Willy Schwarz / Jewish music from around the world

Willy and instruments.

Willy Schwarz
Jewish music from around the world

radiobremen, 2003

Available in the United States from Hatikvah Music, www.hatikvahmusic.com

Multi-instrumentalist Willy Schwarz manages to do a very interesting spectrum of Jewish music from around a larger world than most of us consider most of the time, ranging from the opening Uzbeki version of "Lekha Dodi" to a very credible "Moses" (a lovely Irish folk satire in which Schwarz's version compares very favorably to my own ancient recording by the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem). This breadth doesn't always work. Schwarz' voice is too scratchy for "Lomir zich iberbeten" (and the piano accompaniment doesn't work particularly well for me in what is claimed to be an "American" rendition of the chasidic song), although this is a case where my ears have a hard time putting down the extraordinary, emotionally wringing David Wall version (Flying Bulgars, "Tsirkus". But even the Syrian "Hine ma tov" is not as convincing as might be expected, and the allegedly Bosnian "Poco le das" is in a style that doesn't resemble any of my very few recordings based on music of that Jewish community (and will seem very foreign to those familiar only with the Americanized recordings of Flory Jagoda). On the other hand, his "Iranian" "Ma tovu" is extremely heartfelt, and the Yemenite "Oda Leili" seems to capture the unique percussion of that region quite nicely (and to evoke the "trashcan" percussion on Ofra Haza's first album, by way of comparison). The goal seems to be to hit the right instrumental taste as simply as possible (balalaika on the "Ukrainian" piece; finger bells and sitar(?) on the "India" piece).

The Rennaissance (or thereabouts?) "Tzur Mishelo" is quite a lovely dance tune, but would a modern Italian Jew think of this as "Italian" music any more than American Jews would hear themselves in the aforementioned "Lomir zikh iberbeten"? In just the same way, "Als ob" seems less German than evocative of German music of a particular period (Weimar).

When you listen to the whole together, you get a wonderful variety of Jewish song from around the world that is more than pleasing. I would happily have seen detailed notes about the songs (there are none), but just as music, this is quite a lovely recording. The authenticity may be incomplete, but is surely closer than the Theo Bikel "music from around the world" sound of 40 years ago. More important, as a sampler, and as a reminder of the extreme diversity of Jewish music around the world, this CD is excellent.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 9 Jan 2005

Personnel this recording:
Willy Schwarz: vocals and all instruments except
Dirk Lüking: contrabass


  1. Lekha Dodi (trad. Uzbekistan) 3:45
  2. Lomir zich iberbeten (USA) 4:08
  3. Hine ma tov (Syria) 3:07
  4. Na habeyya (Ethiopia) 2:05
  5. Moses (Ireland) 2:30
  6. Ma tovu (Iran) 3:12
  7. Tzur mishelo (Italy) 2:15
  8. Oda leili (Yemen) 4:07
  9. Als ob (Germany) 2:46
  10. Poco le das (Bosnia) 3:00
  11. Mi pi el (Greece) 2:50
  12. Treba Znati (Ukraine) 4:53
  13. Rang (Tadjikistan) 2:53
  14. Pande Parathan (India) 4:20

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