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September 20, 2006

Coverage of the "Oyhoo" Jewish Music Festival, NYC

The last two weeks have seen a wonderful intensity of Jewish music in NYC, part of the "Oyhoo" festival. There is a wide variety of coverage on the Jew*School blog. Blogger Ruby K does a quick wrap-up. Then Yosef Lieb does the same, but more detail.. Zoomusikgrl talks about the performance of Aviv Geffen, an Israeli artist previously unknown to me.

All in all, a nice spot of diverse writing about Jewish music. Good on Jew*School!

September 17, 2006

Today! Jewzapalooza! German Goldenshteyn memorial! NYC

It's a big day in NYC. By now, most readers in that area of the world are probably down at Riverside park where the wrapup to the OyHoo Jewish Music festival wraps up all afternoon with a free outdoor finale. This year it features Israeli hip-hop artist Hadag Nachash, David Broza, Neshama Carlebach, Pharaoh's Daughter, Yosi Piamenta, SoCalled and more.

Mark Rubin, German Goldenshteyn, Alex KondorovitchAnd then the big deal: the benefit concert/dance/celebration in memory of German Goldenshteyn:

Sunday Sept 17th, at SouthPaw, 125 Fifth Ave, Brooklyn, 7 PM doors, 8 PM concert/dance party
Tickets $30 at the door, $25 in advance - go to metpo.com/tickets
All proceeds go to the family

The lineup:
Alicia Svigals, Pete Sokolow, Aaron Alexander, Margot Leverett, David Licht, Susan Watts, Cookie Segelstein, Rachel Lemisch, Sarah Ferholdt, Dan Blacksberg, Michael Winograd, Jeff Perlman, Audrey Wright, Mark Rubin (all the way from Austin, TX!), Timothy Quigley, Joey Weisenberg, Adrian Banner, Amy Zakar, Jeff Warschauer, Deb Strauss, and many more!

The world's first graphic novel about Klezmorim? Mighty good, too!

book coverA couple of years ago, I was blown away by a very different Jewish graphic novel called "The Rabbi's Cat." It was by Joann Sfar, who I understand to be a fairly well-known French cartoonist. Now, Avidan Kogel has emailed to let me know of the latest Sfar release, the first volume in a new series: Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East.

This is wild, post-modern narrative. But, where reading the shtetl scenes in All things will be illuminated makes one think of hobbits and utter cluelessness, Sfar's post-modern klezmer musicians are weirdly real, despite the fact that it is clear that this is not a novel to be consulted for historical accuracy. In fact, there were times when I could see and read echoes of other graphic novels of the last ten or twenty years. But reading Sfar, I get a sense less of ignorance, than of re-imagining. Which, given the klezmer revival and the "post-vernacular" popularity of klezmer all over the place, is entirely appropriate.

So, the first song that is sung in the novel (okay, he refers to it as a klezmer song; I would have rathered he say "Yiddish", given that klezmer is still instrumental music, even though many post-revival klezmer bands have vocalists) is "Belz," a song written in New York City for the famed Belz native (then living in New York) Isa Kremer. Another song featured in the book is "sheyn vi di levone," straight from New York's Second Avenue Theatre, via Joseph Rumshinsky and Chaim Tauber.

This isn't a cute book. Yeshiva students steal. People kill and are killed. There is a naked woman. It may not be appropriate as a bar/bas mitzve gift. But it is a powerfully compelling and fun book. There is lots of music! There is a gypsy! There is Jewish humor. There is even post-modern Jewish humor, by which I mean the sorts of jokes that you tell when you know that the world in which you allege the jokes were told is dead. For instance, there is a wonderful scene in which the gypsy musician tells a story to a Jewish audience that he is trying to make Jewish. He fails utterly, and rotfl-ingly.

This may be the first adult graphic novel about klezmorim—how much the better that it is so good! (As different from the novel inspired by Alicia Svigals, "Golems of Gotham" or whatever, that is so dismally, cloyingly, disappointingly bad.) This is also a serial novel. No sooner do all of the characters come together than the next adventure begins and the words, "to be continued" appear. The next installment is already available in French.

Of special mention is the author's postscript to the novel in which he describes some of his influences (Ashkenazic roots on one side; Sephardic roots on the other) and beliefs. I find myself at odds with some of the things he writes, while disturbed by others. In the end, however, I think we have to look at an author's stories, and from that best understand what is meant. In that regard, and I am very much in sync with Mr. Sfar, and hope that his books—in particular his Jewish books—continue to get translated. This is a voice so different from Art Spiegelman or Ben Katchor or other American novelists, that deserves to be read and enjoyed as our more familiar artists are read and enjoyed. I cannot over-recommend this book (or its predecessor). Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy.

