Levantine Music in Eastern Europe: Klezmer from Litvakistan

Music of Klezmeristan

What Were Khazarian Wedding Dances and Music Like? Would They Resemble Klezmer?

By: Anne Hart, M.A.
author of 36 books, journalist: world music
newswriting@hotmail.com
www.newswriting.net

I was learning how to play Klezmer music on the Yamaha keyboard organ set to
sound like clarinet and violin when I began to wonder whether Klezmer Music
Traces Its Origins to Medieval Khazaria or to the Levantine Lands? Would Khazar
Music Sound Somewhat Like Klezmer? Or does Klezmer come from Middle Eastern
Music blended with traditional Eastern European songs? Litvakistan is a state of
mind composed of ethnic music and Chagall.

I love Middle Eastern music of all types, including Lebanese and Mizrahi which I
dance to all the time. So when I heard Klezmer music of what I term with charm
and endearingly, ‘Litvakistan’, I wondered whether it had its origins in Western
Asia, the Middle East, or Eastern Europe? It reminded me of the popular Turkish
music videos that repeat the word ‘oy’ in the lyrics.
Bringing Klezmer Music To The Public And Private Elementary Schools Worldwide.
School Music Programs Are Teaching More Klezmer Music To Kids.

Does music have a soul? If it does, it’s Klezmer. And did Klezmer music find its
origin in part with the medieval Khazars? One of my favorite Klezmer violinist
and documentary film maker, Yael Strom’s CD pieces, “Hot Postromi” contains a
dance piece that synthesizes Jewish, Turkish, Arabic, Gypsy, and Jazz motifs.
Another piece, excellent for Klezmer dancing is Strom’s Kuzguncuk.

Strom wrote the melody after a visit to Turkey. There, in Uskudar was a very old
Jewish district known as Kuzguncuk. Inspired by the beauty and history of this
area, Strom wrote this piece in 7/8 which appears on his CD, “Hot Postromi.”
It’s typical of the many Klezmer dance melodies or songs from the Jewish
settlements in Turkey and the Balkans.

Bring Klezmer music to your public elementary or high school, and of course, all
kinds of Middle Eastern, Balkan, Bulgarian, Bessarabian, Mediterranean, Asian,
African, European, Latin, and all other ethnic music. Let’s talk first about
Klezmer in the elementary schools. Klezmer, with its minor key strings, has a
life of its own, and deserves to be taught and brought into the schools, both
public and private. In San Diego, the magnet schools (elementary schools) are
featuring programs in Klezmer music, the traditional 18th and 19th-century
Jewish music that took the U.S. by popularity in the twenties.

Klezmer bands are offering children’s music programs in the elementary schools
as well as in continuing education programs for older adults and in ethnic and
religious social centers. It seems everybody wants to either learn how to play
Klezmer music in a band or dance to it in public outdoor park and shopping mall
performances.

The earliest Hassidic wedding dances of 18th and 19th century Eastern Europe,
which continued into the 1920s, were performed to songs that had no words. Dance
itself had one goal: making the secular holy.

Wedding costumes consisted of the “black frock” coat, the fur-lined shtrimel hat
borrowed from the Caucasus mountaineers, infused with religious meanings, and
the wigs and headscarves of the women.

The dances have been continued today on stage, also through the Hassidic Jewish
theatrical dance movements in the United States and, through the National
Yiddish Theatre of Poland, today. Eastern Europe’s revitalization of traditional
Jewish wedding dances also performs to mostly Polish non-Jewish audiences.

In the U.S. Klezmer music sometimes is combined with jazz, and young performers
and musicians dance both the early Hassidic dances of Europe and the Romanian
Hora, from 19th century Bessarabia and Ukrainian dances from Odessa today.

Included are the Bulgarian Hora, the Turkish dance played by Hassids at weddings,
and children’s dances of Bialystock and Lodz, Poland as well as the Klezmer
dances of Lubavitcher vilages in Eastern Europe.

These dances have their origin in Byzantine times and range from the eastern
Caucasus mountains to the Black Sea areas. Children dance in small circles
within a larger circle of adults, with women inside the circle of male dancers
on the outside, like a ring in concentric circles, facing the world or facing
the children, the growth of life toward the light.

A light or candle stick or other centerpiece of lightness and joy is in the
middle to light up the dark and bring the joy of “freilach” or the lightness of
being, the joy of blending dance with the expressiveness of worship with fervor
into the secular dance that brings people together at a wedding or other joyful
event.

Some dances arose on the shores of the western end of the Caspian sea , perhaps
those of Khazar and Assyrian origins combined with Byzantine nuances, and Bulgar/Turkic,
and Karelian themes. The music celebrates the merging of many sounds from many
lands into one expressive fulfillment of the joy of dance, and the spirituality
or celebration in all music. All dance praises the infinite.

