Saturday, March 31, 2007

I just got back from seeing David Krakauer, Socalled, and Klezmer Maddness live

DavidI love the clarinet. I have since I was in fourth grade and signed up to learn it in music class. I'd love to say I chose the clarinet because I was inspired by Dave Tarras or Naftule Brandwein but it isn't so. I picked it because, of the five or so instruments I could choose from, it was the only one I knew nothing about. This sealed my future career. Not as a clarinetist, sadly, but as a research scientist.

David Krakauer plays the clarinet that way I wish I could (ok. I wish I could play at all, but bear with me). Klezmer clarinetists often have two modes, anguished wailing and hippity hoppity dancing. He goes way past that. He can can sputter, fret, laugh and yell. His moods on stage are tangible.

My wife and I saw him play tonight in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his group Klezmer Madness (including Socalled). This was not straight up klezmer. The band instrumentation was much more like a rock band, with electric guitar and bass, drum kit, and Socalled's sequencer, in addition to accordion and Krakauer's clarinet. For me this was combo was perfect, but I'm not so sure everyone in the audience got it. It was a pretty grey haired crowd and even though the band kept the volume down, I saw some questioning faces. Oh well.

I thought Krakauer and the band were fabulous. Their opening songs set the tone of the show; the band would play ensemble and Krakauer would be flying solo in front and up an octave. But the band was given lots of time to shine. The drummer, Micheal Sarin, and the accordionist, Will Holshouser, each had their own compositions showcased. Trevor Dunn (bass) anchored out the groove and Sheryl Bailey (guitar) provided atmospherics and each had plenty of moments to shine. And Socalled was everywhere, bouncing from piano to sequencer to mic. His sound, beats, samples, and influence were everywhere.

My favorite moments were Krakauer and Socalled's arrangement of 'Rumania, Rumania' and Sarin's 'Waiting for Julian." Rumania, Rumania is is a Yiddish Theater classic written early enough in the 1900's for Eastern Europe in general, and Rumania in particular, to hold romantic nostalgia for recently emigrated Jews in New York. Krakauer's arrangement builds on the romantic longing of the original, but adds a post-Shoah and post-communism anger and frustration with what happened to Rumania and it's Jews.

Sarin's drum composition was an unexpected joy. One my brothers plays drums (much better than I played clarinet) and I've heard a lot of drum solos. This wasn't like anything I've heard. It was a fully realized composition, with Sarin using brushes, sticks, mallets and bare hands to pull themes and variations out of rhythm, dynamics and tone. I happily shelled out for a copy of the Klezmer Madness live cd just to (I hope) be able to hear that again (and again). I also grabbed their new album, Bubbemeises.

To sum up. I GOT TO GO SEE DAVID KRAKUER (and Socalled too!). Whee.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Passover Videos

We're not making it back east for Passover, but will at least be seeing my cousin and her daughter. That's a good thing. I'm not sure if she'll be leading our seder or I will so I've been prepping all week (just in case). While taking a break I put together a couple of amusing vidoes. Not as nutty as my family after 4 glasses of wine, but close.

Shlock Rock: Seder Too

Passover Blues

Project Reconnect Passover Rap

The Barry Sisters: Passover Medely

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hava Nagila in the Balkans

The Boban Markovic OrchestarI've had a Jewish music blog for a couple months now and never once posted about Hava Nagila. What's there to say? It's an uplifting lyric and catchy tune that has been so ruined by overexposure that it's hard to hear without wincing. I usually hear it at Christian weddings in between the Chicken Dance and YMCA. It's a pity, because it is a great song. And one, it seems, that's become a staple around the world. Not just American weddings.

After my post on Balkan group Jewish-Ukrainishe Freundschaft (J.U.F.) I received a question from "ezequiel from Argentina" who was looking for a Balkan Hava Nagila. It turns out that Hava Nagila is a staple for bands playing in the Balkan traditional and brass band music communities. These groups draw music from a lot of different cultures, though I'm not exactly clear how an Israeli Zionist folk song written in 1918 with music lifted from a Chassidic niggun got added to the mix. But it did. ( There's a great history of Hava Nagila and links to other recordings at MyJewishLearning.)

To help out Ezequiel, I found online recordings from three different Balkan groups. And you've got to hear them. They're a totally different musical take than the sentimental folky arrangements I usually hear. Kick up the speed add some crazy horns and lets party!

The Folk with Dunav website, an Israeli resource for Balkan Music and Dance, has a recording of the Boban Markovic Orchestra, a leading Balkan brass band. The Dunav site refers to Markov playing Hava Nagila at the Guca brass band festival in Serbia and Markovic has recorded Hava Nagila for his "Live in Belgrade" album so I'm not sure where the Dunav recording actually comes from.