קלעזקעמפּ 22 KlezKamp announced: Dec 24-29, Kerhonkson, NY

dancing at KlezKamp

קלעזקעמפּ 22 KlezKamp

The Yiddish Folk Arts Program
December 24-29, 2006
Hudson Valley Resort & Spa
Kerhonkson, NY

Join us at the most exciting and influential Yiddish culture event in the world. KlezKamp, the pioneering, dynamic multigenerational program, offers the finest in Yiddish music, dance, language, theater, literature, history and visual arts along with our great children's program. Come be part of the meaningful and thrilling Yiddish cultural community that is KlezKamp. The brochure will be mailed to you at the end of the summer. Please send us your current mailing address to be sure you receive the brochure in the mail.

Email KlezKamp or visit www.klezkamp.org

September 16, 2006

Yid Vicious to tour Japan, Oct 8-15

Wisconsin klezmer ensemble Yid Vicious will tour Chiba Prefecture, Japan, as part of a Wisconsin Sister State Goodwill Delegation. The band will perform a number of community concerts throughout Chiba Prefecture the week of October 8-15, 2006, culminating in a performance at the Sawara Matsuri Festival on Friday, October 15: www.city.sawara.chiba.jp/english/matsuri.htm

Winners of 2nd Annual Jewish Music Awards

We thank George Robinson for this info:

The Second Annual Jewish Music Awards were given out Monday, September 11, before a sparse but enthusiastic crowd at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. It was a big night for Pharaoh’s Daughter, with the band winning awards as Best Middle Eastern Blend and Best World Music Group, and for the local label Modular Moods, whose founder DJ Handler was pronounced Best DJ while his labelmate Y-Love received the Best Hip-Hop act nod. JDub Records also enjoyed the evening, with victories for Golem (Best Rock Band) and SoCalled (who tied with Idan Raichel in the Best New Approach category). Ironically, JDub’s former star Matisyahu won the Best Cross-Over artist award, but wasn’t present to receive it.

The controversial Hasidic rapper wasn’t the only famous absentee. Bob Dylan (Best Singer/Songwriter) and John Zorn (Best Jazz and Heritage Blend) weren’t around to pick up their awards either. But Lorin Sklamberg was happy to accept the Best Klezmer Band award on behalf of the Klezmatics, joking, “It took twenty years for a Jewish organization to give us an award. We won a gay and lesbian music award ten years ago already.”

Note that the Klezmatics appear on Sunday, Sep 17, in Chicago in a concert featuring their Woody Guthrie material.

Latest reviews by George Robinson, just in time for High Holidays

Reviewer George Robinson passes on this link to his latest column in the Jewish Week: Musical Awe: A roundup of new releases tied to the High Holy Days, and more.

September 12, 2006

Professor Zev Feldman curates series at 92nd St. Y

Walter Zev FeldmanWalter Zev Feldman, known both for his scholarly contributions to Jewish Music history and for his performances and teaching of Jewish music and dance, is artistic director of "Music and Dance of Jewish Traditions: Songs of Love & Longing," a new series at NYC's 92nd St. Y this fall/winter.


The first concert kicks off on October 26th, "Yiddish Voice of Love: Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman". The series continues with "Memories of Spain", featuring the band Arboleas, on Wed, Nov 29, 2006, and "Women of the East" with Kol Oud Tof and Pharaoh's Daughter, on Wed, Jan 17.

Dance and Klezmer Video online

Recent discussion on the Jewish-Music list resulted in several links to Eastern European Jewish Dance online:

From Leon Balaban:

Just posted a couple of dance videos I recorded this week at Ashkenaz festival in Toronto, can be seen here: snipurl.com/w40y there are another 50 dance and music videos I posted (scroll down on list on right side of said video) among them Yiddish dance workshop with Helen Winkler and the Pomegranates klezmer band and other Israeli/Jewish dances and concerts. BTW The dance band at Ashkenaz was a "volunteer klezmer band" and I got only the names of Donald Lightstone on flute and Aleksi Rozoff on bass. If any one knows the other musicians please let me know so I can add to the video description. [Janina Werb adds: "the missing one: Marek Kovnatskij on violin (right)."]