Children participate in the center ring inside the innermost circle. They clap
their hands, twist, and turn, down on one knee, arms on one another’s shoulders,
moving along in a line, like a wedding ring or circle of life. As the dance
begins, the fringed cloaks bearing “tzitzzes” (fringes at the bottom) shiver in
the wind as the Polish and Romanian Jewish dancers bend on one knee, twist
around to the left and right, snap their fingers, and leap high into the air,
lifting the groom on their shoulders and dancing with him in circles.

Sometimes the classic Klezmer becomes infused with jazz of the 1920s. Other
times it is pure 19th century shtelt, or village classic. The only difference
between Gypsy (Rom) music and Eastern European Jewish dance music is the G-major.
Without the G-note, Jewish music becomes Rromah, the kanoun and oud musical
instrumental Gypsy music as played in 19th century Istanbul.

By dripping torchlight that flickers against the silence of the dark, the stage
floor ripples with stripes of shadow. Two dancers shatter the torchlight into
motion by waving fans that appear to arch and stretch. Shafts of smoke quiver,
sweetening the air with myrrh. The tall, pale groom stares ahead, his eyes
blazing like a topaz sunburst.

Suddenly the wedding begins with Klezmer musicians trilling a balalaika while
next to them plays a band of Gypsy musicians twanging their 12-stringed harp.
The flat, high whistle of a clarinet melts as a violin wails against the sob-shocks
of a goat-skinned drum. Do we hear the ancient strains of the Khazarian lands,
the medieval cities of Atil and Sarkel, the ancient Zikr dance of the Caucasus (Kavkaz)
mountaineers, the Chechens or the people of the mountains and shores of the
Caspian? Or are these the ancient nuances of the Phoenicians, Aramaic peoples,
and Levantines?

Those who carry the bride on a chair dance. The long line of food undulates on
the shoulders of more dancers. Bread and honey cakes made up an 18th century
Hassidic wedding in Eastern Poland, Byelorus, Romania, the Crimea, or Hungary.
Dancers retreat through a side door.

The bride’s line of dancers marches first, then those bearing the groom regally
walk behind. The rabbi (rebbe) gives his hand signal, and a line of wedding
guests dance in, holding hands—men with men, women with women. The bride and
groom rock back and forth sitting on chairs borne on the shoulders of the crowd
as they dance, swaying from side to side.

The rabbi’s helpers set up a golden canopy called the chuppah, under which the
bride and groom will be married. Torchlight throws the bride’s high cheekbones
into bold relief. She narrows her eyes to slits and speaks as if in trance. Her
mother’s fingers snap in rhythm to the Klezmer clarinet.

When the marriage vows are taken and the bride and groom begin to dance together,
Klezmorim begins to sing in rhyme to the twangs of the Gypsy’s 12-stringed harp.
Then the Jewish fiddler bursts into song, kicking up his heels and leaping
freely. “Show me where I am on the upward curves of the tree of life,” he sings.

The groom kisses the hem of the rabbi’s cloak. He dances the dance of the “wise
one.” The mother of the bride listens for a loud voice rushing in a spring’s
torrent while the best man dances as the rabbi repeats a nigun, a song, or an
epic rhyme in perfect hexameter until dawn.

Many stage versions of Jewish and Hassidic wedding dances revolve around the
theme of the story of Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov who took upon himself the duty
of financially assisting poor brides and attending their weddings. The dance
opens at the nuptial ceremony of an orphaned bride. Klezmer music becomes
processional music.

The Klezmorim or musicians are itinerant, but they impress the rabbi with their
happy, joyful music so that the rabbi wishes the same tune accompanies his
burial. So happy Klezmer music comes to be played at an Eastern European Jewish
funeral as with a wedding.

Often the dance in a staged version of a Yiddish village funeral of the 18th or
19th century opens at a crossroads, where the funeral cortege beholds a group of
Klezmer musicians sitting on a horse-drawn cart. When the procession arrives at
the entrance to a cemetery, the same group of Jewish and Gypsy musicians playing
side by side—Klemzer music of joy also meets it. Suddenly a very old Hassid
remembers the rabbi’s request of long ago that a specific tune be played at his
burial. I’ve seen this picture or scene in so many Yiddish musical films of the
forties. My favorites are Moyshe Oysher’s films and those with Molly Picon.

The mourners break into a wild dance. The musicians begin to sing strains of the
melody, and the rabbi is laid to rest with the same tune that had accompanied an
orphaned bride many decades before. Since it is believed by the Hassidim that a
lively and joyous dance, music and manner is more acceptable to God than
asceticism, melancholy and morbidity, the joy and gladness of the dance allows
one to look happily through a bright and clear looking glass. This is true of
the Hassidic wedding dance and the nigun, a song that accompanies the violin
solos of the Klezmer musicians.

There is power in the dance, the power of the nigun or song. The dancers knew
the power was in its ability to purify and bind together the soul and to elevate
it to great heights. This thought originates with the Kabbalists who said of
dancers, musicians, and singers, “Access to certain temples can be achieved only
through song.”