The Jova Stojiljkovic Orkestar plays Hava NagilaI also found an Italian group Municipale Balcanica. They mix Balkan, klezmer, and Italian styles and come up with a fairly distinctive sound (at least, I've never heard anything quite like it). Their first album, Fòua, has a nice recording of Hava Nagila. Finally, I found Jova Stojiljkovic & Orkestar. Stojiljkovic is from Yugoslavia (not sure which part) and offers up a pretty spicy Hava Nagila on their album "Blow Besir Blow!". You can hear a Stojiljkovic sound sample on Amazon.

Ezequiel, I hope this is what you were looking for. If not, let me know and I'll do some more digging. I know I was pretty fascinated by this and plan on doing some more listening to groups making the Balkan - Jewish connection.

One last thing, while researching this post I ran across a moving story about a young woman's experience hearing Hava Nagila in Belgrade. I'll end with a short section, but you should go read the whole thing:
"For all anyone knew, we were typical American teenagers, invading the restaurant with our raucous chatter about what club we would go to that night—Freestyler? Or maybe that one with that waitress with the American boyfriend?—when suddenly a group of gypsy musicians encircled our table. Defying our protests ("we have no money; come back later") they began to play Hava Nagila. At first we all quieted down and some of the Jewish students chuckled in amused embarrassment. But the gypsy musicians just kept on playing and after a few moments, the Palestinian students began to belt out the words so loudly that one would have thought that they were the Jews and the Jews were the Palestinians. Their singing got so passionate; their infectious energy wrapped and sealed our table so tightly that it became for a moment impenetrable. For a moment that world, the world of Belgrade, the world where the Israeli is the enemy of the Palestinian, the world where conflict seems never-ending, passed away and we all sang and clapped and danced in our seats until we laughed, and laughed so hard that our laughter verged on tears."

Menorah's Little Seder and other vintage children's music at the Judica Sound Archives

Album cover of The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University is putting a small (but growing) collection of vintage Judaica recordings that includes "cantorial, holiday, traditional, folk and some of the best renditions of theater classics you've ever heard."What's exciting me at the moment is their collection of children's music.
"This project seeks to provide children, parents and teachers with access to the work of pioneers in the field of Jewish children’s music. Recorded by the Gewirtz Family and others from the early 1950’s through 1970, these recordings teach children about Jewish family traditions using a combination of songs and stories."
What a great slice of musical life. I'm currently listening to "Menorah's Little Seder" which is delightful. It's a fast take on the major motif's of the seder. Nothing too deep, but I'll bet my girls would love it. It would be wonderful if the JSA allowed download of the recordings, but I'm grateful that they've put the collection on the web. Dayenu!

Mother Goose SongsAlbum cover for Hebrew PlaysongsAlbum cover for Ye Shall Rejoice on Your FestivalsAlbum cover for The Succott Parade and Simchat TorahAlbum cover for Channukah Songs for ChildrenAlbum cover for Channukah Song ParadeAlbum cover for Purim PartyAlbum cover for Purim's Hear!

Monday, March 26, 2007


The Israeli metal band SalemMetal Jew posted recently about a new video by the Israeli metal band Salem. According their bio on Wikipedia, they've been around since 1985 and "and is considered to be one of the first bands in the global underground scene to play brutal black metal." If "brutal black metal" sounds like fun, you can catch the video of their new song "Blood" at Y-net.

My three favorite things about the video.

3. The advertisement for women's haircare products that came before. I'm guessing it was randomly picked, but made a funny commentary on 'hair metal' bands.

2. The classic drummer's choreography ("twirl the drumstick around the fingers and then bash something with it") that came a few seconds into the video.

1. It took me about a minute and a half into a three minute video to realize they were singing in English.

Metal has never been my favorite genre, but this seemed pretty paint-by-numbers to me. Lots of growling, lots of rage, not much interest in the music. According to the Wikipedia article, Salem does incorporate a fair amount of Jewish material in their recordings, but I didn't see any in this particular offering. Anyway, more info about Salem can be found on MetalUnderground and in this interview.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I'd been planning on having a Passover video post like my Purim post. I'd been planning on doing it next week when all of our Passover prep will be in full swing. But when I saw this video by Billy Ray Sheet I couldn't wait.

I haven't been able to find much info on Billy Ray Sheet, other than he's got two other video's on Revver, The Fast Bris, and Bad Attitude on Yom Kippur.