And from Helen Winkler:

I have some Episodes of klezmer music from Linz' Street Festival 2006 (Austria).

and video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1164363290203379208

September 10, 2006

Wrapping up Ashkenaz, one week later

ashkenaz festival logo This was a good Ashkenaz. It doesn't have that edge that the early festivals had, but Mitch Smolkin managed to pull together an incredibly diverse festival, one that contained a lot to please the crowds, but which also provided a neat snapshot of Jewish music, primarily of that side of Jewish music that derives primarily from Eastern Europe. It was the sort of festival where we went from Marilyn Lerner and Adrienne Cooper presenting Anna Margolin's poetry in a new, avantgarde artsong setting, to two sessions featuring MacArthur grantee Ben Katchor, to Israeli Sephardic phenomenon Yasmin Levy. And that doesn't begin to encompass the diversity of what we saw. At the finale, Mitch introduced his stepping down, and his replacement, charged with outdoing all of this in 2008, KlezKanada staffer and Beyond the Pale bandleader Eric Stein. It would be hard to imagine a better choice.

The Ashkenaz MarketplaceIn terms of trends, I have to note that in addition to the Lerner-Cooper artsong, one of the festival's few "edge" moments, Teresa Tova had a release party for a CD of living Yiddish poet/songwriter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman's songs; Lenka Lichtenberg and Brian Katz had a release party for a new CD of settings of the poetry of Simcha Simchovitch; while poet Adeena Karasick presented her own work in a multimedia show; and Adrienne Cooper (who led the singers in the Ashkenaz parade and brought a show about painter Marc Chagall to the festival) hosted new settings of Yiddish poetry in settings created by young artists in Eastern Europe. This feels like the largest collection of new Yiddish music in one place at one time, maybe in my lifetime.

Kids in front of parade items, getting ready


I've already written about seeing Veretski Pass on Saturday night, one of the festival high points for me. Sunday morning I repaired to Chinatown, near the old Kensington Market and next door to one of the synagogues that served that market. This is where the old Ashkenaz Parade used to start from back in the original festival. We, however, had a perfectly congenial brunch of Vietnames pho and caught up with each other. It had been two years—the last Ashkenaz—since I had last been here. We made it to the festival in time to catch a new-to-me Toronto band called KlezFactor. The band played an interesting set of klezmer-tinged jazzrock with a pleasing hard dance edge. Judy caught the Tonoto Jewish Folk Choir and thoroughly enjoyed their program.

Kharkov KlezerWe regrouped in front of the main stage to see one of the many new Eastern European klezmer bands. In this case, it was Kharkov Klezmer, featuring the golden-tongued Yevgeniya "Genya" Lapatnyk. We had seen all of the bands the night before at Michael Alpert's "Cabaret Russe," and thoroughly enjoyed hearing this band on its own. While I was at it, I stopped by the festival kiosk and picked up an exciting recording by a second eastern european band, Dobra Notch, which plays a mad Ukrainian/klezmer tsimbl+percussion heavy accoustic dance music that could be seen as the Eastern European version of a hot New England Contradance band. North America isn't the only locus of a revived Yiddish folk sound—as Kharkov Klezmer proved, yet again, with Genya singing some of her originals, as well as less-familiar folk standards and the band's full-tilt-boogie klezmer.

Eve Monzingo playing with Chicago Klezmer Ensemble at Ashkenaz 2006Because of the rain, the day's popular concerts that had been scheduled for the second outdoor stage were held in a smaller area. Invariably, we failed to get in to shows that we wanted to hear: a Jasmine Levy workshop, and two interesting fusion bands: "Matzo Ball Gumbo" featuring klezmer with New Orleans inflections, and "Shakshuka," Middle Eastern amplified dance music that reminded me a lot of "Macedonian Mazl Tov" of the '97 Ashkenaz Festival.

Instead, I got a seat to hear old favorites, Chicago Klezmer Ensemble. Now, those people who know the band, know that they play a rather delicate, chamber-music style of klezmer, generally known for its sublety and grace. Bandleader Kurt Bjorling, however, has never been one to stand still. Hearing that an air show was happening nearby, he enlisted several of the pilots as extras in the band. Sadly, they almost universally blew their cues. Bjorling's assessment was that next time the band would hire parachutists and work on more rehearsals ahead of time. We'll see. But, even accepting that the air traffic was often entering at the wrong moment, the music was simply wonderful in this rare indulgence at the festival, for me, to hear old time, familiar friends rather than going for the new stuff.

