How to get listed and reviewed in the KlezmerShack
and related tips
Listings on the KlezmerShack are free. Although I will generally list a band (klezbands.html) when I review a CD without asking, in general you have to tell me--I won't bother to list a band unless you have sent me a request and a description of your band. For a personal listing (klezcontacts.html) under all circumstances I need to know explicitly that you want to be listed. Otherwise, I have no way of knowing whether you will feel that your privacy is being invaded, or that a listing has otherwise made public an e-mail address you would have rather kept private.
Before sending me a request to get listed, take a look at what other people are writing. The general klezmer contacts page is klezcontacts.html". Bands are listed on the klezbands.html page. Note that this page currently contains two sections: If you perform at simkhas, I will also list you by location. At some point in the near future I will be dividing the sections so that the klezbands page is less unbelievably big. Organizations, vendors, and other people who have stuff or do stuff that people interested in klezmer might be interested in are listed on klezvendors.html. There is also a free semi-classified page, klezclassf.html. You can acess a most important group of people with radio shows of interest to klezmer fans on the klezradio.html page. Managers, organizers, and record labels are listed on klezlabels.html. And articles about klez are listed on klezwords.html. I'm always interested in hearing of other categories for which pages should be set aside, or ways to make these easier to find.
The best way to get listed is to send me e-mail taking a paragraph to talk about yourself or your band or radio show or organization/store, whatever. Note that I will not go visit your web site to figure out if you are a klezmer band and how to boil the site down to a paragraph for the listing (although I will happily link to your website as part of whatever listing you have requested). It is most common for all individuals to have their own listings on the klezcontacts page, in addition to their band or organization or vendor or radio show, but it is up to you. I am also going to try to make your listing as short as seems reasonable. It isn't going to be longer than a paragraph, regardless. For example:
Almoni, Ploni (band: Boyberik Bulgars, Butte, Montana). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Almoni, Ploni (band: Boyberik Bulgars, Butte, Montana). I've been involved with klezmer for sixty years. Brandwein and I used to go drinking whenever he made it out to Butte to play a wedding gig. These days, I mostly play simchas up in Calgary or Regina. Sometimes I back Michael Wex, when he does his hometown gigs in Alberta. I also have a bit-role as the bellhop in "A Jumping Night in the Garden of Eden," and have taught regularly at KlezCamp. E-mail: email@example.com.
Boyberik Bulgars play traditional klezmer and swing for simchas throughout the midwest in Canada and the United States. We've been playing together for about fifty years, ever since I bought my ranch outside Butte. We can also play Israeli music, and often include swing or Yiddish theatre music in our performances. My wife, Molly Almoni can sing up a storm! Violinist Simkha Almoni is a veteran of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, and drummer "Beat"nik Almoni went to high school with Gene Krupa. I play clarinet and bass, sometimes, both at the same time! We have an album out on Hotzenplotz records, Heimish on the Range that was reviewed in the New York Times. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Ploni Almoni)
There is a form to help guide you through information that might be useful in the listing, but use it only if it is convenient or helpful. Current categories, along with your personal listing in the "klezcontacts" page include: bands, radio, vendors, organizations, writers. I especially love to link to other articles and reviews germane to klezmer on other sites.
Your own website
As a website designer, I need to put in a special note about personal and band websites. (Okay, so I have some serious rants to get off my chest.)
Usually, your goal is to provide a picture of the band, information about the band and how to reach you, and ways to hear some demo clips or ya'll performing. Articles about klezmer, the band (why you play and what styles most interest you), some of your arrangements (don't put other people's arrangements or sounds online without permission), and anything else that might also appeal to friends or the klezmer community are also neat. Don't put it all on one page. Separate pages, keep your site neat, and you will find it both easier to navigate, and easier for you to maintain your site.
It is worth remembering that the average person using a home modem is getting throughput of about 500-1000 bytes/sec, sometimes an order of magnitude less. As a practical matter, this means that if the sum total of everything that is automatically downloaded for your page: graphics, sounds, and text, is greater than 50KBytes, the odds that a person will actually wait for the entire download are minuscule. In-line graphics should be as light as possible. In some cases, it may make more sense to have a thumbnail that people can click to wait for the bigger, screen-size one. Note that in Europe and other parts of the world outside the United States, people are often paying for their phone connection, and possibly their online connection as well, by the minute.
If your web page is online to attract business, you may want to avoid using your page as an excuse to show that you know how to code every conceivable form of hyperactivity. Interface-wise, it is very much known that people will go a long way to avoid sites that blink at them, or that won't stop moving, unless they were deliberately seeking same. Unless your hyperactive items are directly connected to the reason a page exists, it is strongly suggested that you avoid the blink command, and anything that moves for longer than 5-10 seconds prior to stopping. (This is not to say that none of these or other rules can be broken; only to note that it is generally a bad idea to do so, unless deliberately and carefully.)
