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April 27, 2009

Yid Vicious: Car-less Klezmer in Madison

Let me step back to Madison and Yid Vicious for a moment to present a 20 minute video of the band's participation in "Car-less" week in Madison, WI.

April 25, 2009

Cleveland - Eastern European music nirvana

Harmonia soundcheck, Hiram, OHSpent much of yesterday touring around Cleveland with Steven Greenman. We had a great time at the West Side Market, then walked the beach on the east side. In between we passed over the Mordor Bridge a couple of times, caught sight of the Rock and Roll Museum (but had no time nor sufficient boredom to enter) and assorted ballparks. In the evening we repaired to Hiram, OH, where Steven's main group, Harmonia, was to appear at the local college. I've known Steven for over a decade, and I've know the Harmonia band-leader Walt Mahovlich almost as long, but this was the first time I saw the full band, complete with singer, Beata, plus flute player Andrei, Mr. Bass, and the fabulous Alex Fedoriuk on cymbalom. What an amazing group! (You can view photos from my entire trip, including the rest of the soundcheck, on Flickr.

Harmonia, with Beata on board, reminds me a lot of the Hungarian band, Muzsicás—amazing, non-brass-centric, music from Eastern/Central Europe. Beata's voice is a revelation. It is very much worth getting their CD, Music of Eastern Europe. Walt took us on a tour of various ethnic song and dance styles, with a dance group of Hungarian Scouts providing frequent accompaniment.

In a way, seeing this music on the concert stage reminded me of the contradiction faced by klezmer bands--how to represent a folk tradition on the concert stage. The sad difference, however, is that the music Harmonia is playing represents living traditions. At best, klezmer bands, especially when appearing with folk dance instructors, are helping to recreate an older tradition and return it to the world of modern evolving traditions. (At worst, klezmer is heard as some sort of nostalgia for a world never experienced by the ancestors of many American Jews, but which we all imagine must have existed in some personal, remote, Anatevka.)

Better than all of this, Harmonia is just an excellent, exciting band that swings wildly. I already knew Alex's playing from his cymbalom CDs. Steven is justifiably famous as one of the foremost klezmer fiddlers. Walt I have heard in several contexts over the years and he is always exciting. The rest of the band—and their interplay, was the exciting revelation.

Tonight Steven, Alex, and Walt appear at Temple Tifereth Israel as part of "Klezmerpalooza" with Yiddishe Cup and other fine bands. If you are in the Cleveland Area, I recommend that you stop on by. Music starts at 7pm.

April 23, 2009

Klezmer Paris 2009, 6-10 July 2009

Klezmer PairsKlezmer Paris - 2009
musique juive d'Europe centrale

Faites du Klezmer !

Stage de musique instrumentale / Music workshop
Stage de chant / Song workshop
Stage de danse / Dance workshop
Stage pour juniors / Juniors classes

Du 6 au 10 juillet 2009

Simultanés et avec de nombreuses passerelles, ces quatre stages de musique juive d'Europe de l'Est
seront animés par des artistes de renommée internationale.
The four parallel courses (with common activities) - klezmer
music, Yiddish songs and nigunim, Jewish dances of Eastern
Europe and Juniors classes - are all led by internationally
known musicians.


Informations et bulletin d'inscription / information and
application form:
Tel : + 33 1 47 00 14 00 - Fax : + 33 1 47 00 14 47

Klezmer workshop, French countryside, Jul 26 - Aug 2, 2009

Klezmer workshop,summer 2009 in France.
For musicians who want to play Klezmer music in a very nice area in the french countryside, from the 26 of July to the 2nd of August. A week of work and a little concert at the end.

Musique Ensemble
tel: 01 43 61 52 88
All information on our website.

April 20, 2009

Order me a corned beef and rye

detail of Zingerman's corned beef sandwichRecovering from the KlezKamp Roadshow extravaganza last weekend in Ann Arbor, I take myself to the local deli, Zingerman's, and order the simplest possible corned beef sandwich. It arrives on hand-cut, phenomenal Jewish rye. The meat tastes pretty good, too.

You order your sandwich in the deli building, where you can also order an extravagent selection of breads and meats and cheeses from around the world. You then trudge in the rain next door to hang out and wait for the sandwich with free wifi at the bagel shop next door. Not a bad way to pass time on a rainy afternoon. Worth being in Ann Arbor for.

