's funeral service will be held Monday, June 12, at 11 AM at the the Yablokoff Kingsway Memorial Funeral Home, 1978 Coney Island Ave, between Avenue P and Kings Highway. (718) 645-980 Burial will be at Washington Cemetery, 5400 Bay Parkway, Brooklyn.

German, tayerer en balibter khoverl en brider maner, zolsti indz 'ubn aza lekhtikn, klezmerishn Gan-Eydn, azoy lekhtik vi di 'ost indz gemakht di velt.

—Meyshe b"r Elye-Meir Alperovitsh (Michael Alpert)

From KlezKanada 1999, Interview with a Bessarabian Klezmer, German Goldenstyn, interview translated and moderated by Michael Alpert.

Mark Rubin put up a site on MySpace for German: www.myspace.com/germangoldenshteyn. Folks have been leaving messages and anecdotes on the comments page.

Bob Blacksberg has reproduced Michael’s message together with a slide show of pictures and the “sound track” to German’s performance at the KlezKanada 2005 faculty concert at: www.klezkanada.com/site/german.php

A CD of German Goldenshteyn's recordings is available from the Living Traditions music store.

Books of German Goldenshteyn's music can be ordered from Swing Klezmer

June 7, 2006

Best of Bay Area Jewish music poll

Do you live in the San Francisco Bay Area? If so, you can vote in the 2nd annual Jewish community poll beng held by the former Northern California Jewish Bulletin (now known as "J" magazine?):


Go for it! Vote early, vote often, and may the best band win!

June 5, 2006

Nine Luminaries Of Jewish Liturgical Song

Regular readers of this page have noticed that I am paying increasing attention to Cantorial music. I can't help it. Now, Cantor Sam Weiss, himself one of the prime luminaries of the Jewish-Music list (in my never humble opinion), has taken the resources on these pages a step further. In 2003 nine biographies of (primarily) American Cantors were commissioned for inclusion in a Biographical Dictionary of World Jewish Music, a project which did not come to fruition.

The luminaries profiled don't just include people we traditionally think of as "Cantors": Yossele Rosenblatt, Mordechai Hershman, Leib Glantz, Jan Peerce, Moishe Oysher, Shlomo Carlebach, Ben Zion Shenker, Alberto Mizrahi, and Avraham Fried. Note, instead, the title of the article. Together, the biographies tell the story of how the role of cantor in American public life has changed over the century, and of the new musical influences on the Shaliach Tsibur leading traditional prayers.

I am most pleased to announce the availability of this material here on the KlezmerShack: Nine Luminaries Of Jewish Liturgical Song.

June 4, 2006

New reviews on the KlezmerShack start with Israel music

CD coverIt started with a new Rough Guide release, this time, the Rough Guide to the music of Israel. It is really good. I don't mention it very often, but I first began writing about Jewish music as a reviewer for the Jerusalem Post back in the late 1970s. By then I had spent years doing community theatre and hanging out with musicians in Israel. I didn't write for the Post long—it was difficult to focus on a gig writing for a newspaper that I shunned reading—but I have never lost my love for Israeli music and its diversity. This recording captures a good slice of that diversity, as updated and compiled just a couple of months ago. There is also an interview with the compiler on the CD, playable on a computer via webbrowser. Although a Jewish lad growing up in a Zionist home, the compiler seems ignorant of most details of modern Jewish history. But he has enough generalities generally right that this, too, forms a good introduction to Israeli music, overall. Those who let their ears get them into trouble will dig more deeply.

CD coverThe problem was that I got so wrapped up in the first CD, that I had to spend time with that Idan Raichel CD that I've been meaning to write about for years: 2002's Idan Raichel Project. I find this the most mind-blowing Israeli CD in years. In some ways, it reminds of of Ofra Haza's early work, an explosion of traditional sounds transformed for this time and place. It also reminds me of my favorite Israeli band of the '90s, the Ethnix. But it's also it's own original sound, building on Israeli and world music, with everything from reggae to hip hop, inflected by Raichel's Ethiopian roots. Wonderful.

CD coverBy now I was in trouble, so I also polished off a review of the relatively recent release of the final album by Israeli jazz masters, The Platina: Platina / Girl with the Flaxen Hair. Released back in 2003 as part of tributes to bandleader Roman Kunsman who had just passed away, this is material that was original recording in 1976 and then lost. The studio mangled most of the original tapes, then the band broke up. And we all moved on, remembering the concerts and the transformed Debussey of the title track. I have tried to begin to describe how good it sounds, even now, 30 years later. This is a must-have CD for anyone remotely interested in jazz or jazz-rock or Debussey.