I was pointed to this by a post Lori Cahan-Simon on the Shamash.Org Jewish Music mailing list. Thanks Lori.

Asparagus: A Horticultural Ballet

I've already written three posts in the last 24 hours, so I figure I deserve a break. I'll just wander over to BoingBoing, home of all things wacky and wonderful. I mean, what are the odds I'd run into something wacky, wonderful, and Jewish music related? Really, what are the odds. Darn good, it seems. This is only barely on-topic, but I had to share it.

Asparagus: A Horticulture Ballet Promo Poster
From the SHOWSTudio blub:
"Asparagus: A Horticultural Ballet

Pil and Galia Kollectiv, Conway Hall Humanist Centre, London, Tuesday, 6th March, 2007

The Israeli duo who refer to themselves as the Pil and Galia Kollectiv, in particularly reverential Modernist mood, presented 'Asparagus: A Horticultural Ballet' on stage at the Conway Hall Humanist Centre, in Holborn last week. Well attended, the programme was a three act, asparagus costumed dance that moved methodically through a series of moves for different numbers of the vegetable cast. The programme makes claim to the ballets basis on 'Marx's Das Capital (as Lali Chetwynd did recently in her vegatable performances - something in the zeitgeist?)".

You can see video's of the the show at the SHOWStudio site and a trailer at the SHOWROOM. The SHOWROOM blurb gives a little extra historical information. Not that it makes anymore sense, now that I've read it though.
"Asparagus: A Horticultural Ballet is a live performance piece inspired by rumour and myth. In the late 1970s, while still a student, Waw Pierogi, later of an obscure New Jersey minimal synth band Xex, composed the interdisciplinary Asparagus: A Horticultural Ballet. No documentation of the piece exists, but Pil and Galia Kollectiv have become fascinated by this work, alongside another lost work, Oskar Schlemmer's Triadic Ballet. Pil and Galia Kollectivs' desire is not to recreate either, but rather they are intrigued by the possibilities of making a new work through the collision of ideas left behind by former art movements and other cultural phenomena. For them unrealised, forgotten and failed revolutions are as much a legacy of modernism as the utopian belief in progress that we have inherited."
There's a longer related article at the YourLocalGuardian newspaper site.

There seems to be a category of art out there defined by pieces that exist only to enable the artists to write clever essays. This is clearly part of that category.

WJEW: Jewish Teen Radio from the North Coast

Detroit Jewish News cover showing WJEW teen DJOne of the great things about the Internet is that, in many cases, ambition and endurance trump expertise and infrastructure. (that was a mouthful, don't forget that I'm a scientist and get paid to say things like that) What I'm getting on about is Jewish teens putting together media outlets that a decade ago would have required huge investments in capital. I posted yesterday about Oypod, a Jewish teen podcast from California. Today's post is about WJEW, Jewish Teen Radio.

WJEW is an Internet radio station launched recently by Temple Israel, a Reform Jewish congregation in Bloomfield, Michigan (The North Coast). According to an article in the Detroit Jewish News, the station was launched by the TI cantor and a high school student in the TI religious school. The student, Corey Berkowitz, put together the equipment and Internet package to get the radio station launched. Specifically, WJEW is broadcasting on

The result is mix of music, interviews, DJ banter, and Jewish programs. I listened in for an hour or two at work yesterday and was quite impressed. The music was, for me, hit or miss. As I've mentioned before, the 'contemporary Jewish' sound of folks like Rick "The Ultimate in Jewish Rock" Recht doesn't do much for me but I was quite taken by a Alisa Fineman track. The interviews, though, were very professional and very engaging. I half-heard a couple while I was working, but stopped work to listen to an interview with Rabbi Shmuley of the Discovery Channel's "Shalom in the Home" series. Some high school kids put that together? Whew. Nice work. Best of all though, and this will sound odd, were the station Id's and filler. A lot of the Internet radio stations I listen to are just playlists (The Sameach Music and SomethingJewish Show podcasts being happy exceptions). I miss the DJ voice and feeling that someone is having as much fun spinning records/cd's and as I am listening to them. The WJEW fills aren't as real-deal as the podcasts I mentioned, but it's still an improvement over a lot of the other feeds out there.

The folks at TI hope that this will just be the beginning and that other synagogues will be inspired to start stations. I do too. I felt pretty isolated as a kid in a small town with just my local synagogue. The current crop of Jewish blogs and podcasts would have helped me out a lot. 75 synagogue radio stations hosted, in part, by kids my age would have meant the world to me.

