The Fig Tree
The Fig Tree
The Boîte 011, 2003
This CD accompanies a book, apparently about Greek and Jewish emigrant refugees who traveled to Australia after World War II and found homes there. The book also champions the cause of the new boat people, a source of considerable currently controversy in Australia. The dedication of the CD explicitly notes: "... and the woman who gave birth, on October 19, 2001, on a sinking boat en route from Indonesia to Australia. Along with 352 fellow asylum seekers, she, and her newborn child, did not make it...." In the largest sense, this album is dedicated to those who did make it, and seeks to remind them of their origins and the need to provide shelter to those who are now coming after.
Musically, this album is a delightful sampler of musical traditions from around the world, most especially Greek and Jewish. It provides a delightful chance to hear more of two excellent Australian klezmer bands: Klezmania and Klezmeritis. It introduces me for the first time to some great Greek music, and reminds me that Klezmania's Freydi Mrocki is one of the special female vocalists singing Yiddish. I wish the band would release more CDs, or find a way to tour here in the US.
Given recent antisemitic remarks by Mikis Theodorakis, some might question the inclusion of a recording of "The Songs of Songs" from his Mauthausen Cantata. Yet, hearing Maria Farantouri's voice as she sings the familiar lament, I, myself, am glad. This is followed by a lovely Greek lament sung by Costas Tsicaderis, "The Song of the Dawn." Next are welcoming poems by Klezmania and Kavisha Mazzella. The former with a new composition set to a poem by the author's father in Yiddish; the latter a more folk-pop Greek-influenced sound.
Klezmeritis' "Greek Dance" is a lovely bit of turnabout, as the band plays a song original recorded by Yiddish-speaking Rom artist Mischa Tsiganoff in New York. Their "Slivovitz Czardas" are equally delightful. Klezmania's rendition of Itsik Manger's "Evening Song" and "I'll take off my shoes" are not only excellent, but proof that new Yiddish songs are spreading around the globe. (Now, if, say, the Klezmer Conservatory Band would perform Klezmania's Australizanized "Romania, Romania," or something off this album, I'd know the circle was wonderfully closed--extra points if that includes digideroo, as does Klezmania on "I'll take off my shoes"!)
I'm tempted to focus on the klezmer songs here, but the others are equally wonderful. I really enjoy Costas Tsicaderis singing Greek songs, as on "the boat" or "I once loved a shepherdess." Kavisha Mazzella reminds me eerily of Ferron on "Wedding Sheets," even though the subject is so very different. Elsewhere, as on the Italian "Vulumbrella" (ripe fig) her voice is strong, the music diverse and delightful. Anthea Sidiropoulos is another find. "In a foreign land" is so very right on, and so heart-breakingly sung.
This is a heartbreakingly beautiful CD. It is also a wonderful affirmation of life and the human spirit, and, of course, the travails of our travels, and the joy of being welcomed in a new land. I cannot recommend it highly enough - I emphasize that even moreso so as to encourage those who tend to listen only to locally available music. This is worth ordering from Australia. It is a joy, and the cause which inspired it is no less applicable or precious here in the US than in Australia.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow 11/23/03
Participants this recording:
Maria Farantouri: track: 2
Kavisha Mazella and band: tracks: 5, 10, 13, 17
Costas Tsicaderis w/ Jacob Papdopoulos on bouzouki; Spiro Paoutsis, accordion: tracks: 3, 9, 14, 19
Anthea Sidiropoulos: tracks: 6, 15
Klezmania: tracks: 1, 4, 8, 11, 16, 18
Klezmeritis: tracks: 7, 12
- Doyna soundscape (trad.) 1:37
- The Song of Songs (words: Iakovos Kambanellis; music: Mikis Theodorakis) 5:26
- The Song of the Dawn (trad. Greek; arr. S. Peristeris) 3:53
- A Friendly Hand (words: M. Zable; music: d. Krycer) 2:26
- Anytime the wind can change (words: K. Mazzella & A. Zable; music: Kavisha Mazzella) 4:29
- One with the sea (Andreas Georgiou; arr. Irene Vela) 4:02
- Greek Dance (trad., Eastern Europe; arr. Klezmeritis) 5:08
- Evening Song (words: Itsik Manger; music: Chava Alberstein) 3:20
- the boat (trad. Greek; arr. C. Tsicaderis) 3:54
- Wedding sheets (Kavisha Mazzella) 3:15
- Fate (words: H. Osherowitz; music: Etl Kovenski) 3:06
- Slivovitz Czardas (trad., Hungary; arr. Klezmeritis) 3:14
- Madonna del Mare (K. Mazzella; arr. L. Buddle) 3:21
- I once loved a shepherdess (trad., Sephardic w/Greek lyrics) 3:59
- In a foreign land (Anthea Sidiropoulos) 3:06
- Doyna & freylekhs (trad., klezmer) 4:07
- Vulumbrella (anon. Italian/Neapolitan) 4:41
- I'll take off my shoes (words: Itsik Manger; music: Chava Alberstein) 3:34
- The mighty and the humble (words: Olga Best & C. Tsicaderis; music: Costas Tscicaderis) 4:11