CD coverThere is something about Philadelphia Jews. I've said this before, but with the release of Klingon Klezmer / Blue Suede Jews, it bears repeating. This is, after all, the home of Benny and the Vilda Chayas. But it's also Hankus Netsky's home turf. It's the city that gave us not only Anthony Coleman, but also nth generation straight-ahead klezmorim like Rachel Lemish and Susan Watts. This latest excursion by the Klingons is a delightful, zany, and damn fine exploriation of the psychedelic side of klezmer.

CD coverThe 10th Anniversary of the first Masada material has prompted a wonderful re-examination of that work by a wide variety of artists. I confess to being among the few who find Zorn's Masada okay, but don't have a great need to own each volume. On the other hand, listening to Jon Madof and his noisemakers, er, Rashanim, transform some of the material is entirely different. 2005's Rashanim / Masada Rock, Vol. 5 is going to be part of your essential Masada collection.

CD coverLadies and gentlemen, for another take on the extraordinary John Zorn/Masada material, may I offer you the totally flipped, amazing Koby Israelite / Orobas: Book of Angels Vol. 4, 2006.

CD coverAnd, finally, in a nod to everything that I didn't have time to listen to today, all of which is at least htis good, I offer one last fusion, the world music band Asefa, house band to Sam Thomas' Brooklyn-based "Jewish Awareness through Music" organization. Samuel Thomas / Asefa, 2005. Same bass-player, incidentally, as with Jon Madof's Rashanim. These folks get around!

I can't believe how many CDs are crying out for attention and didn't get any today. Stay tuned. I'll try to do this again, real soon now. I have to. The pile fell over last week. Everything is confused, and until I get some reviews written and some CDs put away, I've lost use of my favorite reading chair.

Klezmer Video Blog

Here's a fascinating new site. Someone named Alak, from Tehran, has set up a website called "Klezvid":

this is my free klezmer video library online for all to download any klezmer videos from the net.

There already seem to be a lot of clips noted, but he doesn't seem to be getting the feedback he wants—check it out and comment if it seems appropriate!

New website Chazzanim Farband

There is a wonderful and welcome burgeoning set of online resources for Jewish cantorial music (chazones). I'll have more to say about this soon on the Klezmershack, but in the meantime, Jeffrey Lieuwen posts the following news to the Jewish-Music mailing list:

The Chazzanim Farband (Jewish Ministers Cantors' Association of America and Canada) has a new website. I invite everyone interested in Chazzanut to have a look at www.thejmca.org.

June 3, 2006

Remembering Jewish Refuge in Shanghai

DVD coverSeveral times in the last few months I have been reminded of Shanghai as a Jewish refuge of the 1930s and 1940s. While viewing the film, "The White Countess" a month or two ago, I found myself sure that this was not the first time in recent memory that I had seen a film that involved China during that period, and that featured Jews (or could have featured Jews). Now the folks at Winter & Winter have released a DVD of 1998's excellent documentary, "Zuflucht in Shanghai: The Port of Last Resort", describing the wide-open port, the only place in the world where one needed no papers, which provided refuge to some 20,000 Jews as Europe was consumed by Holocaust. Despite the alliance of Japanese with the Germans, the Japanese initially favored Jews in Shanghai, and even at the height of war hysteria when food was limited everywhere and Jews were confined to a ghetto, most of those who arrived, survived, and eventually found their ways after the war to the US or Israel, with a few eventually repatriated to Europe after the Communist takeover.

CD coverThe documentary, by Joan Grossman and Paul Rosdy, featuring soundtrack music by John Zorn, is excellent. It features a wealth of contemporaneous letters and photos, interspersed with interviews with four of the survivors. Winter & Winter have done their usual very classy job of producing a well-documented, beautiful DVD package. So taken was Stefan Winter by the story, that he also created a separate CD "soundscape" featuring music by Brave Old World and a Chinese ensemble, along with contemporaneous recordings which is its own fascinating accompaniment to imagining the period: Metropolis Shanghai: Showboat to China. A very different sort of Jewish-Chinese world music CD, and a real pleasure to hear.

KlezKanada registration in high gear

KlezKanada logoRun, do not walk, to the KlezKanada.com site to register for the 2006 internationally renowned festival of Yiddish/Jewish culture and the arts! This year's schedule is now up.

Located at Camp B'nai Brith, St. Agathe (Lantier, Quebec, it is held from Sunday, Aug.20-Sunday, Aug.27, 2006. Details for registration and programs on website. Space is limited and filling up quickly. Hurry to make KK reservations to ensure accommodations and transportation arrangements!


You can download the KlezKanada registration form and/or KlezKanada scholarship application form.

[I, Mr. KlezmerShack, am already signed up to take the daily newsletter and camp blog to new heights. If you are interested in being part of this particular project, email me right after you register!]

*Please note that KlezKanada 2006 will now take place over a full week for all participants