Because we had missed two earlier concerts due to full music rooms, Judy and I scooted right over to the Lakeside Terrace as soon as CKE finished its set. To our pleasure, we were among the first in line, and were rewarded by awesome music. Think of Marilyn Lerner's diversity of styles on the jazz piano--a sort of classical avantgardism, infused with deep knowledge of Jewish music. There was an amazing bass player, and a woodwind person who definitely got the emoting part of the music. Then add in Adrienne Cooper's voice and precede with a short lecture on Anna Margolin. Bliss. Pure bliss. And amazing poetry, newly translated by Cooper:

Night Entered My House

Night entered my house
With the roar of stars, waters, wings
With the glow of swamps, back roads, mists
I lay in darkness.
Trees came into my house
Looming huge with roots and trunks
And the deep gaze of leaves.
And enormous clouds
Came with thunder and laughter
Like the dark heads of the gods.
And all whirled heavy and wild and bleak
And all rumbled, "You are, you are, you are."
I lay in darkness.

I was totally moved by the time voice and music got to the phrase "you are, you are, you are" in one of the most memorable among memorable new artsongs. This is a special program. Lerner and Cooper appear together infrequently. Jump at the chance to hear them when it arises.

Aaron Alexander's Midrash Mish MoshI had good intentions about seeing Merlin and Polina Shepherd and their respective ensembles, but after talking with friends from Argentina about the Lerner-Cooper pieces, I felt obliged to stay and listen to what was billed as "Ashkenaz Special Guests," and was, of course, Klezmer en Buenos Aires in another smoking set. Judy did catch the other concert, and then stayed to hear the SoCalled Orchestra and was likewise very happy. Our whole group wrapped the evening up by hearing Marilyn Lerner in a CD release concert featuring music from her new "Romanian Fantasy" CD (klezmer-inflected jazz, solo piano). Her musicianship and the range of sounds, and the humor as she even did a couple of numbers with prepared piano (a piano in which strategic devices have been placed on the strings for sound effect or, in addition in this case, to pop up as did her ping pong balls). It was like gilding the lily to finish the evening with Aaron Alexander's Midrash Mish Mosh, but who am I to object to gilding the lily in this sort of case. Any band anchored by Alexander is going to be great. This one featured Merlin Shepherd, Alex Kontorovich, Frank London, Greg Wall, Dan Blacksberg, Dave Richards, and included guest stints with Dobra Notch, Christian Alexander, Lerner, and Ashkenaz newcomer Guy Schalom. It was killer.


Susan WattsUsually we catch a set or two on Mondays at Ashkenaz, and then head back to Boston. But we knew we didn't want to face the hour or two wait at the border in late afternoon, so we agreed to take the whole day off and to return in the morning. The day started with the incomparable Aaron Bensoussan in a great outdoor concert. Following that, I made one of my few bad choices and slept through a panel on Jews and Graphic Novels. I would have loved to hear more about their work from any of the participants: Ben Katchor, Stan Mack, Bernice Eistenstein. But here they were limited to talking about "graphic novels" and I got the sense that little worth hearing was said. My fault. All gave other sessions during the festival, this was the only one I caught.Kids in front of parade items, getting ready

Judith CohenOn the other hand, I followed the talkfest going back and forth between the lecture hall and outdoors, catching wonderful music from Susan Watts, then Judith Cohen with daughter Tamar, and a quite wonderful dumbek player, Geoff (last name lost), and back to the outdoors to hear Golem hold young and old rapt with their latest Yiddish punk and cabaret stylings.

Golem Golem crowd in front of the Ann Tindal stage, Ashkenaz 2006

Greg WallWhile Judy went from Lenka Lichtenberg to Theresa Tova, I headed off to finally hear Greg Wall live. Wall has an album out on Tzadik, Later Prophets, which I really love. It's Jewish jazz, of course, but different. Hearing Wall talk about the songs, and coming to write them as he prepared his son for Bar Mitzvah, I got a bit deeper than I expected. The keyboard player was a wizard—cascading rivers of notes like McCoy Tyner. I loved watching the bass player's lips move as he spoke what he was playing. And Wall's sax and other reeds was such a pleasure. The trio closed with "Papirosn," a song that I mentally place in the "though shall not perform this old chestnut without special dispensation or proof that you have something to say." Wall has a lot to say. I hear "Papirosn" with entirely different ears now. Thank you.