As the Klezmer* music wails the joy of pious life in nuances of Hassidic*
delight, the bride is carried onstage sitting on a chair or bier tossing white
flowers to the wedding party. Four bearded best men dressed in black carry her
toward the groom as they dance. Her arms wave and clap, but her eyes are cast
down for the sake of modesty.

As she sits and sways, carried toward the chuppah, another four men bring the
groom onstage, dancing with feet sliding, as if on ice skates, toward the bride.
Four men carry the groom seated in a chair on their shoulders dancing three
steps forward and two steps backwards.

They take two small steps to the left and two small steps to the right, raising
their bent knees high, as if they were the baton twirler leading a march,
swaying slowly toward the chuppah. It’s a veiled or draped canopy under which
the bride and groom will be united in matrimony by the Rebbe (Rabbi) of the
shtetl, (Eastern European village).

‘Rikkud’ is a style of Jewish Hassidic (Pious) wedding and festive dance of
Eastern Europe performed during the 18th and 19th centuries and continuing well
into the 1920s. The steps are danced to traditional Klezmer music. Revived today,
the style continues and grows with performances in the United States and in
other countries expanding in popularity by all ages, but especially at weddings.
In the 18th century, the earliest dances were stepped in a 1, 2 3,2 style.

A three-section song was danced with the section repeated. The songs in a minor
scale had a happy lilt. Music focused on of feelings of joy and enlightenment,
spiraling in an ever-uplifting mood.

As she dances three steps forward and two steps back, two to the side and three
away, then leaping toward the bride, the mother-in-law slings gold bracelets on
the bride’s arms with joyous peals of “my soul, “oy faygeleh, oy malenka.” (My
little bird, my little one). Malenka, in Polish means “my little one,” and in
Yiddish, faygeleh, a popular girl’s name in the 19th century, means “bird.” (The
name usually is spelled Faygele. Girls named so are called “fayghee” or “fay”
for short.

In the traditional shtetl or village setting onstage, a group of Klezmer
musicians encircle the bride and groom as they are swayed back and forth on the
shoulders of the dancers. In the little Polish village, a band of Jewish Klezmer
musicians played side by side with a troupe of Gypsy musicians (whose dance
traditions are of Indic origins). The Gypsies (Rom), beat out a one-and-uh, two-and-uh,
rhythm on a goatskin drum.

The rhythm rises, becoming louder. Suddenly an alto clarinet pipes trill notes
in a shrill melody. A fiedler (fiddler) with his violin wails into the purple-salmon
sky (or stage lighting).

The twangy strings of a balalaika plays faster as the bride and groom dance
around the chuppah, after being united in matrimony under it. Thumping of the
drums grows louder. Now in a Georgian leaping dance, and after, in a Russian
chair. Lines of men dance the kazatchka with the groom, bending deeply the left
knee, with the right leg extended outward in a line formation. The left arm is
flung out horizontal, while the right arm is bent at the elbow and hugs the
right hip. The men walk around the chuppah in this “kazatchka formation, as in
the Russian dance which had its origin in Daghestan on the Caspian sea in the
8th century. It’s a dance also popular in the Caucasus and seen in painting of
ancient Egyptian art.

As the wedding dance to the Klezmer music progresses, the music now changes to a
major scale. Each dance lasts up to a half-hour, until a new melody is
introduced, and fresh dancers take their places. The Rikkud dance is not only
for Hassidic or Jewish weddings of Eastern Europe. It is also danced after a
synagogue service, when the Sabbath has ended and the Havdalah candle of
separation from the day of rest was lighted marking the end of the Sabbath
period.

Another Jewish dance of Eastern Europe performed to Klezmer music is the Tish.
It’s a long, slow meditative melody swayed in a circle of men and a separate
circle of women who never meet. The melody begins as a song sung at the rabbi’s
table by the rabbi’s son or one of the Hassidim. The Tish is a nigun, or sacred
song that eventually became danceable to Klezmer music. It has several parts,
and the mood varies. It reminds me of the Syrian Jewish pizmoneem chants and the
music of the nobeh parties one used to find in the early fifties along Ocean
Parkway in Brooklyn.

A refrain appears toward the end. Between sections , the women dance an “awolloch”
pastoral melody, while the men sway to a coloratura clarinet, the wail rising
like the sound of a shepherd’s flute. Both men and women dance to a dveykut
melody at Klezmer music weddings. The dveykut is a slow, introspective, soul-stirring
song, lengthy, and danced with deep feeling as it is sung with the same emotion.
Originally Hasidim sang the dveykut when they were reading at a study desk or
just before the rabbi would begin his discourse. Later, the dances become a
march as the bride and groom finally dance with each other, holding a
handkerchief or scarf between them and circling around one another.

The last dance at a Jewish wedding is the Malenka waltz. In Byelorussia and
Eastern Poland, particularly in Lodz and Volskovisk, the European waltz
permeated Jewish weddings. Militaristic marches were foreign to Eastern European
Jews of the 18th and 19th century, so any marching tune quickly was turned into
patriotic songs about Hannukah, the festival of lights, or sung at Purim, but
not at weddings.