April 19, 2009

KlezKamp Roadshow sells out in Madison, WI

I am the sort of person who is well known for occasionally dropping from Boston to New York for an evening, so it came as no great surprise when, finding myself in Indianapolis yesterday I drove over to Madison, WI to catch the opening concert for the KlezKamp Roadshow. Today and tomorrow the roadshow will be featuring FREE workshops with some of the best teachers to be found anywhere. I hadn't been in Madison since the last time I drove cross country, and it was an enormous pleasure to hear Yid Vicious, still a kick-ass klezmer band, punkish only in name. Their set came after a lovely performance by the Madison Yiddish Choir and included the title track off their last CD, a klezmer tribute to Balkan music (sort of—they explain it better, live) called "The Seventh Shlemiel."

This was just forspeis. Henry Sapoznik was his usual welcoming self, and the KlezKamp regulars had a grand time on stage. Michael Wex opened with one of my favorite monologues. Susan Levitan gave a too-brief taste of her Yiddish singing (which I could hear more of—I am more familiar with her work in Yiddish folk arts—I have fond memories of a paper-cutting workshop at Ashkenaz, for instance). Mr. Sapoznik, accompanied by Cookie Segelstein and Mark Rubin delivered some favorites from his "Youngers of Zion" CD, including my favorite, "I am a boarder by my wife." Sherry Mayrent played an awesome set. These days, you have to go to KlezKamp to hear her, so this was a rare, and much appreciated treat.

But these were mere distractions. Welcome, distractions, true. Had there been nothing else, I could have heard these pieces and felt the trip well-repaid. But the larger ensemble, which also featured Michael Winograd on clarinet, Dan Blacksberg on trombone, Rubin on both bass and tuba, Segelstein on fiddle, Josh Horowitz on accordion, and the incredible Aaron Alexander on poyk, rocked big time. This was a traditional klezmer show, but much of the music came from the repertoire of the late German Goldenshteyn. In my mind's eye, I can see each of the musicians add solos or fills that reminded me of why I go such distances to hear them. Watching Mark Rubin's fingers as he plays, or listening to Alexander turn a short solo into an awesome transition to the next number are the equivalent of watching a skilled set of trapeze artists as they skillfully move back and forth, now airborn, now holding up the others, always in rhythm, with an "ooh" or "ahhhh" every second.

The evening had one further bonus. The last time I was in Madison, a band member loaned me a cassette copy of the sessions of their first recording to help me finish my trip cross country. By entirely pleasant coincidence, the band has just released their latest, Dollars to Doinas, and I now have a copy to help me finish my trip cross country. Some traditions are worth repeating.

If you are near Madison, and haven't signed up for the FREE workshops, let me encourage you to do so. Space is limited. And I've got to hit the road. This is, after all, not KlezKamp, but the KlezKamp Roadshow :-).

April 17, 2009

The KlezmerShack now on Twitter

If you are a fan of the "twitter" microblog, you can now follow the Klezmershack as ... @klezmershack. Send me a message and say, "hello." http://twitter.com/klezmershack . We always knew it, but now it is confirmed. I am a twit.

(You can follow the adventures of me and the rest of the Jewish Women's Archive staff @jwaonline, too)

April 5, 2009

Pearl Lang, z"l

Pearl LangItzik Gottesman reported to the Jewish-Music list his sadness that Pearl Lang had passed away suddenly on February 24, 2009.

"One unforgettable moment with Pearl Lang—I was an actor in the National Yiddish Theater production of The Dybbuk in 1981 and at an early rehearsal Pearl, the choreographer, came over to us, me and 3 older Yiddish actors in their 70s, maybe even their 80s, and said to us in Yiddish 'Show me what you can do' and with no music playing they just spontaneously combusted into ecstatic Hassidic dance movements jumping and prancing all around the room. It was such a beautiful but surreal site to behold. Then after a minute, Pearl said, 'OK, I got it'."

Steve Weintrab adds: "It really is a great loss to the dance world. I studied with her briefly when she taught at the Alvin Ailey school in the 80's. And I had the honor and pleasure of performing for her and Felix (thanks to you, Itzik) at the Congress for Jewish Culture benefit honoring them both. She was a talented and tough woman, its a shame to have lost her.

"The Graham school has posted a bio and video tribute: http://marthagraham.org/center/pearl.php

"I just spoke with Joanne Borts, who remembers her from when she choreographed Golden Land (for Broadway?) May her memory be for a blessing."

Judith Brin Ingber wrote a moving obituary to Pearl Lang, original published in the Jewish Week. It is now available on the Jewish Women's Archive in their "We Remember" section. There is a full biography in the archive's Jewish Women's Encyclopedia.

