Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Feenjon Group - Israeli music in 1960's NYC

NYC is a churning, transient city. In the 1960's, Israel had been around long enough for Israelis to find themselves part of that churn. Menachem Dworman, an Israeli ex-pat, started a folk club called the Feenjon Cafe and it's house band, the Feenjon Group. The group also contained Jewish-American musician Jerry Sappir as well as range of Greek, Turkish, Russian, and Arabic music and musicians. The Feenjon group recorded 4 or 5 albums, the only one of which that is still easily available is alternately titled "Bellydancing at the Cafe Feenjon" and "An Evening at Cafe Feenjon" and is available through Smithsonian Folkways (and, believe it or not, through iTunes). Check it out.

I love running across albums like this. For someone my age, who wasn't born yet when this album was recorded, it's a bit of lost American Jewish history. Yes, we really did have an Israeli ex-pat scene in the 1960's. And yes, Israeli and middle eastern folk music did exist in the US at that time. And yes, it sounded great.

See the excellent Record Fiend article "The Feenjon Group - Belly Dancing at The Cafe Feenjon (Monitor, circa 1969) for more details." For some great discussion and remembrances of the Feenjon Group, check out this thread at

Also, hat tip to Tzvi for pointing me to the FeenjonGroup and to YouTube user Village Underground for uploading the video.

1 comment:

Pink Slip - Part 1 - Suzie said...

Not only did it exist, but as a young gal, I was lucky enough to have worked my way through school at the Feenjon, dancing with my tray. The music was wonderful and the musicians were Israeli, as Menachem and later Avram Grobard was, and Ali the drummer was Arabic, Eliyahu who played the accordian was also Israeli, but Jerry Sappir, was a Jewish American. Long after my stint at the cafe, I would go back with friends and my husband. There is a FB page or two for the Cafe Feenjon if you would like to learn more about it and the performers.