Sunday, February 21, 2010

Teruah Word Cloud. I'm so 2005.

While messing around on the slides for my upcoming talk, I put together this Teruah cloud. As a graphic design, it's a bit 5 years ago so I'm not sure if it will make it into the talk, but I like it.

I used the generator at Wordle.Net to make the cloud.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Klezmer Musician on a Mission: More "When I Wake Up, Music from Putti"

There's always a story behind the story. Monday night I wrote about the album "When I Wake Up, Music from Putti" Uganda. Field recording. Lovely melodies. Unlikely location. Nice story.

The next day I got an email that told the back story....
Mike Cohen"I just saw your mention about the CD I recorded and produced in Putti last year on your blog and want to thank you for your interest. I'm giving an interview for South African Jewish Radio on Friday and I just gave a lecture here in New York at Adelphi University a few weeks ago. If you have a few minutes, I'd love to share some of the story with you.
I had heard Smithsonian recording and was fascinated by it. About a year and a half ago there was a screening in New York of a documentary made for South African TV about the Abayudaya and decided to go. It turns out that I had met the director the night before at a gig I was playing (I'm a woodwind player)

I ended up on the Save Ugandan Jewery newsgroup and knowing they are coffee farmers I asked about buying some coffee. That opened a dialogue between myself and Putti's rabbi and community leader, Enosh Keki Mainah, He heard some of my music on the net and commented about how much he liked it. I told him I liked their music as well.

A few weeks later, Enosh tells me that his mother had written a lot of original music for the psalms and they wanted to record it but it was expensive. Did I have any advice? Without hesitating I told him I would go to Putti and we would record the music. This was November of 2008. My wife was 3 months pregnant so I knew that if this was going to happen, it had to happen soon. It was too late to apply for grants, so I sent a letter to everyone I knew and raised enough money to get myself over there and, if all went well, there was enough to do the recording. Enosh convinced me that there was a great studio in Mbale which is a big town about 10 km from Putti.

After 17 hours of flying and a 6 hour drive north to get to Mbale, I go to the studio. The studio turns out to be 1 mic and an ancient computer! Hence the rawness of the recording. We had to make this work so we recorded the way they did it in the 50's. We put the singers around the mic and I would bring people closer or push them back to balance out the vocals. All in all, we got some great tracks. I took the vocals back and added the percussion, flute and bass and we had an amazing recording. The music is infectious and original. Putti is an amazing place for music.

As the web site says, all the money goes back to Putti. They are very poor and the money makes a very real difference."
The email came from Mike Cohen, klezmer (Kleztraphobix) and jazz woodwind player, and my new hero.

So go check the album "When I Wake Up, Music from Putti." It's a fine album and a great cause.

Here's a video of the first take of the recording session, in Putti Uganda.

Psalm 92

Monday, February 15, 2010

When I Wake Up, Music from Putti Uganda

Some of you might remember a few years back when the wonderful Smithsonian Folkways album "Abayudaya: Music From The Jewish People Of Uganda" was making the rounds. Recently, a new album was released on the same theme...this time music by Jewish Ugandan's from the town of Putti. The album, Music from Putti, is part of a fund raising effort. If you like the video you should go grab a copy of the album from CD Baby.

Ugandan Jew praying in fieldI love listening to recordings like this. First, I love hearing new (to me) Jewish songs and melodies. Second, I love straight-forward, no frills, no big production, albums. And this one's a joy from both counts. It's maybe a bit rougher than the Smithsonian Folkways album, but no less fun. If you want to know more about the Abaydayan Jewish in Putti, check out a short history on the Jews in Uganda website. On interesting bit on the website is the

Putti Jews Original - "Bless Hashem"

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jeremiah Klarman's got one "room-rocking, soul-lifting Halleluyah!"

The folks at Jewish Ideas Daily turned on to a new composer this week. Before I get going on the composer, I should not that I wasn't aware of JID and am quite impressed. It's a nicely laid out arrangement of original writing and selections from the blogosphere. In addition to the composer I'm about to write about, it had a link to a nice article by Menachem Butler (the Michtavim blog)commemorating the fifteenth yahrzeit of Shlomo Carlebach.

Back to the composer.

(From JID) "Of making Jewish music there is no end, but how many contemporary composers of distinguished work in this genre have been featured on From the Top, National Public Radio's program about exceptional young musicians? Jeremiah Klarman, age thirteen when he appeared on the NPR show, may be the sole exception. Now seventeen, with a demonstrated mastery of styles from classical to klezmer, and with chamber, orchestral, and pop compositions under his belt, Klarman has turned his lavish and protean talents to choral music. A premier of his latest work, the cantata Hallel, Shir v'Or ("Praise, Song, and Light"), drawing largely on well-known verses from the book of Psalms, took place in late December at Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass. Performed by the Zamir Chorale of Boston under the direction of Joshua R. Jacobson, it culminates in a room-rocking, soul-lifting Halleluyah! for chorus and orchestra."

Jeremiah Klarman - Hallel Shir V'Or

For more on Klarman, see JID's article Sing to the Lord!.

Hat tip to Joshua R. Jacobson of the Zamir Chorale for uploading the video to YouTube.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Back to business / Tropicasher's Brazilian Jewish Sambas

Hi Everyone, sorry I disappeared there for a while. Has it really been 3 weeks since I've posted? Guess so. I got caught up in a bunch of work travel. I've been to San Diego, Honolulu, and Huntsville Alabama. Whew. But I'm back and will be working hard getting ready for my Ann Arbor Library talk and on the Stephen Gottlieb Jewish Music Festival in Detroit. And lots of blog posts. I hope.

It would also figure that I would vanish at the same time I got some local press. Thanks to the folks at the Washtenaw Jewish News for the write up about the upcoming library talk. Welcome to any new readers who found me through that article! Come to the talk and say hi!

Ok..back to the main thing, the music. While I was on unexpected hiatus I got a number of emails pointing me to cool music. The first I want to highlight is the band Tropicasher from Brazil...
"Jewish Samba (named TROPICASHER in Brazil) is a mix of Jewish and Brazilian music. We would like the public in the USA to know more about it as it is being an excellent tool for peacemaking, breaking barriers and approching people. There are Tropicasher Sambas in Portuguese, Hebrew and English as well as an excellent BOSSA NOVA made with the Anthem of Israel, haTikva, on For videoclips: or"
Here's a fun video from Tropicasher...

Ein Lanu Melech (efeito)

Update: I got a follow-up email about Tropicasher, which pointed out that "Brazil was first settled by Jews. We are on carnival week in Brazil and that Tropicasher is the Jewish way to do it." I know nothing about Brazilian history but that doesn't jibe with my understanding that Brazil was colonized by the Dutch. (See the wikipedia article on Jews in Latin America for more info). I have heard of Brazilian Carnival many times, but never heard of a Jewish contribution to it before. Fascinating.

Update II: I got another email from Tropicasher explaining a bit more about Jews in Brazil. "Brazil´s PORTUGUESE ships arrived to Porto Seguro (Bahia) around 1500 with Jews who fled from the portuguese inquisition, some portuguese nobleman and their servants. The dutch arrived around 1640 and they also had Jews as their translators and main businessman."

There you go.