Vilnius Jewish Library seeks music donations

This came in at the beginning of March from Wyman Brent, in Vilnius:

While there is a lot of negative news to be covered these days with the rising levels of anti-Semitism, there is still an uplifting story to report. Today in Vilnius, Lithuania 165 boxes of Jewish books arrived from California. The books are the beginning of the new Vilnius Jewish Library. I am asking Klezmer bands and lovers of the music to donate CDs and DVDs and related books to help revive Jewish culture in the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Web: www.jmuseum.lt/index.aspx?Lang=EN

Wyman Brent
Vilnius Jewish Library
Ausros Vartu 20-15A
Vilnius LT-02100

Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird - Yiddish Culture is Alive, like it or not

So, a while back, someone clueless in the UK wrote about how only jerks ignorant of "current" Jewish culture would be caught up in lifeless klezmer concerts vs., say, the Ramones or Leonard Cohen. Personally, I dig both, but don't actually think of their work as "Jewish" or substitute for same.

Ruth Ellen Gruber, in this article that I should have posted ages ago, counters indirectly by reporting the energy and crowds appearing to hear Daniel Kahn's "Painted Bird" ensemble. Of course, if you've been listening to "Partisans and Parasites" or have seen Kahn and Painted Bird, this will not be news. In all events, the article is fun to read:

Ruthless Cosmopolitan: Klezmer and the ghost of Germany past, by Ruth Ellen Gruber, February 25, 2009

Read that, and then look at Turn off the klezmer and turn up the Ramones. Shades of Heeb magazine! Another person confused about the difference between "Jewy" and "Jewish".

Passover for Kids: Mama Doni's "Rasta in Pasta!"

From the Mama Doni band:

… to celebrate the upcoming holiday of Passover, we've made "Rasta in Pasta", our Passover reggae anthem, available as a FREE download from www.MamaDoni.com. Those of you who own our first album, "I Love Herring (& Other Fish Shticks For Kids)" already know this one….

KlezKanada dance video

From Avia Moore

one of our film scholarship students made this short film about dance at KlezKanada. I only found out that I was the "narrator" last week. Here it is:

It includes shots at the of the piece I developed with my students at KlezKanada last year. Also really nice shots of Steve's class.

Hope you enjoy!

"Freedom Seder" on YouTube

From Art Waskow's Shalom Center:

We have just posted on YouTube part of the only existing film of the original Freedom Seder held on April 4, 1969, the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, the third night of Passover.

Doing the electronic wizardry necessary to put excerpts from the film on YouTube made it a little darker than the original. But you can clearly see and hear the readings, the comments, the questions, and the joyful responses of hundreds of people of varied racial and religious communities who gathered in a Black church in the heart of Washington DC to celebrate the Seder.

The Freedom Seder was unique: For the first time in millennia of Jewish history, the story of the liberation of ancient Israelites from slavery under Pharaoh was intertwined with the story of Black America's struggle for liberation, and the liberation of other peoples as well.

Among the leading readers that night in 1969 were:

  • Rabbi Balfour Brickner, one of the strongest civil-rights and peace leaders of Reform Judaism;
  • Topper Carew, then a young Black street activist and youth-oriented city planner, now a fiim and TV producer;
  • Rev. Channing Phillips, the pastor of the hosting church, who had led an insurgent pro-civil-rights, antiwar movement in Washington; who was elected by the people of Washington to chair the DC delegation to the Democratic National Convention of 1968 in Chicago; and who had been nominated for President by the DC delegation after Bobby Kennedy was murdered. He was the first Black person ever nominated for President at a major-party convention;
  • and Arthur Waskow --- then an activist/ scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies who had written the Freedom Seder as his first venture into the world of Jewish creativity that then became his life-path, leading him to found and direct The Shalom Center and to be ordained a rabbi. You may be startled to see Waskow with a black beard, wearing a white shirt, suit, and tie.

The Seder was organized by Jews for Urban Justice, an insurgent and provocative Jewish group led by Mike Tabor, Sharlene Krantz, and Fran Schreiberg.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Seder and to address one of the greatest dangers ever to face the human race—the danger that our global climate crisis will become a "global scorching" worse than the traditional "Ten Plagues"—The Shalom Center has initiated a New Freedom Seder for the Earth and is co-sponsoring two observances on March 29, 2009—in Washington DC and in Philadelphia. Other observances are planned around the country during the next several weeks. For more information (including a text you can use and print to create your own Seder for the Earth) click to our home page at www.shalomctr.org

One year before, the day after Dr. King was killed, several commercial sections of Washington had been burned down by crowds of Blacks infuriated by his murder. The US Army had occupied the city and imposed a curfew (enforced only on Blacks), and when Passover had arrived one week later, the uproar had stirred Arthur Waskow's imagination to connect the story of the Exodus with the city in flames.

