Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ben Zimet's Yiddishland in Senegal

Ben ZimotBen Zimet is a Yiddish singer with a serious pedigree... a dozen albums recorded between 1978 and 2010 and a "Yiddishland" cabaret show that's played around Europe for just as long. As his website tells it....
"Ben ZIMET is a yiddish singer and storyteller. His parents were Polish Jews. He is a Canadian citizen and has lived most of his life in Paris. He now navigates between Paris, and Dakar, in West Africa. After his growing years in America, Ben ZIMET settled in Paris in the early 60s. Here, he made his stage début with the great pianist and accordeon player Eddy SCHAFF, at the famed Café-Théâtre de la “Vieille Grille.” This was in 1973. Later, he created and presented his “Songs and Tales out of Yiddishland” all over Europe and throughout the world, telling his stories in French or in English and singing in Yiddish the unique world of the East European Jews."
While I'm rather partial to his straight up Yiddishland folk and art music and his storytelling (check out this video of him in action), I was floored by this video of him mixing up Yiddish song and Senegalese music and dance.


The first time I watch the video I was struck by the "no, really?" daffiness of it, but after watching it a few times I realized that's just me being parochial. It's no more of a stretch than Socalled's Yiddish theater hip-hop mashups or Jeremiah Lockwood's cantorial R&B, both of which I adore. (Or Paul Simon's Grammy winning collaboration with South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo, for that matter.) It's no more or less than another example of diaspora in action. It only stands out because of the solitary nature of experiment.

(H/T to Y-love, who tipped me off to Ben Zimet and YouTube user bigsoce for posting the video).

1 comment:

bert stratton said...

'grine kusine" goes african. the juxtapositions are beyond nutty.