Few engaged in ballroom-type dancing, so folk music was borrowed from many
different cultures-Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Egyptian, Caucasus
Mountains, Khazar, Caspian, and Middle Eastern cultures. Sephardic Jews from
Spain who migrated to Poland and Russia, Romania, or Bulgaria, brought their
“zamba-Mora” style dance of Morocco, Spain and Syria, while those who emigrated
to Romania and Moldavia inherited the Romanian ‘hora’ dance, which today is
popular in Israel and is said to be of Roman origin through the original Roman
colonists of Dacia (now Romania). However, Jews came to Romania only three
hundred years ago, from the mountains of Herzegovina, Sephardic settlements,
Germany, and Poland.

Original Hassidic melodies were composed by the Rabbis themselves (called rebbe).
In the cities of Ger and Kotzk, melodies composed by Schubert, Chopin, and Verdi
were played at Jewish weddings on occasion. The Tzadik of Kuzmir (1806-1856)
proclaimed that a Sabbath without a new nigun or song was not truly a Sabbath.
Inspired by leading rebbes, the Hassidim would invent new meditations and sing
and dance them to tunes.

By repetition the wedding songs were learned by the Klezmer musicians, and the
dances were passed on through repeated steps as well. The same songs became
familiar throughout the European pale of settlement. The dance was based on the
oral tradition of the music. Who are the old masters of Klezmer music? M.S.
Geshuri, the eminent authority on the music of the Hassidim, wrote the book,
Lachasidim Mizmor (Jerusalem 1955). The city of Modziz became a spiritual center
built primarily on music.

It has been said that Rabbi Israel Taub, of Warsaw, the founder of Modzitz
Hasidim (1848-1920) , in “Divre Yisrael,” compared man’s ascent on the ladder of
life to a musical scale. “Just as the eighth tone is a repetition of the root
tone one octave higher, so too, is a man’s climb throughout life. Although he
progresses ever higher, becoming complacent in his achievement, he must be aware
that ultimately he must return to the root.”

Rabbi Saul Taub of Ozorow Poland (b. 1886) was the most prolific Hasidic
composer of all time with the total of 700 compositions. For further information
on Jewish Music of Eastern Europe, try “Yiddishe Musik in Poilen”, (Yiddish
Music in Poland—between the two wars), by Ysacher Fater.

Through the years, Yale Strom, a Klezmer musician, has done a great deal of work
among the Jews and Rom (Gypsies) of Eastern Europe. One of the closest friends
Strom has made is Lepold Kozlowski, the last Klezmer in Poland who grew up in
the tradition to be still playing and teaching Klezmer music in Poland and other
European countries today.

Strom became so intrigued that he decided to make a documentary film about
Leopold’s life in Poland before, during, and after the Holocaust. Leopold’s
grandfather, Pesakh Brandwine was born in the Ukraine, then part of Czarist
Russia, and formerly Poland. There were 16 children in the family. Pesakh formed
a Klezmer band (kapelye) with his sons, and the band traveled throughout eastern
Galicia.

They performed for Jews and Christians alike, including performances for
nobility, such as Franz Joseph, the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Leopold was born in 1923, and at dances and weddings, he played Klezmer music on
the accordion. Leopold studied Klezmer music in Lvov, Poland, as well as
classical music and swing. After the war, he studied at the music conservatory
in Krakow. Leopold formed the Polish Army’s Symphony Orchestra, Choir, and
Ballet, which he conducted for the next 23 years.

He became music director for the Yiddish Theatre in Warsaw. He lives in Krakow
with his wife and daughter and still performs, arranges, and composes Yiddish
and Rom music for theatre and film in Poland. Leopold acted in the film,
Schindler’s List, and was profiled on the NBC Today Show in February 1994.

The Yiddish Klezmer dance theatre of Poland can be seen in the Yale Strom’s
film, The Last Klezmer, Leopold Kozlowki: His Life and Music, through New Yorker
Films, 16 W. 61st St., NY, NY 10023 (212) 247-6110. Some of the favorite Klezmer
dances are set to tunes such as “Odessa Mama,” “Feygele,” “And the Angels Sing,”
Abi Gezunt, (as long as you’re healthy), “Fun Der Khupe,” (From the wedding
canopy), Der Hoyfzinger Fun Varshever Geto,” The court singer from the Warsaw
Ghetto), Firn Di Mekhutonim Aheym,” (Escorting the in-laws home), which can be
heard on CDs, such as the Klezmer Conservatory Band, Rounder Records Corp. 1
Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140. if a Jazz element is wanted, or try dancing to
Yale Strom’s CD, “Hot Postromi,” which has excellent dance tunes, from Global
Village Music, 245 W. 29th St., NY, NY 10001 (212) 695-6024.