On a side note, while TI's claim that no other synagogue hosts a radio station might be true, Live365 does have a number of other excellent Jewish stations including Radio Free Klezmer, Nusach, Nusach2, and the B'nai Brith station.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

North Coast Local Events

For those who can't point to their hand to show where they live, The North Coast is Michigan. Here are some local Jewish music related events that I'm aware of. If you know any others, please send me the info. I'll try to widen my scope to include more than just Ann Arbor. Really.

Songs from the Haggadah
This Sunday, March 25, 7:45 p.m. at Congregation Beth Israel, Ann Arbor, MI.
New Music for Pesach with Gemini’s San Slomovitz and Congregation Beth Israel's Rabbi Robert Dobrusin, followed by a wine and cheese reception. Enjoy an evening of explicating the Haggadah text through music and commentary.
$10 donation ($5.00 donation for students and seniors.) Funds to be used for
future musical programs.

West Lounge Klezmer Band
March 26 and 28 in Ann Arbor
“We have a couple of shows coming up that are open to the public, and we'd be thrilled to see as many of our fans out there- dancing is optional but highly recommended! Most notably, WLJ will be giving a FREE show, followed by a wine reception, Mar 26 at 5:30 at University Commons (map). If you just can't get enough klezmery jollification on the 26, we'll also be performing 2 days later, Mar 28, at 7:00pm @ Uof M Hillel as part of a special film screening "From Shtetl to Swing" sponsored by the JCC. These are just a few of our upcoming events, and we'll be sure to keep you updated so that you'll never miss a freylach!”

David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness
Saturday, March 31, 8 pm at the Rackham Auditorium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Tickets are available through
Internationally acclaimed clarinetist David Krakauer is a natural storyteller who has long dazzled the public with his ability to shift—and meld—musical gears. Known for his mastery of myriad styles including classical chamber music, Eastern European klezmer music, the avant-garde, rock, and jazz, Krakauer lies way beyond “cross-over.” He exudes an emotionally raw yet genial presence onstage, baring a tireless spirit, humor, and generosity.

The Joy of Oypod

Where can you find updates on Jewish music, Israeli slang, an in depth study of bumper stickers, and an answer to the burning question "How Britney Spears Ties in with this week's parsha?" Only on Oypod, the Jewish Teen Podcast.
Oypod has been active since mid 2005 and puts out a new 'cast every couple of months. Fortunately, all 17 podcasts are available from the Oypod website and rss feed. I'd hate for anyone to miss a minute. The host, Danny(?), is a teenager in California and is the kind of kid I would have liked to hang out with when I was I high school. He's smart, funny, and very at ease with being Jewish in a way I wasn't at his age. That makes the each 'cast friendly and accessible. Good stuff.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sephardic Pizmonim and Baqashot

I just ran across two more types of Jewish liturgical music I'd never heard of before: Sephardic Pizmonim and Baqashot. The Sephardic Pizmonim Project website describes them like this:
"Pizmonim (פזמונים) are traditional Jewish songs with the intentions of praising God as well as learning certain aspects of traditional teachings. They are sung throughout religious rituals and festivities such as prayers, circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, weddings and other ceremonies."
Wikipedia, drawing on material from the Sephardic Pizmonim Project, describes Baqashot like this:
The Baqashot (or "bakashot", שירת הבקשות) are a collection of supplications, songs, and prayers that have been sung by the Sephardic Aleppian Jewish community and other congregations for centuries each week on Shabbat (Sabbath) morning from midnight until dawn. Usually they are recited during the weeks of winter, when the nights are much longer. The duration of the services is usually about four hours.
The Pizmonim project website provides explanatory material and a treasure trove of .mp3 recordings of pizmonim and baqashot recorded in the 1980's. It also sells a collection of 11 CDs of pizmonim.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Jewess Interviews Beth Schafer and Galet Dardashti

I ran into a new blog recently. (I should give credit to whichever blog or website pointed me to it, but I forgot which one it is. Sorry). Jewess covers Jewish women's issues and has done interviews with the Jewish women musicians Beth Schafer and Galet Dardashti. (Schafer interview here, Dardashti interview here) I'm a fan of Dardashit's group Divan. They play an idiosyncratic and compelling blend of Mizrakhi and Sephardi music.

I didn't know Beth Scafer, though. Reading her interview makes it clear why. She's part of the "contemporary Jewish music" scene that includes Debbie Friedman, Rick Recht, Craig Taubman, and Dan Nichols. I honestly haven't had much exposure to these folks. Part of it is the sound. What I've heard has been pretty folky, poppy, and (to me) bland. Part of it is religious. Most of these folks seem to come out of the Reform community. I don't have a problem with that, I just haven't been around it much. Another gap for me to fill, I guess. I'll make a point of listening to more of these folks over the next month or so and report back on what I find.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Singing Lullabyes

I've started singing lullabyes to my kids when my wife and I put them to bed at night. There's nothing like two sleepy girls to make you think you've got an American Idol voice. Another one, Papa. Please?

