The Arty Semite

The Secret History of Women's Klezmer

By Jon Kalish

A new radio drama titled “The Witches of Lublin” is being offered to public radio stations as a Passover special. Written by Ellen Kushner, Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom, the hour-long production features original klezmer music by Strom and the handiwork of Long Island-based audio drama producer Sue Zizza. The cast includes the prolific audiobook narrator Barbara Rosenblat, author Neil Gaiman and Tovah Feldshuh as the protagonist Rivka, a 18th-century klezmer musician who is a single mom, a weaver of lace and a Talmudic scholar to boot.

Ilene Winn-Lederer

“We definitely approached the story from a feminist point of view,” said Schwartz, who also sings in the radio drama. She has collaborated with her klezmer musician husband Strom on films, books and musical projects since the mid-1990s.

As the story unfolds, listeners learn that Rivka and her two daughters, Leah and Sorele, have a reputation as some of the best klezmer musicians in Poland. Enter the anti-Semitic Count, who commands the women to perform at a celebration in honor of his son. It’s an untenable choice because women performing in public would be scandalous in the world of 18th-century observant Jews. But declining to perform might trigger a pogrom against the entire Jewish community of Lublin.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish, Yiddish Music, Yale Strom, Tovah Feldshuh, The Witches of Lublin, Sue Zizza, Sprocket, Slavic Soul Party, Radio Drama, Radio, Peter Stan, Passover, Neil Gaiman, Music, Klezmer, Jon Kalish, Hot Pstromi, Ellen Kushner, Elizabeth Schwartz, Barbara Rosenblat, Alexander Fedoriouk

Bringing Slavic Soul to Rikers Island

By Keith Meatto

Slavic Soul Party!

As their name implies, Slavic Soul Party! updates traditional Eastern European sounds with a festive, contemporary feel. Their instrumental music conjures carnivals and circuses, pep bands and klezmer bands, James Brown and James Bond. Brooklyn music aficionados may know Slavic Soul Party! from their weekly Tuesday gigs at Barbès; uptowners may have caught them at Carnegie Hall. Like Johnny Cash and B.B. King, the band also plays prisons, with a show on November 19 at Sing Sing Correctional Facility and October 5 at Rikers Island.

There are no vocals in Slavic Soul Party!, which sets them apart from their fellow Gypsy Punk travelers Balkan Beat Box and Gogol Bordello. Instead, they are all about the music. On “Taketron,” their fifth and most recent album on the Barbès label, Slavic Soul Party! unleashes jazz jams over gypsy grooves and military marches. These 13 tunes feature horns, drums, and accordion that play with precision at a punk rock pace, and the volume that makes brass instruments an orchestra’s loudest bunch. If you have a migraine, this isn’t the record for you. But if you want to dance and sweat like you’re at a Baltic bash, then go ahead and press play.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tutti Frutti, Tatiana, Slavic Soul Party, The Rebirth Brass Band, The New Yorker, Taketron, Slavic Music, Sing Sing, Sarba, Rikers Island, New Orleans, Music, Moldovan Music, Matt Moran, Laughter Club, Kronos Quartet, Klezmer, Johnny Cash, John Hollenbeck, James Brown, James Bond, Jacob Garchik, Hymn, Greenpoint, Gogol Bordello, Gerardo Núñez Díaz, Folk Music, Eastern European Music, Carnegie Hall, Canaan Land, Brooklyn Music, Brooklyn Bands, Brooklyn, Brian Drye, Barbès, Baltika, B.B. King, Balkan Beat Box, Anthony Braxton

Balkan Beat Box's Party Politics

By Keith Meatto

Courtesy Balkan Beat Box
From left: Ori Kaplan, MC Tomer Yosef, Tamir Muskat.

Imagine a klezmer band where the vocalists rap in English, chant in Arabic, and sing in Spanish and Serbian. That band is Balkan Beat Box, a group led by two Israelis — Ori Kaplan (saxophone) and Tamir Muskat (drums) — who merge traditional Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Eastern European sounds with hip-hop and electronica.

With the release of their third album, Balkan Beat Box continues to ride the wave of a Gypsy Revival that includes groups such as Slavic Soul Party, Raya Brass Band, and Gogol Bordello, with whom Kaplan has played. In August, Balkan Beat Box performed at Lollapalooza, one of the country’s premier music festivals. They are now wrapping up their North American tour dates with gigs on September 4 in Seattle and September 5 in Toronto, before heading to Israel for a show at the end of the month.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ori Kaplan, Middle Eastern Music, Music, Lollapalooza, Gypsy Revival, Gogol Bordello, Ashkenaz Festival, Eastern European Music, Balkan Beat Box, Raya Brass Band, Slavic Soul Party, Tamir Muskat, Tomer Yosef




Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.