Brivele / Cradle songs, Grave songs
Brivele / Cradle songs / Grave songs, 2021
Available from Bandcamp.
A couple of years ago a young Yiddish trio breezed through the Boston area, performing at a local cafe. We were all blown away by the harmonies, the instruments, and especially the mashups and overall joy of singing. A new generation of Yiddish punk folk singing had arrived and it is really, really good.
Back when the Klezmer Revival was new a couple of generations ago, the focus was on learning those stiff songs from old 78s or LPs. It often felt as though we were trying to revive a tradition trapped in amber. It took time to find the old-timers still around who helped convey the actual feel of the music as it had been (and was often not captured on wax or vinyl), and to begin discovering the growing archives of Yiddish folk music.
Brivele exemplifies a different approach to traditional materials, remixing the old (I particularly love mixing "Mein shtetele belz" with Paul Simon's "My little town," evoking not only an old world "my little town," but memorializing the Holocaust), finding Yiddish translations of Americana (consider "Zumertsayt," with which this recording opens), and writing their own contrafactas (new songs to old melodies) addressing current political issues ("Don't despair about the Supreme Court"). In between, the also sing a healthy mix of Yiddish folk songs, often political, and, again, often mashed up ("Electric bistu sheyn,"). So many of these are my new favorite songs. Beyond the Supreme Court song, I love the bi-lingual "Innocent when you dream," mashing up Tom Waits and Shalom Aleichem, and of course, that perennial favorite, "Bread and Roses," auf iddish.
This, of course, is what the folk tradition is all about—not reproduction of the sounds of one's grandparents, but the refreshed repertoire, remixed, joyously sung, and accompanied by excellent accordion, violin, and other instruments as suits. As we emerge from pandemic lockdown, if Brivele are not playing in a cafe near you, do get yourself a copy of this recording (or their equally wonderful, eponymous first recording, "A little letter") from Bandcamp today. They have lots of other merch, as well.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 30 May 2021.
Personnel this recording:
Stefanie Brendler accordion, vox, glockenspiel, slide whistle
Maia Brown banjo, vox
Hannah Hamavid violin, ukulele, vox
- Zumertsayt—Summertime (music: George Gerwin; words: DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin; Yiddish: Faith Jones, Maia Brown) 2:37
- Hunting Season (from "I Am Not A Gambling Man" by A Hawk and A Hacksaw; from “Vakht Oyf! (Wake Up!),” David Edelstadt; from “Zol Zayn (What If),”Yosef Papernikov; New English lyrics by Brivele) 4:25
- Oyfn Ganikl—On the balcony (folk) 4:50
- Beltz (from "Mayn shtetele beltz" Olshanetsky/Jacobs; arr. Brivele) 1:43
- Barbasol (radio commercial, learned from Yiddish Radio Project) 0:27
- Electric Bistu Sheyn (“Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” words: Jacob Jacobs; music: Sholom Secunda / “Electric Lady,” Janelle Monáe) 2:44
- Don't despair about the Supreme Court (music from "Oyf di Vegalakh", folk tune; lyrics: Stefanie Brendler) 3:03
- Innocent when you dream (from “Innocent When You Dream” by Tom Waits / Yiddish excerpts from “Shlof Mayn Kind,” Sholom Aleikhem and from "Voices of a People: The Story of Yiddish Folksong," Ruth Rubin) 2:37
- Bread and roses (slogan: Rose Schneiderman? Helen Todd? Poem: James Oppenheim and Brivele; melody: Mimi Fariña; Yiddish: Aron Gonshor, Edit Kuper) 3:33
- Shootin' with Ra-Ra-Rasputin (from "Rasputin," Boney M; plus summer camp trad., plus Brivele) 5:33
- Zog nit keyn mol—Never say that you are going your last way (words: Hirsh Glick; music: Dmitri & Daniel Pokrass / "Mir veln zey iberlebn" adapted from "Lomir zikh iberbent" Lubin shtetl folk) 3:35
- In dokh zing ikh [from “Pak zikh ayn (Pack Up)” by Leyb Rosental; transcribed by Miriam Isaacs / “Khotsh ikh hob kayn heym nisht (Though I Have No Home)” transcribed by Miriam Isaacs; English lyrics: Brivele] 3:08
- Spanish viglid—Spanish lullaby (words: Aaron Kurtz; English: Amelia Glaser; Melody: from "Canción de Cuna" by Norma Helena Gadea) 1:33