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April 25, 2007

Theo Bikel returns to KlezKanada

KlezKanada logoI just heard last night that Theo Bikel, the acclaimed folksinger and actor, will be returning to KlezKanada (now in its 12th year) this coming summer.

The internationally renowned and only yiddish / jewish culture and the arts to feature a daily newspaper in Yiddish, English, and other languages (slight plug for my own role there), returns for a 12th year in 2007, starting on Monday August 20th, 2007 (5pm) and continuing through Sunday August 26th, 2007

KlezKanada takes place at Camp B'Nai Brith—St. Agathe (Lantier), Quebec MAPQUEST

Registration forms are now online at www.klezkanada.com

More on hutsul music

I have posted a couple of articles recently about hutsul music. Now, one of my favorite authorities, Budapest's (and Di Naye Kapelye)'s) Bob Cohen weighs in:

Over on Ari Davidow’s Klezmer Shack site there has been an airing of a controversy about the relationship between Hutsul (Ruthenian) music and Klezmer music, which played out on the Jewish music mailing list a few weeks ago. It’s time to weigh in.

For more, check out Bob's blog.

April 4, 2007

NYC Tantshoyz on "YouTube"

Pete Rushefsky writes to the Jewish-Music mailing list:

Bob Cohen has graciously put up a YouTube video of footage from a recent Tantshoyz put on by CTMD. Here's Zev's (Zev Feldman) demonstrating "shining"—i.e., things to do when you've been thrown in the center of a freylekh circle:

Next CTMD Tantshoyzes at the JCC in Manhattan (Amsterdam & 76th) are on

Hope to see you at some of the upcoming events!
A zisn Peysakh, Pete Rushefsky
Center for Traditional Music and Dance

Support for the Yiddish Dance Project was provided to the Center for Traditional Music & Dance by the Forward Association and the New York State Council on the Arts Folk Arts Program, a State agency. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Video of new Minneapolis band, "Classic Klesmer"

Doug Cole sends in the following. I am hoping for updated listings on the klezmershack's band pages, soon:

My partner Judith Eisner, fidl has a very nice website that has video of her new band: Classic Klezmer. You may remember her from the remarkable photo of the Tsatskelehs All grrrl klezmer band posted on your band list a few years ago. And of course you will recognize her from Klez Kanada, she has attended last five years or so. The band was recorded at a cable tv station here in Minneapolis and the cable people have a website where they display local talent(baby blue arts). So check it out and tell everyone! I'm the biggest fan of course being her partner.

It's not as easy to play as YouTube, but if you have Windows Media Player, you should be okay.

More on Hutsul Tecso

As near as I can tell, it was Helen Winkler, originally posting to the Jewish-Music list about this video, that sparked Roger Reid's long post about the Hutsul music craze (and the subsequent discussion) a couple of weeks ago.

Now, Inna Barmash adds more information about the recording, also posted to the Jewish-Music mailing list:

Ah yes! I remember that night—this is in Budapest, at Fono in the Fall 2006. Tecso played after a wonderful set by Nikitov (Niki Jakobs et al) - that explains why you see Adam Good on bass jamming with the Ukranian musicians. The really frustrating thing about this recording is that I'm standing right behind the video guy the whole time, so no proof remains that I was there (except my own blurry pictures :)

The person posting the video is none-other than the omnipresent and sagacious Bob Cohen of Di Naye Kapelye. He turned us on to Tecso, and he's got a wonderful post on Tecso on his ever-enlightening blog. Sadly, Mihailo Csernavec, the tsimbalom player in the band (who was already ill at the time of this show) passed away very recently, and Bob tells his story and the story of the band here: Mihailo Csernavec, Hutsul Tsymbaly player, 1947-2007.

April 2, 2007

Dates for the 2007 Tzfat Klezmer Festival

Moshe Berlin posted dates for this year's Tzfat Klezmer Festival, held annually in Israel. Since the organization that arranges the festival tends to be short on web savvy, this (and the entries that will go on the KlezmerShack calendar) may be as much information as you can get without actually being in Israel.

