Klezroym / Yankele nel Ghetto

A few broad bands of color. Very nice. Klezroym
Yankele nel Ghetto

Compagnia Nuove Indye CNDL 14215, 2002

Compagnia Nuove Indye

Opening with a few bars of "Vayl ikh bin a yidale" this tribute to the Jews of the Lodz Ghetto consists of songs collected by Gila Flam. KlezRoym manages to take difficult material and to present it in ways that we will all listen. Sometimes, as on the opening vocal, also by Yankele Hershkowitz, the words are more spoken than sung: "It is our grief, it is our problem!...." This magically intense album, including several pages of preface by Gila Flam, whose collection of songs from the ghetto, Singing for survival: Songs of the Lodz Gehtto, 1940-45 is the source of this material.

Not since Ghetto Tango a few years ago have the words of the Ghettos under the Nazi occupation and extermination been presented as compellingly. Differently from "Ghetto Tango," where the material was presented as a cabaret, these songs are presented here in ways that try to make the words and melodies sear, while making the music almost transparent. It is like listening to master typographers (the point of good typography is to make the words clear while never distracting the reader with thought of the typography) at their craft, just working in music. Yet, sometimes, it is the music that conveys the emotion and mood, as in "Sakharin finf a marek" inspired by children selling sacharin on street corners, or at the end of "Ikh fur in kletser kant", or as on the "Yankele nel Ghetto #2," in which the constant clang clang clang of the muted cowbell create a sense of work work work and of striving to create from exhaustion and endless industrial labor, music.

Klezroym is one of the few bands that I can imagine with the range of styles, and the musical skill to tackle such a task. (Another is Brave Old World. I wish that they, too, would release their Lodz Ghetto material.) In some ways, this material suits them more than the klezmer music, not so known prior to recent decades in their native Italy, with which they began performing and recording. At the same time, grappling with such material is one way in which an ensemble performing new Jewish music today can assimilate the past, make it part of who the band is and what it does, and face the future, never to forget. Part of the never forgetting is to read the words of the songs, to listen. The words are bitter, sad, wise in things that humans should not have to know. They describe life that is impossible to imagine. But they are not passive songs, nor are they songs of despair. From "Kalt: A lidl fin lodzer getto 1945", sung by the exquisitely-voiced Eva Coen:

I see closed railroad cars
speeding by all through
the night,
Where did they take you?

This is a such a world....

and then the music takes flight with a song written for a theatre review in the Ghetto, sounding almost like a Yiddish Pentangle (the British folk-rock group of the '60s) in "Tsigayner Lid". Before this sinks in, the group is playing "Vayl ikh bin a yidale," one of the most memorable songs arranged by Mlotek and Cooper on "Ghetto Tango." Here, however, the band makes the song their own and finds a different way to make the song powerful, and their own. Finally, having built up the tension, the two singers begin to work back and forth together on "Papirosn" and Ver klapt du azoy shpet bay nakht". Finally, the sad theatre song: "Nit kayn rozhinkes in nit hayin mandlen":

No raisins and no almonds,
your father has not gone
out trading
lu, lu, lu, my son,
lu, lu, lu my son.

Some bands have chosen to mix klezmer melodies with whatever, turned klezmer into something like a musical spice. Others have focused on the '78s and an imagined or researched Eastern Europe of yore, playing klezmer as it was, or it might have been. Other than their name, this album has everything to do with Jewish folk tradition and continuity, and very little to do with klezmer, per se. Klezroym make it clear here, more than ever before, that they are creating new Jewish music, and doing it with sublety and skill that put them in the first rank of the best of new Jewish music bands. In that sense, the band is also according this material the highest honor--carrying the words forward to be heard by new generations, lest they never forget, and lest that part of whatever Jewish means in our generation, or the next, be lost. This is an album that will be hard to find in the United States. The band is Italian. Liner notes are in Italian and English. The music is universal, sweet, and haunting. Make the effort. You will be richly rewarded.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/4/03

Personnel this recording:
Gabriele Coen: soprano sax, clarinet
Andrea Pandolfo: trumpet, tenor flugelhorn
Pasquale Laino: alto sax, baritone sax
Riccardo Manzi: voice, guitar, bouzouki, banjo, pan
Marco Camboni: double bass
Leonardo Cesari: drums
Eva Coen: voice


  1. Intro (from "Vayl ikh bin a yidale," Y. Hershkowicz) 1:12
  2. Es iz a klug (Yankele Hershkowicz) 1:29
  3. Yankele nel ghetto (A. Pandolfo, P. Laino, R. Manzi, G. Coen, M. Camboni, L. Cesari; arr. KlezRoym, after Hershkowitz and Shneor) 2:54
  4. Rumkovski khaym (Y. Hershkowitz, arr. A. Pandolfo, R. Manzi, KlezRoym) 4:50
  5. Yankele nel ghetto #2 (A. Pandolfo, P. Laino, R. Manzi, G. Coen, M. Camboni, L. Cesari; arr. KlezRoym, after Hershkowitz and Shneor) 3:54
  6. Ikh fur in keltser kant (Y. Hershkowitz, arr. P. Laino, A. Pandolfo, KlezRoym) 7:00
  7. Kalt: a lid fin lodzger getto, 1945 (Miriam Goldberg Harel, arr. A. Pandolfo, KlezRoym) 6:04
  8. Sakharin finf a marek (A. Pandolfo, P. Laino, R. Manzi, G. Coen, M. Camboni, L. Cesari) 0:51
  9. Tsigayner lid (trad.) (David Beyglman; arr. R. Manzi KlezRoym) 5:31
  10. Vayl ikh bin a yidale (Y. Hershkowitz; arr. P. Laino, A. Pandolfo, KlezRoym) 6:17
  11. Papirosn/nishtu kain przydziel (H. Yablokoff/music: Yablokoff, words: Y. Hershkowitz; arr. KlezRoym) 2:14
  12. Kalt #2 (arr. P. Laino, KlezRoym) 1:23
  13. Ver klapt dos azoy shpet bay nakht?(Max Nurenberg; arr. P. Laino, KlezRoym) 3:25
  14. Nit kayn rozhinkes, nit kayn mandlen (words: Isaiah Shpigl, music: David Beyglman; arr. P. Laino, KlezRoym) 4:34
  15. Finale (from "Vayl ikh bin a yidale," Y. Hershkowitz) 2:15

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