Some activists had threatened to burn the city again if it refused to make April 4 a day of city-wide mourning for Dr. King, but the city government refused. There is a moment during the Seder, just after the reading of the ten Plagues, when the sound of fire engine sirens can be heard—the 11th plague.

The Freedom Seder was nationally published that year by Ramparts magazine and was carried live by WBAI radio in New York City. Excerpts were televised by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, whence these fewer moments.

The Freedom Seder liberated the Passover Seder itself from its hide-bound pattern, and during the forty years since, tens of thousands of Jews and others have reshaped their own Seders to address feminism, workers and immigrants rights, gay rights, Israeli-Palestinian peace, protection of the earth, and other issues of great urgency.

Lox & Vodka's Caron Dale / "Havdalah" on YouTube

Lox & Vodka's Caron Dale posts to the Jewish-Music list:

I just wanted to let the list know that I posted my first you tube video. Feel free to check it out when you have a chance:

Marty Levitt videos and CD release

Pete Rushefsky writes to the Jewish-Music list:

There's now a Youtube channel dedicated to clarinetist Marty Levitt with some great concert vids from the '80s: www.youtube.com/user/levittlegacy

For the curious, Binyomin Ginsberg notes that the trumpeter in the videos is Ken Gross.

Dave Levitt writes:

CD coverA remastered collection from the Marty Levitt Klezmer Ensemble was just released on March 31,2009 through Universal Music Group.

New Hoodiíos release, May 12 - "Carne Asada"

It is absolutely true that the Hip Hop Hoodíos were my first favorite Jewish hip hop band—and still the kings of Latino-Jewish hip hop. Whether one EP, one CD, and some very interesting singles merit a retrospective collection is another question. It will certainly be a danceable and good collection. Readers will have to check it out personally. Here's the press release:


Group’s First Career Retrospective Features the New Single “Times Square (1989)” and Guest Performances from Members of Ozomatli, The Klezmatics, The Pinker Tones, Delinquent Habits & Los Abandoned

“Carne Masada: Quite Possibly the Very Best of Hip Hop Hoodíos” (April 28th iTunes; May 12th all other retailers) is the first-ever ‘Best of’ collection—including 5 new tracks—from the critically-acclaimed Latino-Jewish urban collective led by Josh “Josué Noriega” Norek and Abraham Vélez. Hip Hop Hoodíos’ latest release on Jazzheads Records features guest participation from members of such major Latin & Jewish acts as Ozomatli, The Klezmatics, The Pinker Tones, Delinquent Habits, Los Mocosos, and Los Abandoned. The album’s first single is the old school-flavored homage to pre-gentrified Manhattan, “Times Square (1989).” The album spans the group’s entire career and also includes liner notes written by the (soon-to-no-longer-be) esteemed Rolling Stone/LA Times music critic Ernesto Lechner.


“Carne Masada: Quite Possibly the Very Best of Hip Hop Hoodíos (Jazzheads Records) Features 5 New Tracks & Liner Notes Written by Ernesto Lechner (Rolling Stone/LA Times)

“Latin alternative was already scrambling the definitions of musical categories, and Hip Hop Hoodíos throw in humor and ethnicity for added confusion.” —New York Times

The Jewish answer to Los Fabulosos Cadillacs? The Latino respuesta to the Beastie Boys? From Latin funk to klezmer to cumbia to straight-up rap, Hip Hop Hoodíos are a cross-cultural phenomenon. The band is almost certainly the only act in the history of recorded music to have co-headlined both the Salute to Israel Parade and the Barrio Museum in Spanish Harlem. The 2007 Hip Hop Hoodíos release ‘Viva la Guantanamera’ (a benefit for Amnesty International’s efforts to close Guantanamo Bay Prison) hit #9 on the iTunes Latino albums sales chart and #1 overall on eMusic. In recent years, the band’s music has been featured in a number of films and television shows including the Warner Bros Pictures release ‘Pride & Glory’ and MTV’s ‘Life of Ryan.’

“Hip Hop Hoodíos marry klezmer with cumbia, hard-core hip-hop with Santanaesque grooves. Somehow it all works, thanks to cameos from members of Santana and the participation of alterlatino acts such as Jaguares, La Barranca, and Orixa & Los Mocosos.” —Washington Post

“The socially conscious anti-corporate playa-hating of Hip Hop Hoodíos is funnier than any Beastie Boys punchlines recently.” —VillageVoice

Getcher Passover rap right here

from the folks at shemspeed.com

poster from shemspeed.comTHE SEFIRA BEAT BOX & RAP ALBUM

The first single, “Watch” is about keeping the history of the Passover alive. Every year the Jewish Nation leaves Egypt; from exile to one step closer to redemption. G-dly things happening—Watch!