The lullaby thing started with the Shema and has now taken on a life of it's own. I always start with the Shema, and then move on to Ma Tovu, and then Oseh Shalom. My little one (2 years old) makes me sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (or, as she says "Winkle Winkle"). My older one (4 years old) makes me sing a lullabye I made up for her when she was little (it doesn't really have name, but starts Hey little girl with eyes full of feathers). I don't have much of a history with lullabyes. I remember my Grandmother singing "Here comes the Sandman" to me when I was little, but I don't remember my folks singing lullabyes. Anyway, it occurred to me that if I did a little research into classic Jewish lullabyes, I could expand my repertoire a bit.

I came up with four primary ones, though I'm sure I'm missing a lot. The first is Rozinkes mit Mandlen, Raisins and Almonds (lyrics and audio here and here). According to Marsha Edelman's Discovering Jewish Music the melody for Rozinkes was written in the 1880's by Abraham Goldfaden for the Yiddish Theater, with a lyric adapted from an earlier lullaby. The lyric starts like this:
"In dem bays hamikdosh,
In a vinkl chayder
Zitzt di almone bas Tziyon aley.
Ir ben yochidl Yidele vigt si k'seyder."
In the room of the temple,
In a cosy corner
There sits a widow all alone.
With her only little child she rocks gently
The second I found was the Hebrew lullaby Numi Numi, Yaldati which, according to Edelman, was written by Joel Engel and YehielHeilperin in Palestine in the 1920's (lyrics and audio). Numi's main lyric goes like this

Numi, numi yaldati,
Numi, numi, nim.
Numi, numi k'tanati,
Numi, numi, nim.

Aba halach la'avoda -
Halach, halach Aba.
Yashuv im tzeit halevana -
Yavi lach matana!

Sleep, sleep, my little girl.
Sleep, sleep.
Sleep, sleep, my little one,
Sleep, sleep.

Daddy's gone to work -
He went, Daddy went.
He'll return when the moon comes out -
He'll bring you a present!

Sleep, sleep...

The third was the traditional Ladino lullaby Durme (or Duerme). The US Holocaust Museum has a lovely wire recording from 1943. The lyrics from this recording are:

Durme, durme, hermosa donzella,
Durme, durme, sin ansia i dolor,
Durme, durme, sin ansia i dolor.

Sleep, sleep, beautiful child,
Sleep, sleep, free from worry and pain,
Sleep, sleep, free from worry and pain.
The last lullaby is the Yiddish Tum Balalaika. Tum Balalaika is a riddle song that extols the benefits of having a clever wife.
Shteyt a bocher, shteyt un tracht,
tracht un tracht a gantze nacht.
Vemen tsu nemen un nit far shemen,
vemen tsu nemen un nit far shemen.

Tumbala, tumbala, tumbalalaika,
Tumbala, tumbala, tumbalalaika
tumbalalaika, shpiel balalaika
tumbalalaika - freylach zol zayn.

A young lad is thinking, thinking all night
Would it be wrong, he asks, or maybe right,
Should he declare his love, dare he choose,
And would she accept, or will she refuse?

Tumbala, tumbala, tumbalalaika,
Tumbala, tumbala, tumbalalaika
tumbalalaika, play Balalaika,
tumbalalaika - let us be merry
So, now that I've found some lullabyes I'll need to learn them. That's the next challenge. I've got decent prayer book Hebrew, enough high school Spanish to fake Ladino, and about 10 words in Yiddish. I think I can con a couple of preschoolers into thinking I know what I'm doing. My wife, who is cleverer that a couple of preschoolers and cleverer than her husband, will not be fooled. Oh well.