Yale Strom is an outstanding Klezmer violinist. His melody “The Steppes of Syami,”
was learned from a Klezmer who came from Stolin, Belarus. He had learned it from
itinerant musicians who came from the steppes of the Caucasus mountains. The use
of 6/8 rhythm in the piece, typical of many Persian and Circassian folk melodies
from this region, is excellent for Klezmer dancing. In his CD, Strom also adds
other elements.

Global Village Music’s titles include many Klezmer recordings excellent for
dance, including those that combine Klezmer with jazz, and others such ass Emil
Bruh, Klezmer Violinist, pure Klezmer to dance to, such as Klezmer Music
1910-1942, and many other Klezmer titles ranging from “The Compleat Klezmer” to
Flory Jagoda’s Bosnian Women’s Jewish Music. For dance only, I also recommend
The New Shtetl Band Jewish & Balkan Dance Music and Klezmer Vod Klez Encounters,
I.J. Hochman, Master of Klezmer Music, and the Maxwell St. Klezmer Band’s
Maxwell St. Days. These tapes and CDs are all at the Klezmer music specialists,
Global Music. The firm also carries Sephardic (Middle Eastern and Spanish Jewish
music), Middle Eastern, and Armenian music.

Defining the Terms

1. Klezmer…Jewish dance and song band that traveled the pale of settlement
throughout Eastern Europe’s Jewish communities from the 17th century until 1940.
Continues in the United States today in a new dance revival of Hassidic (pious)
music.

2. Rikkud…a type of dance performed by Hassidic Jews of Eastern Europe from
the mid 18th century until present times. After WW2, it was carried over to the
United States and performed at weddings among Hassidic communities.

3. Hassidic or Hassid…The term means ‘pious’ and spiritually-guided through
dance and song to worship. Often singing and Klezmer music is used to celebrate
weddings and worship at the same time, unless forbidden by Shabbot or Holiday
halacha, or rules. Hassids emphasize dance, song, and music, particularly
Klezmer music in their spiritual union with the creator.

4. Nigun, plural, Nigunim….Hassidic songs and poems sang in an oral tradition.

5. Polish Hassidic Wedding Dance Style…Dance steps are done from forward to
back. Men and women dance separately before the wedding. After the bride and
groom are blessed and married under the canopy (chuppah), the men and women
cross their right hand over their left and join hands, dancing to and fro. In
strictly orthodox Hassidic communities, the men and women still dance separately.

6. chuppah….Canopy of drapes lifted on posts and decorated with flowers or
veils. The Rabbi weds the bride and groom in a traditional Jewish marriage as
the couple stands under the chuppah.

Defining the Target Enrollment

Students who want lessons in how to play Klezmer music or dance to Klezmer music
may benefit by classes in traditional Eastern European Yiddish music and/or
dance. These lessons may be found in elementary schools and for older adults,
continuing education classes (adult education.) Jewish community centers.
Contact the YMHA/YWHA at the 92nd St. Center for Performing Arts, Theatre, and
Dance, in New York City, for referral to Klezmer music and dance teachers in
your area. Also try Jewish community centers that have performing arts divisions.
Some Reform synagogues also have a theatre group with choreographers who
specialize in teaching Jewish dance traditions from a variety of countries–Eastern
Europe, Egyptian-Syrian, Moroccan, Sephardic (medieval Spanish-Jewish dances),
Russian, etc.

How Students are Attracted to Classes

Students interested in playing Klezmer music or in Jewish historical dance and
music, usually found at Jewish Community Centers, Jewish schools, and performing
arts centers, can be recruited. Also non-Jewish dancers interested in Eastern
European, Balkan, and Middle Eastern Ethnic dance can be recruited. Several
magazines are devoted to Mid-East dance. Also try advertising in Avotaynu, the
International Review of Jewish Geneaology, 1-800 Avotaynu, for referral to other
Jewish music and dance magazines that specialize in your area of emphasis. Most
Jewish communities in centers of recent immigrants from Russia or Persia, such
as Brighton Beach (Russian Jewish emigres), Los Angeles, or San Diego (Jews from
Persia) have their own community organizations that offer Jewish dance classes
in Klezmer dancing or Klezmer musical and theatre studies.

Music, band, and dance troupes that specialize in ethnic dancing are very
resourceful. I highly recommend the Amman Dance Company, Jewish musical theatres
usually found at synagogues, and associations of ethnic dancers for teacher
referrals to dance students. The best way to learn Klezmer music or dancing is
to contact a good Klezmer band and volunteer to work along with them.”

How do you get “Klezmer” music? Hundreds of CDs of Klezmer music have preserved
the 18th and 19th century traditions from Eastern Poland and Russia, Moldavia,
Romania, and the Ukraine. Music from Bessarabia and Volskovisk, Byelorus, and
other areas of the Pale of Settlement of Jews in Eastern Europe during the last
four centuries have been handed down by oral tradition. Klezmer musicians almost
never learned notes, unless they studied classical music with the great teachers
of Europe, and played their own style of Klezmer on the side.

