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My desire to explore the evolution of different sounds of
New Jewish Music (under the heading of klezmer) was the initial inspiration for
this CD. The range of music
emanates from the DNA of klezmer, which is the melismatic prayer modalities
chanted by the ancient Hebrews of the Middle East. We klezmorim today often overlook that Abraham came from Ur
in Iraq, and not Uman in Ukraine.
Thus, in tunes like “Bonesetter’s Last Dance,” “Dorohoi Khusidl,” “Hora
Din Caval,” and “Shakiris,”
the Middle Eastern tonalities can be easily heard.
That said, I also want to trace how Jewish music (both
instrumental and vocal) has developed over the centuries. Having firmly established the music’s
roots, I wanted to explore the limitless possibilities of the music’s potential. Of the vocal pieces, I wanted to
challenge myself to write new Yiddish poetry set to music. In the tradition of many Yiddish poets
and writers, I wanted these lyrics to reflect my own sense of social,
political, and spiritual values and concerns. This tradition of framing art within a human and
humanitarian context feels particularly Jewish to me.
The positive aspects of the proliferation of Jewish art are
balanced by the fact that there is not an equal proliferation of Jews; this
fact, coupled with the world’s negative feelings about the state of Israel and
the continuance of the same old tired anti-Semitic canards, leavens my joy at
klezmer being performed all over the world. The Jewish people have been marginalized throughout history,
and despite the popularity of Jewish art forms (films, music, literature,
etc.), this has not changed. As
the world’s Jewish population fails to grow in proportion to other ethnic
groups, the variety of Jews and Jewish cultures in the world is in danger of
becoming increasingly rare. Hence
the CD’s title – Café Jew Zoo – these tunes represent
different “species,” or aspects of the Jewish experience.
– Yale Strom
Mein bager oystsuforshen di antviklung fun farsheydene
klangen fun Der Neier Yiddisher Musik (unter dem rubrik klezmer) iz geven di
ershte inspiratsye far dem kompaktl.
Der greykh fun der musik fliest fun dem klezmer kval, dos zenen di
reikhe tfiles un nigunim gezungen fun di amolike Ivriim. Mir, heintike klezmorim, fargessen oft
az Avrom iz gekumen fun Ur in Iraq un nit Uman in Ukrayne. Heyst ess, az in melodyes vi
“Bonesetter’s Last Dance,” “Dorohol Khusidl,” “Hora Din Caval,” un “Shakiris,”
ken men leikht hern di tener fun mitl mizrekh.
Ikh vil oykh ontseykhenen vi Yiddishe musik (instrumental un
mit gezang) hot zikh antvikelt durkh di doyres. Hobndik eingeshtelt di vortslen, hob ikh gevolt oysforshn di
umbagrenetste potentsialen fun der musik.
Far di lieder mit gezang hob ikh gevolt fodern fun zikh, aleyn tsu
shreiben neieh Yiddishe poezye tsu der musik. In der traditsye fun a sakh Yiddixhe poetn un shreiber, hob
ikh gevolt az di verter zoln ibbergebn mein eygenem gefiel vegn sotsiale,
politishe, un geistike asokim. Di
traditsye fun einramen kunst in a menchlikhen un humanitarishen kontekst tapt
on mein Yiddshkeit.
Di positive protim fun der tseshpreytung fun Yiddisher kunst
zenen balansirt mit dem vos ess iz nito di zelbe farshpreytung fun Yidn; der
fakt, tsuzmen mit der velt’s negative gefielen vegn Yisroel, un di keseyderdike
alte antisemitishe guzmes, derminert mein simkhe vos klezmer musik vert hein
geshpielt ibber der gantser velt.
Far dor-doyres hut men bagrenetst dos Yiddishe folk, un trots der
populerkeit fun Yiddisher kunst (kino, musik, literatur), hut zikh dos nit
geendert. In der tseit, ven di Yiddishe bafelkerung vakst nit proportsyonel tsu
andere etnishe grupes, iz di farsheydnkeit fun Yiddisher kultur in
gefar...Deribber – der nomen fun dem kompaktl – di lieder shteln for
farsheydene protim fun Yiddishe lebns derfarungen.
- Yale Strom
I discovered this melody in a Yiddish book given to me by
Fira Kofman, who moved to Birobidzhan (The Jewish Autonomous Region) from Minsk
in 1934. Fira is a true idealist
to this day, and was one of the major city planners and builders of
Birobidzhan. I had gone to
Birobidzhan to make a documentary film about the history and present times of
this fascinating chapter in Jewish - and Soviet - history. That film, “L’Chayim, Comrade Stalin!”
features two of my original compositions from this CD: “Waltz Amur” and
“L’Chayim, Comrade Stalin!” as well as this song. The lyrics are typical of the
propaganda fostered by the Soviet government to encourage settlement (and funds
from individuals and organizations like IKOR) to the region. Birobidhzan was the world’s first
secular, Yiddish, communist homeland for the Jews, and
predated the establishment of Israel by 20 years.
Hora din Caval
I was inspired to write this melody during my travels
through Northern Romania. I heard
a shepherd playing the caval
(a Romanian wooden flute), and the title of this piece
translates to English as “Hora (Romanian dance) for the caval.” The piece combines Romanian folk with
klezmer styles. I wrote this for
Fred Benedetti, with whom I’ve been playing for almost 30 years. He arranged this for classical guitar.
The Bonesetter’s Last Dance
This melody is based on the melody that I wrote for “Yekele
the Bonesetter.” I was interested
in exploring the Ottoman influence on Romanian klezmer music, and this piece is
in a less typical 9/8 (2-3-2-2) than one more often hears in Balkan music
(2-2-2-3). This 9/8 rhythm is
known as karshlama in Turkish, which means “Face to Face.” The rhythm heard here is common to the
folk music of Albania, Macedonia and Northern Greece. The piece opens with a taksim.
Stoliner Skotshne #1
Stolin, a Khasidic stronghold, is a small town just outside
of Pinsk, Belarus. This
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USA Yale Strom: Klezmer - Cafe Jew Zoo