Konsonans Retro /
a podolian affair

suitably cheesy; dig Christian Dawid's grin in the foreground

Konsonans Retro
a podolian affair

Oriente Express RIEN CD 62, 2007
Web: www.oriente.de
available in the US from cdbaby.com

The album opens with a traditional, heartfelt doina from Christian Dawid. But within seconds the band reverts to full-bore Moldovian brass band. (Of course, these days, Podolia is part of the Ukraine, not Moldova, but that's another tale for another time.) And that's Konsonans Retro—a dynamite Moldovian Ukranian family brass band, consisting of lots of Baranovskys, plus their cousins, the Voronyuks. They play wedding music for anyone, with a repertoire ranging from Jewish to Rom to Ukrainian. In particular, as Christian writes in the short liner notes: "Besides the pure passion of playing they also have a mission, since especially the Jewish part of the family repertoire has become rare and valuable. Multi-instrumentalist Vasyl Baranovsky, the eldest son of Moise and Maria, started to play the drum in his father's orchestra at the age of four, and still remembers many pieces which are now perhaps only known to him."

On this recording, Dawid sits in on woodwinds, and Britain's Guy Schalom joins in on drums, complementing the band's usual baraban. The result is a Podolian Dirty Dozen Brass Band—lively, exciting, wonderful harmonies, even wonderful vocal harmonies on slipped-in Ukrainian tunes like "limonchiki" (part of the "Freylekh No. 5 medley") and "Oy u hayu pri Danuy. The album closes with a single voice singing a Ukrainian love song, accompanied only by accordion, and then breaking into two voices and what sounds like an entirely different song—a bonus celebration of human voice transcending even the exuberance of the full Konsonans Retro.

When I was growing up, there was an assumption that Jewish culture was gone in the former Soviet Union. Indeed, not long after the klezmer revival here in the United States, some teachers from this country returned to the former Soviet Union to conduct teaching camps like KlezKamp here. At some point the exchange became two-way. The discovery of treasures such as Arkady Gendler and the late German Goldenshteyn made it clear that Jewish song and music may have become rare, but they were far from disappeared. Today, whether the repertoire has been passed down in the United States (Veretski Pass) or captured live, as here (or in Dobranotch or the Kharkov Klezmer Band), it is clear that roots klezmer, along with traditional dance music from up and down the crossroads, is alive and well and has much to teach those of us who think that klezmer repertoire consists primarily of recordings by Dave Tarras and Naftule Brandwine. It is also neat to hear a kickass band whose members aren't necessarily Jewish cherishing, preserving, and one presumes, continuing to perform, Jewish wedding repertoire.

The cross-fusion is still happily in progress. Gennadiy Fomin, from Kharkov klezmer, joins with Dawid band in a local "Podilska". Some of the tunes are strikingly unfamiliar. The Moldavskiy Dans (the liner notes say that "dans" is the local term for what Jewish musicians would traditionally call a "zhok" or "hora") is a lovely waltz-ish number. The "Niviy Sher" would seem more familiar to denizens of a balkan dance night than an American Jewish wedding, and the "Khasitsky Freylekhs" is a sweet-sounding Hasidic (?) Freylekhs. Their brassy Hasidic "Shabes Nign" is very different from the arrangements with which I am familiar, but is still unmistakably "Shabes Nign." As noted by the reviewer on the Blog in Dm, Podolia is the birthplace of Hasidism, so it is wonderful to hear local versions of these songs, as well as to reconnect with the source, so to speak.

This is the most exciting brass band with a Jewish repertoire since, well, probably since Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars or the Panorama Jazz Band. It's also a funny reminder. Here in the States, we think it interesting and a bit normal that our friends play here in a bluegrass band, there in a Celtic band, and over there in a klezmer ensemble, cleverly keeping the repertoire's mostly separate. In Konsonans Retro we see one band with a repertoire spanning all of Eastern Europe's cultures, playing one or the other as appropriate, and all as smoothly and perfectly as the other. What a wonderful discovery.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 17 Feb 2008.

Personnel this recording:
Christian Dawid: clarinet, alto sax
Vasyl Baranovsky: trumpet, bayan (4, 11, 19)
Volodymyr Voronyuk: trumpet
Volodymyr Baranovsky: accordion
Vitaly Baranovsky: trombone
Oleksandr Voronyuk: tuba
Vyacheslav Baranovsky: baraban
Guy Schalom: drums

Gennadiy Fomin: clarinet (7)


  1. Moldavskaya Polka 3:42
  2. Freylekhs No 5 2:58
  3. Bulgaryas 1:15
  4. Kurka chubaturka 3:18
  5. Khusidl & Bulgaryas 3:55
  6. Sher No 2 & Sher No 7 4:08
  7. Podilska 2:28
  8. Doina & Sher No 13 4:31
  9. Moldavskiy Dans & Sirba 3:49
  10. Noviy Sher & Hora 3:16
  11. Oy u hayu pri Dunayu 3:04
  12. Zagnitkiver Sher 2:02
  13. Moldavskaya Hora 2:44
  14. Shabes Nign 4:08
  15. Khasitsky Freylekhs 1:35
  16. Trombon Hora 3:01
  17. Moldovenyaska 1:35
  18. Khasitsky Tanets & Horo 4:15
  19. Akh ty dushechka 2:31

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