I've got one edge in learning them. As I was winding up my research for this post I found a marvelous album called From Generation to Generation: a Legacy of Lullabyes by Tanja Solnik. Generation to Generation is my favorite kind of album. Simple arrangements and a lovely voice that letting the beauty of the melodies come through. I fell asleep in a hotel room in Dallas listening to the song samples on eMusic. My grandma couldn't have done better. (Though she did Sandman wonderfully)

March event and album announcements


New Frank London album "A Night in the Old Marketplace" due on March 26 from SoundBrush Records.
Soundbrush Records presents A NIGHT IN THE OLD MARKETPLACE by Jewish music giant Frank London with lyrics by acclaimed playwright Glen Berger. Created for Alexandra Aron's theatrical adaptation of the legendary 1907 Yiddish play by I.L. Peretz, this extraordinary score mixes Jewish, jazz, classical, rock and world beats with a dose of Kurt Weill and Tom Waits. This collection of 21songs is performed by an array of stars including Manu Narayan (lead of Broadway's Bombay Dreams), the Klezmatics' Lorin Sklamberg, pop legends They Might be Giants, Celtic singer Susan McKeown, and Craig Wedren, leader of the cult rock group Shudder to Think."
The CD Release Party will be Monday, March 26th at 8pm at the Barrow Street Theatre in NY.

Leonid Levin and Trio have a new CD that features jazz arrangements of songs by Sholom Secunda, George Gershwin,and Jerome Kern, among others. CD Baby.
"Violinist and composer Leonid Levin toured the USA with Eric Clapton,Luther Vandross,featuring on recently released CD,s by American composer David Heckendorn with violin solo piece"Nostalgia"-dedicated by composer to Mr Levin. Mr Levin performed at UN ,Recently Leonid was invited to Brazilian Cultural Institute in Washington DC to perform Brazilian classical music.Most recently Leonid gave recital at "Steinway Hall" with showcase of classical,virtuoso,chamber and jazz, he was leading in violin-piano duo,piano and jazz quartets, also presented his original tunes in "samba"style. He won a Siver Medal at Villa-Lobos International Violin Competition in Rio de Janeiro(Brazil)"

Yiddish singer Fraidy Katz has a new CD "The Eternal Question (Di Alte Kashe).
TEQ is a baker's dozen Yiddish folk and popular songs re-contextualized in contemporary and unique musical settings including reggae, tango, jazz, country-swing, blues, traditional -- and more. Produced by Wolf Krakowski and Jim Armenti, TEQ features the musical and vocal talents of 18 musicians from across the spectrum of Jewish, Americana and World Music. The CD comes with a 24-page booklet of Yiddish text, transliterations, English translations, songwriter bios -- and more.


Alicia Svigals, klezmer violinist and Klezmatics founder, to curate shows at John Zorn's The Stone in April.
The fifty acts Svigals booked revolve around three themes: Jewish music, virtuoso female instrumentalist/improvisers/composers, and all kinds of string music, traditional and contemporary. From an electronic violist turning Bartok on his head to the lightning speed of traditional Bulgarian fiddling; from a master of the traditional klezmer clarinet to spontaneous 21st century keyboard explorations of those ancient melodies, the month is a feast of the most interesting music coming out of New York and beyond.
The Socalled Seder: Thursday March 22 at The Cobden Club, 170 Kensal Road, London. The Socalled Seder will feature
SO CALLED: conducting a symphony of hip hop beats and old Jewish record samples
SOPHIE SOLOMON: Europe’s most charismatic fiddler.
BUKKY LEO: Fela Kuti and Tony Allen’s afro-pioneering horns player.
MAX REINHARDT: legendary Austrian theatre wizard cum world music DJ
PLUS SPECIAL GUESTS: Gnawan multi-instrumentalist BOUJEMAA BOUBOUL, WILL FARQUARSON on bass and digital imagician MIKI SHAW

Heeb Magazine and JDub Records present their first showcase at South By Southwest on Saturday, March 17.

Hosted by Michael Showalter, the event features performances by Sway Machinery, The Silent Years, Golem, The Changes, Soulico and Balkan Beat Box. More info

Gilbert and Sullivan's Di Yam Gazlonim ("The Pirates of Penzance") will be performed Yiddish with English and Russian Translation Supertitles at The Goldman-Sonnenfeldt Family Auditorium at The JCC in Manhattan, NY. The National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene, visit us on the web at

with recent updates.
I get tipped off by sources far cleverer than myself, including the KlezmerShack blog, the Jewish Musical Web Center announcements blog, and various band, podcast, and label mailing lists. If you've got something you want me to announce, let me know. I'll pass it along in my next update. Bribery optional, but encouraged.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Screiber Jewish Music Library

Looking for one thing, I found another. Story of my life.