"As far as it is known now the Zfat festival this year will be on 13 - 15 of August"

a zisn pesakh

album coverAs I get ready to start the first seder, I find myself thinking about music for Passover. It is a holiday where I find myself singing loudly (to many people's distress) and often, but not one where there are so many recordings that come to mind.

Still, this is a good time to mention Yehoram Gaon's pioneering LP of Sephardic Passover songs. Here's a nice link on Richard Silverstein's blog, along with a link to the music, now available as part of a 2-CD set, from everyone's favorite online music store, Hatikvah Music (it used to be everyone's favorite Jewish music store, but Hatikvah no longer has a storefront.)

Moving back to the future, I am happy to make a strong mention of Cincinnati singer Lori Cahan-Simon's 2001 Songs my bubbe should have taught me, vol. one: Passover. You can also get Lori's CD from Hatikvah, of course!

But, suppose you've been there and down all that? What if you're ready to deconstruct the seder? There is only one answer, the SoCalled Seder. From the JDUB website:

album coverPassover starts Monday night at sundown. Many of you will gather with friends and family for 4 cups of wine, 4 questions, and more dry, flat, unleavened bread than you'd care to think about. Socalled's Passover masterpiece: The Socalled Seder: A Hip Hop Haggadah is the perfect antidote to a seder as dry as the matzah you're going to eat. It makes a great Afikomen prize. Whether you drink the 4 cups or not, its a great sountrack to the first week of April.

Order today and get it in time for your Seder from the JDub Webstore for only $7.99! Or download it from itunes or emusic Listen to Who Know's One? and 2nd Cup: Bless the Wine, and hear two more tracks on Socalled's myspace page!

A sweet Passover to one and all.

April 1, 2007

Yet another Orthodox != Jewish conundrum

So, an institution is holding a series of events featuring musicians who represent different parts of the Jewish music community. One of the musicians is a pop musicians of the sort (as near as I can tell) who sets religious poetry to current rock/pop sounds—the sort of thing that the Sephardic piyut writers did a thousand or two years ago in what is now Iraq.

To me, and to the organizers of the event, this was music best described as "Jewish Orthodox pop"—the qualifier added because it is music very much enjoyed by some parts of the halachic community, but which is unknown and generally making no impression outside that large community.

But, of course, I get an angry email, as though I wrote the concert description, demanding that I remove the word "Orthodox." I do as requested, but all the while, I think to myself, "hey turkey, you may want to pretend that this is music that speaks to the larger Jewish community, but it doesn't. So, you have just removed a signifier that will let that part of the community that isn't aware of your music, know that there is a concert of interest.

And maybe it matters, and maybe it doesn't. The term "Jewish music" as generally used these days, includes nothing but ditties of greater or lesser depth set to folk or pop or rock. If you listen to the sad sampler of "Jewish music" that Moment magazine distributed a year or so ago, there is no klezmer, no Ladino (not pop, not traditional, nada), no Yiddish, no music representing any Jewish folk or popular traditions outside the confines of allegedly "spiritual" music. It is a deadly awful CD, and convinced me that if Moment magazine is this clueless about Jewish music, it may be similarly clueless across the board. 20 years ago it was a great magazine. Today? Who mentions it.

And this Jewish musician? Maybe he belonged on that CD. Maybe he didn't. But I suspect strongly that trying to market his sound as "Jewish music" is the kiss of death across the board. And, of course, this is where I came in. I can't image a problem in describing nusakh as Jewish music, but once you set your words to popular melody? It may be many things, and it may certainly be part of Jewish music. It deserves description.

I titled this piece as though the artist was confused about the difference between "Orthodox" and "Jewish." As I write, I realize that this isn't necessarily so. From his perspective, as someone setting Jewish words to music (and regardless of which denomination you belong to (or think of as how you aren't Jewish), it s"Jewish music". But that simply isn't enough. Even if we were all Orthodox, given the variety of Jewish communities, it still wouldn't be enough, and without further qualification, it is as though the artist is announcing he doesn't see or hear anyone but his own sub-community as the normative Jewish community.