People do not necessarily use Windows, and do not necessarily have their web browsers set up to use the entire 800 x 600 SuperVGA space. It is important to design pages that will flow to whatever width the viewer's screen accomodates. Because people have a harder time, physically, reading lines that are longer than 60 characters or so, you want to encourage people to keep their browser windows narrower, as the width of the browser window is what determines line length. In general, the only thing you can do is to eschew wide graphics, or table layouts that are defined to exceed about 600 pixels in width.
Similarly, color palettes differ from platform to platform, and from monitor to monitor. Many people still use black/white displays. Make sure that they will be able to read your pages.
It is rude, and rather stupid to insist that people use a particular browser version or brand of browser, unless you have a vested financial interest in same and these specific pages represent that interest. It is perfectly okay to note that you have designed with certain expectations; try to design so that your pages fail gracefully when people using the unexpected visit.
People hate the sense of no control they get when a page suddenly begins playing music at them (unless they clicked on a link to get that music), and hate waiting for it--especially since it can take a long time for sounds to download, and even longer for the web browser to launch the relevant application or plug-in--assuming that they have the relevant application and/or plug-in. Don't embed sounds on your pages. Make sounds accessible via a link.
In general, if a special effect does not make your page more clear, or provide better access to information, it is getting in the way of whatever information your page was set up to provide. Eschew the tempation to show the world that you can clutter and waste user's time.
The web, by definition, is a medium in which change is the norm. People assume that your pages will change over time, and may visit them repeatedly hoping to see such changes. Putting up an "under construction" graphic is a way of saying that (a) you don't understand the web, and (b) you realize that the pages are not ready for visitors and want to rub it in. If your pages are good enough to make public, they need no "under construction" logo. If not, there is no excuse for making them public.
My desk reference for HTML, and for general online style, used to be Laura Lemay's excellent "Teach yourself web publishing with html...." series (any one of which will do). They're good references, and good sources of why you might want to code how in what circumstances. But in recent years I have become more fond of the O'Reilly HTML book: "HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide" by Chuck Musciano, Bill Kennedy. Don't be caught away from home without it. Beginners may also take comfort from Elizabeth Castro's marvellous "HTML 4 for the World Wide Web".
If it takes an unusual amount of time to download your pages, or if they push the limits of visual illiteracy, I will note the same when I add the link to your pages that you requested.
Jakob Nielsen is the interface guru at Sun who has spent the most time doing real usability research on how people use the web and web pages. I confess to being a major fan of his work. Here are his Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design.
Getting your CD reviewed
For various reasons, I do not publish my snailmail address online. If you have a CD that you would like me to review, and if you have read a few of my reviews and think that yours is one that I would enjoy, do send me e-mail for this information.
I love listening to new klezmer CDs. I review as many as I can, and try hard to review the CD based on the audience for which it was recorded. This means that the CD that you sell at local simkhas as a souvenir of your band and the great time that people had dancing at the simkha is listened to differently from the latest Klezmatics CD. Being different is okay! These pages respect, admire, and even crave diversity.
In particular, when putting together a "local" CD you are usually recording audience favorites, played in your style, not on a search for new repertoire. And the odds are that the sound will try to be spot on the familiar styles and arrangments your audience wants at simkhas, not repertoire that will attract people who want to hear only the "latest" sounds. Still, bands such as Cayuga Klezmer or Machaya are now available in most places that sell klezmer music. As I said, there is no causitive link between being local and being mediocre. (The opposite is also true--just because a band seeking a broader audience doesn't mean that it has non-mediocre chops--but perhaps I shouldn't note examples here.)
I am working on ways to make more sound clips, and information about more albums available, regardless of whether or not I review an album. In the meantime, I review those albums that I feel able to review--that I like, and can think of good ways to describe. Sometimes this takes time. (It is always okay to check with me that I received an album, or to remind me that you sent it to me six months ago. It is very bad to nudge me to review an album. Sometimes I have refrained for reasons other than lack of time to write the review. Sometimes, I just haven't had time and would rather not feel pressured.)
Although I review albums that cover styles other than klezmer (I like new sounds, too!--see the directory of album reviews), I have big problems with albums that claim to be "klezmer" and are not. (For some sense of how I understand "klezmer," see my article about klezmer and the klez revival.) One of the criteria that is important to me as a reviewer is that the band understand what they are playing, and that they be honest about it. Hearing straight-ahead jazz or Yiddish show tunes under the rubric of "klezmer" tells me that the band doesn't know its material, and makes me less likely to review the album (or encourages me to waste part of the review complaining about misleading labels, regardless of how I liked/loved the music). By way of contrast, I love bands such as Naftule's Dream, who say that they started from klezmer and have added other influences. They aren't a klezmer band, any more, but they're wonderful musicians playing great music. Who could ask for more? (And in the case of Naftule's Dream, which is why I pick on them for this purpose, they do have a klezmer incarnation: Shirim Klezmer Orchestra.)
