Sunday, October 5, 2008

Jenny Romaine and the Sukkos Mob

I started looking around for interesting Sukkot music and found that, as usual, I'm a year behind. While Sukkot comes every year, last year Jenny Romaine and the crew from Great Small Works organized and institagated The Sukkos Mob. According to her bio, "Romaine has committed over two decades to the cultivation of new Yiddish culture, theater, and community based performance art. " Sukkos Mob was her reacting to the Sukkos mandatory injuction to experience joy, as well as the festival holiday's connection to harvest and water. As their press release tells it...

"The Sukkos Mob enchants its audiences with water libations, rain dances, choral singing, brilliant rants, and paper flags. Jenny Romaine, who brought the city Circus Amok, has put together a radical new approach to what used to be a holiday observed only by the religious. Romaine has grounded her creativity in the Yiddish theatrical world and mixed it with Persian Jewish flare. The Sukkos Mob has taken the traditional performances of the religious Hassidic world that are staged on the off days of the high holidays, and added a new twist. The performers even wear a more decked-out version of Yeshiva garb, provoking conversation about the relationship between tradition and contemporary life, between secular Jewish cultures and religious celebrations, and between New Yorkers of different faiths and nationalities. The mob has performed indoors and outdoors for the Persian Jewish community of Long Island, the Hasidic communities of Boro Park and Williamsburg and the conservative and orthodox communities of Manhattan. The group sings songs set to Sukkos music from the Hasidic and Yiddish traditions and Persian pop and religious repertoires of the Dardashti family."

I groove on this kind of thing. I love seeing contemporary Jews grab hold of a Jewish holiday and push it for all its worth. Living cultures have always been like this, honoring traditions and creating them at the same time. This video starts with a bit of Sukkos Mob and then goes of elsewhere, including Purim and the Russian Army in 1914, but it's worth watching to get an idea of what Romaine and company are up to.

Jenny Romaine and Friends @ CAVS

For more info on Romaine, check out her webpage at MIT.

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