Di Naye Kapelye

Album cover: Good sans serif condensed with bob cohen playing his heart out on fiddle Di Naye Kapelye (eponymous)

Oriente Musik, Rien CD 17, 1998

Web: www.oriente.de
US distribution via Hatikvah Music. Email Simon and tell him that Ari sent you!

For the first time, my biases with regard to great klezmer bands must be stated up front. Not only do I think that Di Naye Kapelye is one of the most powerful and exciting klezmer bands performing today, but they got me to say so in the opening liner notes on this first CD recording by the band. (I wasn't quite persuasive enough to get the CD typeset as well as I would have liked, but that's the way it goes.) I stand by that musical assessment. Don't even bother to read the rest of this review. Go out, get the album, enjoy. Nothing more to discuss, unless you are fortunate to live in Europe and get a chance to see the band perform. In that case, feel free to write about the band and the state of your dancing shoes and feet a day later on the jewish-music mailing list or any other public forum where amazing music is discussed. I've already done so myself, upon meeting the band for the first time in Budapest back in 1996.

Bob Cohen, the band leader, is a veteran performer of many types of world music. Several years ago he settled in Budapest, whence he regularly departs on field trips all over Eastern Europe playing, swapping songs, and reconstructing, to the degree possible, what the variety of Jewish music sounded like prior to the Holocaust. Back at home, he and one of the most amazing collections of musicians west of the Yangtse, recreate the music in the spirit in which it was first sung: as driving, dynamic music of celebration. The style may be rooted in traditional music; the instrumentation may be similarly old, but the power would blow away many of today's rave electronics bands. This accumulated knowledge and passion are distilled for the reader in the album's detailed liner notes.

This first CD by the band incorporates some material from their original CD, new instrumental selections, and features the vocals of Portland, Oregon cantor, klezmer, radio show host, and all around appreciator of pálinka, Yankl Falk. Yankl's singing, often performed a capella, or with minimal accompaniment, returns us to a time when the power of the voice could tell a story and move an audience. I, myself, love it more when the band breaks loose, but having said that, find myself all-too-often lost in thought only to discover that I have been listening to another Yankl vocal, rapt, for the last five minutes. Almost as a counterweight, Cohen weigh's in with some klezmer shouting on numbers like "In Ades."

More important, the band retains the style of playing dance medleys that made its debut CD so powerful: beginning with one song, getting the feet moving, then picking up the tempo with a new tune, and so on until band and dancers need a break! This is especially true on my favorite, very different from each other, medleys: the Satmar medley, and "Yismekhu/In Ades/Áron's Chosid Tants"; the latter consisting of even more parts than the description admits. Besides, hearing an American rasta sing about Odessa with Brooklyn Yiddish in a Hungarian band--and making it sound both authentic and "danczik" is wonderful and beyond wonderful. Then Bob's violin does that swing thing and the band is off to a brand new set of tunes to wrap up. This playing reminds me of an old Chasidic story, in part of which a man is stranded on a deserted island where every Friday, just before Shabbes, chasidim appear, grab him up, rush him to the mikve (ritual bath), to prayer and song, "no time" they say, whenever he questions whence they came or what he is doing there, "no time, dance! pray! sing! celebrate life and the coming of the moshiach!"

Although most of the instrumentation here is basic "old-timey Jewish"--accordion, bass/cello, fiddle, occasional clarinet or drum, rarely things are tinged with what we Americans hear as somewhat bluegrassy mandolin picking, as on "Shloimke's Russian Dance" or Irishy pipe in the "Moldav-O-Rama! (These "cross-cultural" impressions should come as no surprise. I love to tell the tale of playing some bluegrass music to Serbian friends, which prompted happy smiles at hearing "Romanian" picking.)

Here's the thing. This album includes amazing playing by Bob, Yankl, the amazing accordion of another Portland native, Christina Crowder, and some of Hungary's most inventive and moving folk musicians. This isn't klezmer "revival." This is the real thing--or close enough as suffices to open the mind and move the feet today. Whether you usually listen to classical music, or folk, or trance, or heavy metal klez, this is the most universally moving album to be released in the past year. More than anything else I have reviewed this year, that this album is "asli" (in the blood authentic, as Israelis from North Africa are wont to say) klezmer is almost irrelevant--a chance categorization. This is an album worth listening to just to hear amazing music, or to dance in ways and rhythms that you didn't realize your feet already understand. It's up to you. But more than any other album I have reviewed this year, this one is essential. You've never heard klezmer like this. And now that you've heard Di Naye Kapelye, this is how you will judge good music henceforth.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 1/30/99

Personnel, this recording

Bob Cohen: vocals, violin, mandolin
Christina Crowder: accordion, drum
Géza Pénzes: bass, cello, koboz, drum, background vocals
Janos Barta: clarinet, background vocals
Jack "Yankl" Falk: metal and wood clarinets, vocals

Róbert Kerényi: Moldavian caval and flutes, drum


  1. Dem Rebns Tants (trad., from Art Shryer's Orch., 1929) 3:26
  2. Ani Maamin/Wedding March from Transylvania (trad.) 4:35
  3. Hangu and Freylachs from Podoly (trad., Bughici family, Moldavia) 3:46
  4. Kotsk/Dem Trisker Rebns Nigun (trad., Dave Tarras) 6:13
  5. Shloimke's Russian Dance (Shloimke Beckerman) 2:25
  6. Naftule's doina (Naftule Brandwein) 3:01
  7. Moldav-O-Rama (trad.) 11:10
  8. Bet Zikh ibert un Geyt a Tentsl (Tarras, in Greek style) 3:13
  9. Ono B'Choach - Slow Hora/The Odessa Bulgar (trad., Mishka Tsiganoff) 6:23
  10. Jewish Tunes from Szatmár (trad.) 8:38
  11. Yismekhu/in Ades/Áron's Chosid Tants (Belf Orchestra/trad./Joseph Frankel) 8:46
  12. Bobover wedding march (trad.) 4:40

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