I was looking for information on traditional lullabyes (I'll save what I found for another post). What I found was the Gratz College Screiber Jewish Music library. According to it's website
The Schreiber Jewish Music Library is one of the most extensive collections of its kind in the world. Centered around the Eric Mandell Collection, it includes more than 20,000 books, scores, records, tapes, and compact discs. It encompasses holdings in Jewish liturgy, Yiddish Theater, Ashkenazic hazzanut, Sephardic chants and popular music from America, Europe, and Israel.
If you live near Philidelphia, go visit. If not, check out the Music Samples page. The samples page is just that. A couple of recordings, described well and put online in the Windows Media format, for our pleasure and edification. It looks like a new set of samples goes up once a month and that they keep an archive of a few months. I listened to a variety of tracks including the Sabbath piyyut Ein Keloheinu, the Diaspora Yeshiva Band doing a (slightly disco) version Hakol Yoducha from the morning service, and the Russian composer Joseph Achron's 1914 Hebrew Lullabye.

The lullabye track is, of course, the reason I found the song samples page in the first place.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

More Jewish Internet Radio Stations and Television

I just added a couple more online Jewish music radio stations to my list. I'm not jumping up and down about any of them, but they're worth passing on.

I also saw an advertisement for Jewish Life Television and it's sister radio station "Big J radio." JLT is a fledgling cable network with an interesting programming line-up. I'm hoping my provider picks them up. In particular I'm excited about a segment called "Theodore Bikel Sings Nightly."
"JLTV is honored to include Theo Bikel, one of the most versatile and respected actors and performers in its program schedule. He is a master of languages, dialects, accents, and is an ardent Zionist.

Theo played the role of Tevye in nearly 2,000 performances of Fiddler on the Roof and has recorded a multitude of albums of Yiddish, Israeli and Russian folksongs. He skillfully accompanies himself on guitar, mandolin, balalaika and harmonica. Bikel Sings will spotlight a different song each night with a preface by Theo explaining the Jewish substance of the song."
That sounds just about perfect. Until I can watch on TV, I can try to catch the programming online via their live internet cast.

Jewish Life TV's sister radio station, Big J, is also available online. I'm listening to it right now and am enjoying the fact that it has an actual DJ and isn't just a playlist. It's a strange mix, though. Here's the official description:

"Underground Jewish radio is now on-the-air at bringing an array of music to the 12-34 year olds including American Jewish and Israeli rap, Jewish rock, along with hits from the 60s and 70s from the American rock and soul scene. News of Jewish youth groups, Jewish day and high schools, as well as entertainment news, are included in The Big J Radio’s programming, which is part of the Jewish Life Radio and Television Network."

70's soul hits? Ok. If you say so. I'm not seeing the connection. Right now it's playing the Etan G's "Making a Motzee" rap, a track off of Wolf Krakowski's Yiddish Pop "Transmigrations: Gilgul," Chutzpah's "SuperJew" rap, and a hip-hop track from Israel's Subliminal. Ok, it's a little hip-hop heavy for me, but Big J gets points for contemporary Jewish eclectica. But 70's soul hits? I haven't heard any yet but I'm scared.

Life-of-Rubin also posted about Shmais Radio and Olam Radio. Not much for me to say. On a quick listen, both seem to begood stations oriented to the Chassidic/Orthodox 'shiny shoe' crowd. They both seem to have a good mix of artists but I have to be in the right mood.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Shlock Rock: Jewish Pride Keeps You Strong

Where have these guys been all my life? (Or, more pointedly, where have I been all my life?). Shlock Rock has been there. They've been writing and playing Jewish rock and roll original music and song parodies for 20 years. According to their website, they've played thousands of concerts across the US, Canada, Australia, Israel, England and South Africa and recorded at least 20 albums with the goal of "promoting Jewish continuity through music."

I just found out about Shlock Rock because of my Purim Music post last week. In the post I linked to a couple of fun Purim videos on YouTube. The video that got the best response: Shlock Rock. I had find out who they were.

It kills me that I didn't know about them years ago. I've always loved parody music. A friend and I used to (20 years ago) compete in High School talent shows, lip-syncing Tom Lehrer and Weird Al Yankovic songs. (Now that's a YouTube video I hope never to see).

Anyway, maybe there's no Grammy winning potential here, but there is a big heart filled with a lot of love for being Jewish. Check out Shlock Rock performing "Yo Yo Yo Yalmuke" and then go buy an album or three. That's my plan.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Shema was composed? Really?

I just read that the melody for the shema I recite daily was composed less than 200 years ago. That might seem like a long time ago, but compared to the thousands of years of Judaism, it feels like yesterday.

I grew up attending a Conservative shul in Connecticut and learned a set of traditional nusach (liturgical melodies). Other than a few of the goofier melodies for Adon Olam (theme from Gilligan's Island, anyone?) it never occurred to me to wonder where the melodies came from. Each had, to me, a timeless quality. To the degree I thought about it, I imagined my grandfather singing the same melodies and his grandfather and his. All the way back to the Temple? Who knew. But definitely old.