Download the Passover song by clicking these words.

Listen to some of the songs @ www.myspace.com/7sefira.

Buy the CD from Shemspeed, here or on iTunes, here.

Interview with Greg Wall on the new Rav Kook project

Greg WallIsrael's first chief rabbi's redemption poetry is turned into jazz performances by two rabbis on a new CD and in clubs. Rabbi Greg Wall of Hasidic New Wave fame and Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein, son of Holocaust survivors release Ha'Orot—The Lights of Rav Kook on John Zorn's Tzadik Records and perform in clubs in Israel and New York. The full text interview with audio is available from Benjamin Bresky's radio show.

ברכת החמה

From Moussa Berlin, who plays the lead clarinet:

Our Rabbis taught: He who sees the sun at its turning point, the moon in its power, the planets in their orbits, and the signs of the zodiac in their orderly progress, should say:

Blessed be He who has wrought the work of creation.

And when [does this happen]? — Abaye said:

Every twenty-eight years when the cycle begins again and the Nisan [Spring] equinox falls in Saturn on the evening of Tuesday, going into Wednesday

This year it will happen on the 8th of April 2009 (Erev Pesach 5759)

April 4, 2009

The Sway Machinery - interview in the Forward

I was forced to get my thoughts down about The Sway Machinery because I want to tell you about an excellent interview with band founder/leader Jeremiah Lockwood in this week's Forward. The web version has the longer interview and some mp3s:

Cantorial Blues: The Age of Myth Returns The Sway Machinery Frontman Jeremiah Lockwood on His Musical Development. By Hillel Broder. Published April 02, 2009.

The Sway Machinery and Balkan Beat Box stupendous

So, what is new Jewish music? Wednesday night a friend and I treated ourselves to one memorable, delightful, loud, rocking, beat-ful snapshot. Whilst I exchanged text messages with a friend who had seen BBB the night prior in DC, The Sway Machinery came onstage 45 minutes late, but proceeded to create an exciting aural explosion. I was unable to make out specific words, but I could catch familiar nusakh complemented exquisitely (that may be the wrong word for high-energy intense dance beats) by the hyperactive rhythm section. Featuring players from several of NYC's best-known underground bands, The Sway Machinery made clear what I had hitherto suspected from video and mp3. They rock. The energy was addictive and entrancing.

Ah, but that was just the warm-up. After a short break to set up for Balkan Beat Box, Lockwood was back with the beats and I was further blown away. Jumping around on stage, going through bottles of water as though they were drugs, pulling in beats, rap, and again, an incredibly tight rhythm section, BBB featured a lot of material new to me, presumably from the new CD, and many more pieces from their last two CDs.

The dance floor was incredibly crowded. It was hard to take my eyes off the performers on stage. It has been a long time since I have seen a band give so much, so intensely. But when I looked around me, I could see that I wasn't the only person in the nicely diverse audience enjoying myself and moving frenetically (okay, most people were in their 20s or 30s, but there were a few alte kakers like me—and even a few in between, like a friend from work—not Jewish, just very much into dancing and beats, and, as he put it later, "sweatier than you will likely see me ever again.").

I hope it isn't the kiss of death that people in my advanced middle ages can enjoy a band this loud and this young. I can't wait to see them again.

This period between Purim and Pesakh has been incredibly rich for Boston audiences. From Israeli traditional Ladino/Yiddish singer Betty Klein at Workmen's Circle (favorite moment: listening to Tufts University professor Gloria Asher read a poem that she had written in Ladino, and then hearing Betty's setting of the poem), to the Three Yiddish Divas (such a stupendous show, and so much new Yiddish music, along with the standards, and in a political statement that I wish more were listening to, closing with the Hebrew/Israel song, שיר השלום (Shir Ha-Shalom). Somewhere in there was Balkan Night, and just last week, Israeli/Ethiopian Idan Raichel with his rhythmic "Project," tighter even than the stupendous band they were a year ago and the year before that. Last weekend we were treated to KCB founder Hankus Netsky w/Dobe Ressler accompanying KCB former lead singer Judy Bresler teaching a crowded room Yiddish dance (co-sponsored by Workmen's Circle), with several of us running out after the music stopped to hear a revived and thoroughly exciting Shirim Klezmer Orchestra in Cambridge. From klezmer, to Satie, to Pakistani Brass music, Shirim at the LIlypad is one of the city's special treats. I am happy to report that this concert, like all of those I mentioned in this brief summary, was crowded, if not quite sold out. There is still room for you, dear reader—at least, a few of the more fortunate of you ;-).