One of the reasons I have pushed for years to put audio and video and images online is to enable re-use of the materials. It isn't enough to document. If materials aren't found, if they don't inspire new art or find new audiences, we have created only digital detritis. WAKS, a German trio, has done this on the largest scale I have seen so far. Unlike, say, SoCalled, who mixes in bits of vintage recordings on some of his Yiddish hip-hop, here the group weaves fragments of original wax recordings into their own recreations of the recordings. The results are straight, but the mixing in of the original source recordings adds a timelessness and depth that goes beyond mere tribute and makes the music not just accessible, but recasts it as relevant in the here and now.
Between 1928 and 1941 Moishe Beregowski and Sofia Magid recorded thousands of songs which were then buried in the archives until after the fall of the Soviet Union. The core pieces are the field recordings of Soviet ethnomusicologist Sofia Magid (1892–1954), published in book and DVD form as Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin (2008), supplemented four field recordings in better condition made by Beregowski, and audiotape from the late Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, and her mother, Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, captured in Bukovina.
In some cases, the vintage wax cylinder recordings are integrated as separate adjuncts, often in "call/response" as in "Ikh gey arum in di gasn" (I am walking through the streets."" But on other occasions, the vocals of the group are overlaid directly on the cylinder recording as on "Yosele mit Blimele", harmonizing voices between the centuries. Adrienne Cooper did this on one amazing song on her final CD, Enchanted. Here, the remixing happens throughout an entire album. The material ranges from common folksongs to nign and prayer (for instance, "Nign Hamoyl Hameteykhu," in which Efim Chorny accompanies Rachmiel Grin's scratchy voice singing "Chamol al-ma'asecha" from the "Unetane tokef" sung on Rosh Hashanah. Grin, a writer, perished Yanovska. On a final recording of his voice, the musicians surround his original recording of the folksong "My rabbi had a little kitten" (Of note, his wife Helena, a poet, composed "Mir trinken lekhayim mitn toyt," which was sung in many camps. The couple perished in the Yanovska concentration camp in 1943.) The album closes the the haunting "Arabishe nakhtlid," a nign featuring Mandos and the voice of Nadyeshda Abramowna Vinyak.
The musicians describe this recording as "dialogue." The closest another group has come might be Shira u'tfila, which on their "life as a song" recording, accompanied their re-recording of older '78s with a disc containing the originals. Here, compelling repertoire is rescued from the archives and integrated into the new recordings in ways that completely entrance the listener and make the voices of a previous generation compellingly available to modern ears. The CD, itself, is exquisitely produced in English and German, with copious notes. This is a must-have recording.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 27 August 2016.
Personnel this recording:
Inge Mandos: vocals
Klemens Kaatz: Piano, Indish harmonium, accordion
Hans-Christian Jaenicke: violin
Efim Chorny: vocals
- Lyapkis—Straw shoes (rec by Moishe Beregowski, Kiew, 15-Jan-1940; voice: Yeshaya Korn, ) 2:20
- S'iz aroys a naye mode—There is a new fashion (rec by Moishe Beregowski, Kiew, 6-Feb-1939; voice: Nadyezhda Abramowna Vinyak) 3:45
- Du bist di sheyne—You are a beauty (rec by Sofia Magid, Khmelnitskaya, Ukraine, USSR, 16-Aug-1928; voice: Ya S. Papernikov) 3:24
- In England iz do a shtot Lester—In England there is a town called Leicester (rec by Sofia Magid, Leningrad, 6-Oct-1934; voice: Basya Fayler) 3:09
- Af dem taykh—On the river (rec by Sofia Magid, Leningrad, 16-Jul-1931; voice: Fanya & Manya Shulikina) 3:49
- Yosele mit Blimele—Yosele & Blimele (rec by Leybl Kahn, USA, 1954; voice: Lifshe Schaechter-Widman) 2:54
- Ikh gey arum in di gasn—I am walking through the streets (rec by Sofia Magid, Khmelnitskaya, Ukraine, USSR, 16-Aug-1928; voice: Basya Fayler) 2:53
- Di levone shaynt aroys—The moon is shining (rec by Sofia Magid, Belarus, USSR, 18-Jul-1931; voice: Khaim Krok) 3:53
- Lindenboym—Linden tree (rec New York in the 1990s; voice: Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman) 1:38
- Tsi gedenkstu di verter—Do you remember the words (rec by Sofia Magid, Belarus, USSR, 31-Jul-1938; voice: Keyle Perskaya) 2:11
- Nign Hamoyl Hameteykhu—Prayer: "Forgive your dead" (rec by Moishe Beregowski, Kiew, Ukraine, USSR, 14-Feb-1941; voice: Rachmiel Grin) 1:57
- Oy shiltn shilt ikh dem tog—I curse the day (rec by Sofia Magid, Belarus, USSR, 6-Jul-1931; voice: Fayve Boydman) 2:27
- Bay mayn rebn iz geven a ketsele—My rabbi had a little kitten (rec by Moishe Beregowski, Kiew, Ukraine, USSR, 14-Feb-1941; voice: Rachmiel Grin) 2:46
- Arabishe nakhtlid—Nightsong from Arabia (rec by Moishe Beregowski, 5-Feb-1939; voice: Nadyeshda Abramowna Vinyak) 6:33