"The instrument is a Monome 256, from a mom-and-pop company called Monome. It's a totally open-source digital controller, meaning that it can be programmed to do virtually anything. Lots of people use it like I do, essentially a loop-slicing sequencer tool. But there are dozens of applications out there, everything from self-generating music to a wicked game of tetris. The units are all hand made by the creator and his partner, and all the software is designed by the users and shared on the forums. It's a pretty amazing community.
As for the Yiddish tune... It came from a few places. For one thing, there was Sunday Simcha -- the klezmer radio show my dad used to listen to every Sunday morning. That definitely got into my subconscious at an early age... I grew up pretty secular, but my parents always encouraged a curiosity about music and its connection to heritage across cultures.
The other place that tune came from is a bit of a story... The main hook is sampled from a group called the Panorama Jazz Band, who make a really eclectic mix of Dixieland, Klezmer, Baltic folk tunes... you name it. I saw them perform while I was staying in New Orleans about a year after Katrina. I was down there volunteering, gutting damaged houses mostly. And I found my heart in that town. It's hard to explain what that place does to a person... It's that thing about music connecting across cultures -- there's nowhere in the world where you can see that more than you see it in New Orleans.
So you can thank my parents and a Louisiana jazz-fusion band for that tune.
I'm working on a record right now, and I think the yiddish folklore influence might sneak in a few more times. I'm trying to find the sounds from my childhood that built who I am, before I was thinking about who I am. Those sounds are way down deep and you can't explain them or extract them. For me, it's a whole lot of rap, some jazz, and maybe a bit of klezmer."
I do love trad jazz (particularly ragtime music) and I couldn't resist looking into the Rosen's fav's "The Panorama Jazz Band." They've been working New Orleans since 1995, blending their flavor of traditional jazz with a blend of "folkloric* music from around the world – especially Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America." I dig it. I'll have to grab one of their recordings. Here's the PJB playing one of their Eastern European bits....the Yiddish classic "Baym Rebn in Palestina."
*I have often, tongue in check, defined "world music" as any group with an accordion. I will now define "folkloric" as any band with an accordion and without a power cord.