I guess I was wrong.

The book I'm reading is Marsha Edelman's excellent Discovering Jewish Music. In it, she describes how the 19th century composer Solomon Sulzer "abandoned traditional nusach and wrote in the style of his times." The result was Shir Zion, a Torah service for festivals. It included a melody for Shema Yisrael and Ki mi-Tziyon. This is the melody I'm teaching my daughters.

I'm glad to be reminded that Judaism is a living tradition and I'm happy to know more of the details about how innovations in the tradition happened. It's just that, no matter how often it happens, it's always a strange thing to realize that things aren't as simple as you once thought.


There's an Amazon song sample of the Sulzer Shema recorded for the "Thank God It's Friday!: The Music of Shabbat." I'm not so fond of the organ in the clip, but the melody is right.

Wikipedia and the Jewish Encylopedia have more about the history of synagogue music.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Purim megillah readings and after parties

I'll be at Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor for "A Star Wars Purim". Please come if you're in the area. Other than our theatrical and spiritual tour de farce, there are lots of great Purim megillah readings and after parties going on this year in the great MMFH (Many Miles From Here).

PURIM07 Featuring: HEEDOOSH w/ special guest Yaakov Chesed
At the Knitting Factory in NYC

Purim In Khelm
New York's venerable National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene celebrates the Jewish holiday Purim and unleashes on the unsuspecting a fully costumed staging of its new, original Purim shpiel "Purim in Khelm” with a book and direction by Motl Didner and original songs by Miryem-Khaye Seigel. Didner--the director of Folksbiene's outreach program bringing Yiddish theatre to communities outside New York, and Seigel, the much-loved singer-songwriter-accordionist -- are two leading luminaries in the booming youth-oriented explosion of Yiddish.

Dan Blacksberg Ensemble
Diaspora Series- "celebrates Purim with a special show featuring some of the most innovative musicians in Klezmer and Jewish-inspired music."
Sunday March 4
The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
8 p.m. FREE All Ages
West Philadelphia Orchestra

Purim Masquerade
The funkiest Puirm party Cleveland has ever seen.
Saturday, March 3rd @ The Grog Shop
Golem ("A gypsy Punk Gem" - SPIN)
Bling Kong (3 drummers, 2 guitarists, 4 cheerleaders, video DJ, and a gaggle of designers) Double Dutch Will Take You Higher (A 6 person jump-rope collective)
Parlour Boys (Dance/Punk/New Wave Rockers)
9 PM / All AGES / $7*Costumes are highly encouraged!
The most mind-blowing costumes will win glorious prizes*


a the BAM CAFE (brooklyn academy of music) 30 LAFAYETTE ST. Brooklyn, NY


curated by DJ HANDLER

8:30 megillah reading
9-11 party...just intime to get warmed up for a night of CELEBRATION!!!

going to be a wonderful event...@!!!!!

PURIM PARTY - Jewish Russian Community Centre 2007
Jewish Russian Community Centre Presents:
JRCC Purim Party 2007 - 5767

As it our Jewish (and community) Chassidic CHABAD tradition to celebrate Purim this year we have our annual "Purim Shpill" at the Terrace Banquet Hall

With: Full Dinner, Entertainment, Live Music, Children's Program, Family Seating,Dancing

So come and dance with us at Saturday March,3 and Sunday March,4,2007

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Other Jewish Grammy: Composer Osvaldo Golijov wins for Ainadamar

In all the celebration over other The Klezmatics Grammy win, I missed the fact that other important Jewish artist was honored by the Recording Academy. Composer Osvaldo Golijov walked away with two Grammy awards this year for his opera Ainadamar ("Fountain of Tears"). Golijov was awarded the Best Classical Contemporary Composition award for the opera's score and Best Opera Recording for the recording.

While this opera doesn't draw on Jewish literary or musical themes, Osvaldo is known for adventurous scores that do. May of these are available on disc including Yiddishbbuk (Amazon Song Samples), a Grammy-nominated CD of Golijov's chamber music featuring, The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (Amazon Song Samples), recorded by Kronos Quartet and clarinetist David Krakauer, and Klezmer Concertos and Encores (Amazon Song Samples) recorded by Krakauer, Alicia Svigals, Martha Mooke, and Pablo Aslan.

If you're in the Brooklyn, New York, area, David Krakauer will be performing "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind" on March 10, 2007 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the Brooklyn Philharmonic. The program called "Bridge to the Beyond" and is part of the Steinhardt Jewish Heritage Festival.

(Via The Jewish Music Centers Announcements)