Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Klezmer Revolution

The Rough Guide to Klezmer Revolution brings multiple artists together on this compilation showcasing traditional klezmer with a modern, multi-genre flavored twist.

Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Klezmer Revolution

Contributors: The Klezmatics, SoCalled, Sophie Solomon, Oi Va Voi, Theodore bikel, Frank London, Michael Winograd, Marilyn Lerner, Mikveh
Label: World Music Network
US Release Date: 2008-08-26
UK Release Date: 2008-08-27

Klezmer music originates even further than the 15th century when large communities of Jews in Europe began to create secular music. While traditional Hebrew cants were sung in the synagogue, many Jews felt the need to express themselves in song outside of their faith. As with any form of music, klezmer has grown and morphed with the times, often reflecting issues within the Jewish community while still remaining a cultural expression that carries millennia-old rhythms and instrumentation predating the Jewish diaspora. As a style of music that is highly reflective of its performers, klezmer feels very Middle Eastern, yet European in composition at the same time.

It wasn't until the 1970s that klezmer saw a major revival outside of Europe. With many Jews having migrated to the United States after the horrors of the Holocaust or to Israel in search of their roots, a new wave of Jewish youth felt it was time to simultaneously resurrect a part of their history and carve out a new identity for it and themselves. This new wave of klezmer found itself harkening back to its core as a voice of collective, community-based protest as well as a vehicle to entertain and relate to one another.

With klezmer's rich history and current direction in mind, World Music presents The Rough Guide to Klezmer Revolution, a compilation album featuring various artists within the genre. Both Yiddish and English are the prevalent languages sung on the album, although a command of either or both isn't necessary to enjoy the material.

The Rough Guide to Klezmer Revolution seems to be divided into two sections; the first half devoted to upstart performers who are visibly re-inventing the genre and the second, slightly more traditional in its selections' approach. The second half features mostly instrumentals and choral singing, though by no means relegated solely to the realm of traditional.

Established names like pianist Marilyn Lerner appear on the disc with the instrumental sonata, "Fun Tashlikh/Throw Your Sins to the Wind", a traditional folk song which she flavors with jazz. A younger artist whose style resembles Lerner's is clarinet player Michael Winograd who makes his appearance on the disc with the traditional-leaning "Nayer Khusid Tanz". Like Lerner, he subtly injects popular music overtones to his piece.

Bridging the gap between old and new on a single track is "(Rock The) Belz", a duet between octogenarian actor/singer Theodore Bikel and SoCalled, a Jewish rapper who has spearheaded klezmer's foray into the 21st century by merging it with danceable hip-hop. Bikel's rich baritone is layered over danceable beats in addition to weaving a tale about not only the Ukranian town of Belz in this revamp of a klezmer classic, but proclaiming why he finds it so important to sing Jewish songs and preserve his heritage.

SoCalled also makes another appearance on the disc, guesting alongside Oi Va Voi violinist, Sophie Solomon on the song "alt.schul Kale Bazetsn". Beginning with a traditional overview of Jewish weddings and the role of the badkhan ("wedding jester") as told by a well-meaning yenta, the piece kicks into high gear by taking the institute of matrimony to task. Easily a standout track on the album, SoCalled channels The Wedding Crashers with the line "We got glasses to smash / We can get trashed". With the typical SoCalled humor firmly in place, he notes "Sure it's a puffed up institution / An economic solution… Hype the hetero norms." Solomon and SoCalled eschew tradition with this track, running down all the right and wrong reasons for marriage before shrugging their shoulders and giving the "eh, go ahead" to anyone who chooses to abide marital convention or take their own route.

One good turn deserves another and Sophie Solomon appears yet again on Oi Va Voi's "Yuri" would merit the Mel Brooks "Jews in Space" seal of approval as futuristic, robotic vocals run through a processor against the pulsing beat.

The Rough Guide to Klezmer Revolution's strong suit is the array of material that isn't just con. Many of the artists creatively merge it with other, more unexpected strains of sound. Klezmer-goes-country with the legendary Wolf Krakowski's sandpapery voice on "Frilling (Sprintime)" which features a slow, slide guitar groove that would make Duane Allman green with envy. Similarly, Shtreiml's "Uncle Tibor's Spicy Paprikash" is flavored with bluegrass with the harmonica taking center stage on a Hebrew hoedown.

Other genres touched upon include dub, scat, and gospel. Two of trumpeter Frank London's bands appear on the disc on distinctly different tracks. His Klezmer Brass Allstars serve up "In Your Garden Twenty Fecund Fruit Trees", raucously backed by a Big Band sound. At times, the piece can be shouty and slightly annoying. (Then again, I've never been a big fan of scat music, anyway, so I could be biased.)

London's other offering with the Klezmatics, however, sums up the ethos of the compilation nicely. A cover of Holly Near's "I Ain't Afraid" is a modern-day Hebrew spiritual blending gospel influences with traditional Jewish rhythms and a call for spiritual elevation regardless of creed and a statement on not living in fear of those who choose intolerance.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.