Klezmer in style differed from the classical European music of the times in that
it’s melodies originated in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. The
joyous dance music was used to worship in song and with a joyous soul. It is
soul-stirring uplifting music that to the Western Ear sounds as if it comes off
the steppes, when all at once it turns Turk, Persian, Arabic, Egyptian,
Canaanite, and most of all, Jewish, in the very sense of the word in that it
wanders from land to land, picking up a bit of ethnicity from every culture it
passes through–Armenian, Persian, Turkish, Egyptian, Russian, Polish, Caucasus
Mountaineer, Arabic, Romanian, Greek, Lithuanian, and so on.

What playing Klezmer music or singing and dancing to it reveals is a spiritual
union of dancer with the joy of life, a giving of thanks for blessings found in
nature, and a salute to life. For further information on Klezmer music or
dancing to it theatrically, contact Yale Strom, who lives in San Diego and New
York and travels all over, and his band, “Hot Pstromi (Zmiros), 2248 29th St.,
Astoria, New York 11105, (718) 956-1968. Yale Strom and his musicians have
traveled to Eastern Europe and made films on Klezmer music and dance.

Yale’s book on Klezmer music is an authoritative work of research for anybody
who wants to know what Klezmer music is. He has contacts in Eastern Europe and
in the United States and could certainly help dance teachers findout more about
Klezmer music and how to dance to it. His jazz and Klezmer combinations,
including his own arrangements are on his CD, “Hot Pstromi.” In San Diego, Jeff
Pekarek arranges and trascribes Klezmer melodies and has transcribed for Yale
Strom’s CD.

Some of the most beautiful Klezmer dances originated from Klezmer musicians of
Stolin, Belarus. Dance Klezmer music from Belarus comes from old Hassidic tunes
near the Ukrainian border that are now sung in the Stoliner synagogue in
Detroit, Michigan.

According to Strom, The tune was sung on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, and
the most holy day on the Jewish calendar. The melody was sung to stall for time
until the ram’s horn was sounded signaling the end of the holy day. Yale Strom
based the arrangement his musical piece, “Dripping Water” on this tune.

Dancers of Klezmer music, will find this very slow-beat piece easy to move to,
especially, if used to teach elderly dancers to move with the slow beat in an
almost Tai-Chi-Chuan-like motion of gesturing and slow twisting to the melody
symbolizing the act of waiting. I highly recommend this tune for beginning
dancers who want to use hand and shoulder movements with slides and glides to
this soul-lifting Klezmer tune. Dance, play, and enjoy the spirit of the music
that moves you.
Today, Klezmer is for all ethnic groups, and it’s become part of the American
folk and world music scene. When I visit shopping malls, some days there is a
Klezmer group playing during the lunch hour. Let’s get more ethnic and world
music into the noontime shopping malls and office lobbies. What a great way to
spend one’s lunch hour.

Anne Hart, author of 36 books writes novels and how-to books as well as pieces
on music and fine arts. She holds a graduate degree and has been writing
fulltime freelance since 1963.

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Ancient and Modern

Various Artists

The Rough Guide To The Music Of Pakistan (World Music Network RGNET 1116CD, 2003)

This comparatively young country has musical roots and traditions that go back hundreds of years taking in Sufi songs and the classical ghazal whilst also embracing sounds that come from modern film music and pop. This cd, like many of the Rough Guides, offers a very worthwhile taster.

Going back to the older traditions of Sufi poets, Pathane Khan, with minimal accompaniment, praises his master in the words of Punjabi mystic poet Kwadja Farid. This is a fine start to the album, solemn but uplifting. In a stronger rhythmic style Abida Parween also draws on Sufi song, combining two in one on Yaar Di Gharoli. Again the devotional content is central and the live context of the performance adds to the immediacy and passion as she delivers her message. The ghazal form has several airings on the cd and the one I find most moving is by Farida Khanum. She has a very deliberate way of conveying the song’s meaning, restrained and intimate, her plea for a lover to linger is convincing, even though I have no knowledge of the language she uses.

A transcendent experience, perhaps. A male ghazal singer, Medhi Hassan, also makes a strong impression. He is joined by tabla and sarangi for his version of Thumri In Raag Desh, which tells of the pain suffered in separation. His voice and sarangi echo each other in the melody’s undulations.

There are also examples of purely instrumental music whose fairly prosaic titles belie their beauty and elegance. My favourite is from Sultan Muhammed Channe & Shah Wali. Traditional Pashtoun Song – that’s the title – showcases the rahab, a four string lute that has a peculiar resonance, at times like the oud but often more like a banjo.

Of contemporary sounds Vital Signs are probably the most pop orientated though Sajad Ali and Faakhir also display Western influences alongside more traditional/classical roots.

No compilation of this sort would be complete without the voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Aj Rang Hai Hai Maa takes us right back to the beginning, well at least 700 years, having been composed by qawwali’s founder, Hazrat Amir Khusrau. It is sung with the typical exuberance and celebration we expect from the great man. His voice takes off on an unimpeded lyrical flight leaving me, at any rate, with a sense of both joy and loss. It is a fitting end to a varied and vibrant selection.