Even though it isn't, strictly speaking, "klezmer," I love hearing Yiddish folks songs and theatre pieces, just as your audiences probably love them. It is absolutely critical that such songs be sung for real. I despair every time I hear the affected vocals of someone singing a song as though it were a period piece. If you can't play or sing the song as though it belongs here, in the 1990s, leave it alone!
Accompanying a good CD
I am a multilingual typographer, by trade, specializing in Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, and Latin I and II-based languages, so I should also add a few comments about how to do an attractive CD. It is up to you, of course, to ensure that the contents are worth hearing. Right now I am talking only about the packaging.
First, don't forget to identify yourselves! It is worrisome to get CDs that contain no information on how to reach the band. As I type this, I am listening to an album by the Temple X Klezmer Band. There is nothing on the CD to tell me how to reach the band (although, I do have the names of the bandmembers, at least--never forget to credit the people who played on the recording). I assure you that almost every city I have visited in the United States has a Temple X.
It is also important to touch the legal bases and make sure that you note (c) and (p) information. In a similar vein, always remember to note song credits: who wrote it (music and words; whose arrangement are you using. Don't forget to credit everyone who had a hand in recording the album: the sound studio, the producer, the arranger, etc.
People also like to know how long a song is. (This is critical if you anticipate the possibility of being played by a local radio station. They won't play anything if they don't know how long it is. Reviewers, such as myself, also like that info.)
Extended liner notes (space permitting), at least to the extent of introducing the song and telling the listener why the band chose to record it, or informing of features of the band's arrangement that are unique, are always appreciated. In doing so, however, it is important to know that the human eye can read about sixty characters in a line before extra work is required to keep from jumping between lines. This means that it is almost never a good idea to set type for a CD that goes across the entire width of the CD page. Use two columns.
It is also wonderful to include Hebrew and Yiddish text when you have permission (and room) to include song lyrics to vocal pieces. It is important to note that, when combining Hebrew and English alphabets you should place the Hebrew on the left and the English on the right so that they share a common starting point. Avoid the tendency to have the Hebrew start on the right-hand side of the page with English or transliteration on the left. Although this unfortunate practice gives the page a nice "justified" look, it is absolutely the worst arrangement for the reader who is, perhaps, translating or sounding out words as he or she goes. An important typographic rule to remember is that presenting a page that has even margins is not the same as presenting a page that communicates its words well.
I repeat: It is much better switch the languages so that they share a common margin near the center of the page. (Hebrew words will usually be shorter than the corresponding translitation; Yiddish a bit longer or closer to even.) There is seldom room to put three columns on a page--certainly not on a CD liner notes page, so the usual way to handle Hebrew/Yiddish + transliteration + translation is to have the Hebrew/Yiddish + transliteration take up two columns, and then to arrange the translation underneath, also in two columns. If your foreign language goes from left to right, like English, order is less critical--Judesmo (when written according to Latin alphabet) or Russian can be arranged next to transliteration as is comfortable.
A fun example of good ways to work with Yiddish, English, and transliteration occurred on the Klezmatics/Possessed album notes.
Other ways to get involved
These pages are free. That is to say, you are not charged for using them or for having yourself listed on them. But nothing is really free. In this case, it is my time and labor that makes it happen. If you are sufficiently interested in online community such that you get listed here, you might (and I hope you will) also consider ways that you can contribute to ways in which klezmer resources are more available online.
One way to do this is to incorporate GIFs or JPEGs of your musical arrangements on your web site, or to find other material that is (a) yours to offer, and (b) possibly of use to others, and make it available on your website. Shawn Weaver, of Seattle's Mazeltones and Shawn's Kugel, provides a good example of this at http://members.aol.com/shawnkugel/kugel.html.
But, not all of us have the time or resources or web access to do these bigger things. There are a plethora of online mailing lists and communities relating to klezmer, Jewish music, jazz, Yiddish, accordions, and all other things of interest to the sorts of people who enjoy these pages.
If you find my Klezmer Shack useful, and if you partake of its online presence with any regularity, please do participate. That's what you give back for the listings and articles and reviews here. One forum with which I am associated is the jewish music mailing list (send e-mail to: "email@example.com" with the one-line message: "subscribe jewish-music YourFirstName YourLastName" and you will participate via e-mail.
But, there are a host of other forums of interest, and it is hard to participate in everything. I have listed some on my links page, and will link others as you let me know. You don't have to be a mere, passive consumer. If you got this far, you're a prime candidate for participating somewhere online. Nu?
written by Ari Davidow, 9/14/97
Suggestions for improving, correcting, and otherwise emending or amending this page are always welcome. Send me e-mail.