the humongous puppetsThe Ashkenaz parade and pageant was led by Festival co-founder David Buchbinder. Although limited to the Harborfront area (although we did walk out on the street for a few feet), it was as much fun as usual. Kids and others had worked on new masks. The huge puppets were present, marching among us. Buchbinder seemed to forget to keep moving the parade—we'd go a few feet, then stop for more music, and eventually the parade marshall would get things moving again. As we completed the loop around the center, we were greeted by an entire chorus of singers, adding their voices to the music, and flag dancers, in white, on tall stilts came out with flags: "Imagine", "the word", "peace", waving the flags to the music, dancing on stilts. I ran into my friend Michael among the parade marchers. Now 13, Michael, his parents, and I have been meeting like this for most of his life. It was a thrill to see him continue his klezmer and yiddish education post-bar mitzvah.

greeted by a chorus of singers as we return to the festival grounds crowd in front of the Ann Tindal stage, Ashkenaz 2006 musicians marching in parade

the grand finaleThe festival closed with an amazing set by Israeli pop-Sephardic singer Yasmine Levy. I love her voice, but I will probably never be as much a fan of her singing as, say, that of Ofra Haza whose memory was triggered in my mind at several points during the performance. Still, that's not to say that she is anything but an entirely pleasurable singer. the grand finaleFollowing Levy (whose originally-scheduled performance had been rained out Saturday night), a kick-ass crowd of musicians came on stage to play a tribute to the recently-passed klezmer, German Goldenshteyn. German showed up in this country a little over a decade ago, with a notebook filled with several hundred compositions, and a lifetime playing simchas in a region that supposedly had no Jews post-Holocaust, and no klezmorim under the Soviets. He was also a major mensh and a great teacher. Listening to his now-familiar tunes, I was lost in reverie—the few times I had met German, listening to Michael Alpert talk about wanting to spend more time with him rather than tour with his main band, listening to German talk at KlezKanada years ago (Alpert translating from Goldenshteyn's Yiddish) about his music, his repertoire, and what he played in Bessarabia. It was a good ending to a great festival. But it's been a week. I'm ready for Ashkenaz 2008 already. Or, maybe someone here in Boston will help us put together something even partially as much fun, here.

Mazl Tov, Eve Monsingo

Eve Monzingo playing with Chicago Klezmer Ensemble at Ashkenaz 2006We are pleased to report the marriage, yesterday, of Eve Monzingo, long-time member of the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble. Eve is a member of several other Chicago-area bands, as is her new spouse. (Among other bands, is his a member of a Gypsy Surf band, Lamajamal.) I have had the opportunity to hang with her in venues from Toronto to Budapest, and have to report that she is not only one of the great clarinet and tsimbl players, but a nifty person.

I wish her every happiness, and am pleased to have interesected with her last week at Ashkenaz where I heard of news (and witnessed hotter than ever playing), and can now broadcast it further.

Mazl Tov, Eve!

September 6, 2006

Classic rebetika with Hebrew lyrics

Eva Broman found this to go along with a recent discussion on Jewish influence on rebetika, from the Jewish-Music mailing list:

re: the "Jews and rebetiko" thread, here's a lovely youtube video clip with the Israeli rebetiko group "Perach Adom"....classic rebetika with Hebrew lyrics!


There are two more clips with Perach Adom, hopefully accessible from the same page.

September 3, 2006

Askhenaz 2006, Motzei Shabbat

in the nosheryFirst day of Ashkenaz! We rush down to Toronto's HarbourFront (trying to miss the traffic that is going to a Chinese Festival at a different venue—Toronto has this quaint idea that the city should support arts funding for lots of different cultures and perspectives, one of the reasons this is such a liveable city). Although the "fresser's" tent is filled with all sorts of good food, from Indian to Chinese to Eastern European, we opt for Israeli felafel.

veretski pass in concertThe highlight of the evening, for me, is watching and hearing Veretski Pass in concert. I have separately kvelled about bassist Stu Brotman, tsimbl/accordion player Josh Horowitz, and fiddler Cookie Segelstein for years. But when they play together, it is watching three amazing musicians become something more. Cookie apologized for not doing much talking, but with only an hour to play, they wanted to get in as much music as they could, and they did. It was incendiary. As good as the CD is (and it remains one of my all-time top ten favorites), live is even better.

Later that night was saw a new collaboration between the always-inventive David Buchbinder and Hilario Durán. Excellent, excellent music. Only Frank London is involved so excellently in more world musics than Buchbinder, and unlike London, Buchbinder seems to travel rarely, and record with relative infrequency. The band was tight, and the Cuban-Klezmer fusion, if not always successful as a fusion, was always wonderful to listen to as music.

We rounded out the evening with the Cabaret Russe, hosted by Michael Alpert and featuring the incredibly talented contingent from the former USSR that had been performing and studying at KlezKanada last week. And later, exhausted, so to bed.