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Ravikiran enthralls at Richmond

Chitravina N Ravikiran, prodigy since two, living legend since 22 and the world’s greatest slide player, if you go by the opinion of Radio Australia, entertained connoisseurs with
heartstopping and soul stirring music at Richmond, Virginia on Aug. 3rd.Ravikiran’s repertoire includes classical Indian ragas as also facile world music compositions, some of which are his own compositions. His presentation of some of the Carnatic masterpieces made one look up and take notice for this side of Indian music. Most listeners in the West have been exposed to the meandering exposition of long raag alap by artists from the Northern part of India but the southern system is full of lively songs laced with exciting improvs.

Ravikiran’s concert improved the listeners’ perspectives as he did not stint on explanations whenever appropriate and held the audience interest throughout.

Ravikiran’s creative forays were out of the ordinary. All in all, the music was an ideal mix of thrills but without any needless frills.

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Tribute to Cuban Singer in New York

Carlos Patato Valdés
Carlos Patato Valdés
(Prensa Latina -Cumbancha) New York, USA – Legendary Cuban singer Graciela Pérez, who performed with the orchestra of Latin jazz forerunner Machito will be paid homage by her colleagues this coming August 27, on her 87th birthday.

According to entrepreneur Charles Carlini, a group of outstanding jazz and salsa musicians, including Ray Barreto, Cándido Camero, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, Larry Harlow, Bobby Sanabria, Steve Turre, Mike Collazo, Ray Mantilla and Arturo O’Farrill Jr., will take part in the tribute to take place at the Birdland center.

Graciela Pérez had a long and successful career that made her famous as “the queen of bolero.” She accompanied her brother Francisco Pérez, who had to change his identity to Frank Grillo, and made history with his band, called Machito and his Afro-Cubans, which once enlisted such music myths as Mario Bauzá and Chano Pozo.

According to most experts, the fusion of Be Bop with Cuban music, the creation of Cu Bop, and, consequently, Latin jazz was precisely led by Machito’s orchestra and the encounter of this band with Dizzy Gillespie in the mid-1940s.

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The Rough Guide To South African Gospel

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The Rough Guide To South African Gospel
The Rough Guide To South African Gospel
an Francisco, USA – This new installment of the Rough Guide collection focuses on South African Gospel. Today, gospel music remains one of the populist mainstays of everyday life in South Africa’s urban townships and rural communities, and it also constitutes one of the largest genre segments of the local record industry.

Its widespread popularity within South Africa has spilled over to the international stage, with groups and artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Rebecca Malope.

The Rough Guide To South African Gospel brings together twenty-two performances recorded over the last forty years, to cover the entire range of local styles, from apostolic choirs to pop-influenced gospel divas, and features the most famous artists in the field.

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Second Generation, First-Rate Reggae

Morgan Heritage – Three In One
Morgan Heritage

Three In One (VP Records VPCD 1656, 2003)

After bringing reggae to the punk rock massive with their participation in the Warped tour, Morgan Heritage now offer up their most wide-ranging and best album yet. These offspring of reggae singer Denroy Morgan deliver roots consciousness with just enough touches of pop and dancehall to occasionally lighten the load.

The disc opens with “Jump Around,” a bopping dance tune reminiscent of Third World, before the more serious stuff starts kindling the righteous flame. Potent tracks like “Ah Who Dem,” “Rebel,” “Falling Race” and the acoustic “Anti-War Song (Someone Knows)” speak of religious hypocrisy, government corruption, personal responsibility and other such topics to wrap your mind around, demonstrating the sharpness with which the band have developed not only as singers and players but as insightful cultural observers.

There’s also a rousing ska number (“Everything is Still Everything”), some soulful love songs, spiritual reassurances and more, all tied up in a lengthy package of modern roots reggae rhythms characterized by by solid drums and bass laced with tightly tasty bits of guitar, keyboard and harmonies.

Morgan Heritage are consistently outspoken regarding their commitment to keeping the spirit of reggae pure and heartfelt, and Three In One shows how well they’re keeping the faith.

Buy Three In One

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Celtic Fusion Has Begun

Down, Northern Ireland – The annual Celtic Fusion International Music Festival began today and will run until August 10.

This year there was a special opener, Celtic Ceili with Pipes in Ballynahinch on Thursday 7 August, featuring Robert Watt, world champion piper and friends. Michael McGoldrick and Band in concert on Friday 8 August in Castlewellan.

On Saturday 9 August, the Main Festival Stage in Castlewellan Forest Park will play host to a number of highly regarded and talented international musicians including:

· La Bottine Souriante (Quebec, Canada)
· Altan (Ireland)
· Dougie MacLean (Scotland)
· Sharon Shannon (Ireland)
· Shooglenifty (Scotland).

Danu live in concert on Sunday 10 August in Newcastle.

Ticket prices for the main festival stage performance on Saturday 9 August in Castlewellan Forest Park are £20.00 (Under five’s go free). A limited number of family tickets will be available for this main event at a special price of £50.00 for two adults and three children.

Tickets are £10 each for the Michael McGoldrick and Band concert on Friday 8 August and for Danu on Sunday 10 August.

Tickets for the festival will be going on sale May 8th from Ticketmaster and usual outlets.

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Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC)

Los Angeles, USA – The biggest event in the world for Latin Rock & Hip Hop will be held in Los
Angeles, August 14th -16th. Highlights of the Los Angeles concert events include two nights of free concerts at Grand Performances at The California Plaza, the La Banda Elastica Awards ceremony at the
Universal Amphitheatre, an LAMC Indie Night Show-Down at the Knitting Factory, Acoustic Writers Showcase at The Highlands, LAMC Showcase at The Palace, and a Closing Night Party. Featuring the hottest bands in the genre as well as many of the music industry’s leading decision-makers, panels and exhibition hall.

The last day for the special “Early Bird” registration rate of $199 is April 29th. You can register online at http://www.latinalternative.com or by calling +1 818.763.1397.

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Pedaling tabla beats

Autorickshaw (Tala-Wallah Records)

The word autorickshaw sums up this Toronto quintet’s musical repertoire. When I used the search word
autorickshaw, I found a handful of sites that sold just that, motorized rickshaws. We forgot sometimes that
India despite it’s ancient traditions does also have a contemporary side. On one hand, visitors of the country
can still partake in the old way, by riding in a rickshaw that is pedaled by a human or take a ride in a more
modern vehicle. The Canadian group Autorickshaw, not to be confused with modern Indian transportation
reflects on the musical diversity that a city such as Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver have to offer. And part of
that musical diversity includes musicians trained in both jazz and classical Indian traditions. You would be
surprised how many similarities these two genres share. For instance, jazz and classical Indian music both
rely heavily on improvisation, syncopation and the analytical mind. I first encountered Autorickshaw performing a set with Harry Manx and Tantra at the Vancouver Folk Music
Festival. Vocalist Suba Sankaran had pulled out a steamy jazz standard in which she added a few vocal tricks
of her own. To say that she left me speechless is an understatement. In the past, she worked with her father,
the mrdangam master, Trichy Sankaran and she trained as a classical singer and pianist. She eventually took
up jazz and working with choirs or contributing to a film soundtrack. This eventually led her to work with tabla
player Ed Hanley (an exceptionally talented musician). Also appearing on the recording are Dylan Bell and
Rich Brown on bass as well as, percussionist Debashis Sinha.

The first track, Ganamurthy hails from south India and represents the Carnatic tradition with the exception of
the bass guitar and tabla that embellish the song. Ganamurthy which praises Lord Krishna is a raga originally
composed by the 18th Century saint composer Thyagaraja in Adi tala (8 beat cycle). Kapi-Wallah translates
to either raga or coffee merchant. And the musicians drank lots of coffee when recording this challenging
piece. It is also a Carnatic raga that was commissioned by choreographer Natasha Bakht, thus marks the first
musical collaboration for the ensemble of musicians and the birth of Autorickshaw. Cloudscape/Monsoon
ventures into jazz territory and features Suba on piano and vocals, Ed on percussion, Debashis on drums and
Dylan on bass. Cloudscape/Monsoon shows off Suba’s jazzy vocals and piano chops while recalling the work
of Charlie Parker.

Sammi Ninne, a traditional varnam composed by Karoor Devudu (Sree raga) again features the 8 beat cycle,
but brings in the tabla thus marrying the north and south Indian classical styles. Ikat highlights Ed’s tabla
prowess. And the final track, Sunrise fused Indian and Indonesian music using the 8 beat cycle. The
recording features tabla tarang (a set of three tabla tuned to different pitches), kanjira, bass and vocals.

Autorickshaw brings in all their musical influences from classical Indian, classical and jazz music without
succumbing to creating Asian fusion music or chill out music like their UK contemporaries. The music on this
recording possesses an organic quality that emphasizes the musicians’ talents and passion for different types
of music. This CD marks the debut of a group that has only been around a year or so, but if it is any indication
of future projects, Autorickshaw will be leaving listeners speechless for years to come. Hailing from Ontario,
the home of the late Glenn Gould, Autorickshaw might also be called virtuoso and certainly unique.

www.autorickshaw.ca

Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music.

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28th New York Salsa Festival at Madison Square Garden

Oscar D'Leon
Oscar D’Leon
New York, USA – A large gathering of salsa artists will take place September 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The salsa festival with feature well known artists: Gilberto Santa Rosa & his Orchestra, Oscar D’Leon & his Orchestra, Fania All Stars, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barreto , Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, Papo Lucca, Bobby Valentin, Roberto Roena, Larry Harlow, Yomo Toro, Alfredo De La Fe, Jimmy Bosh, Adalberto Santiago, Junior Gonzáles, Ismael Quintana, and young Puerto Rican sonero Ray Viera.

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