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Music of the world

Whether Yiddish songs, klezmer or traditional Jewish instrumental music: With the collection “Sol Sajn: Yiddish Music in Germany and Its Influences (1953–2009)” the editors succeeded in creating one of the most fascinating anthologies in CD history. It documents a living culture that combines very different influences - and preserves what seemed almost lost.

"Playing Jewish music in Germany is strange because it's so normal," says songwriter Geoff Berner. Its audience is largely the same as in other countries. In Germany, however, it should be avoided “to organize a kind of penitential concert for the national guilt of the German people. ›Hear this music! Suffer my mind! You will become better, more righteous people! '«Berner is one of the many interpreters of one of the most fascinating anthologies in CD history:» Sol Sajn: Yiddish Music in Germany and its Influences (1953–2009) «, which has just been published by Bear Family ( BCD 16913– 16), the small label for large editions. A year ago, Bear Family caused a sensation with the award-winning »Jazz in Germany«. "Sol Sajn" is immediately recognizable as a sibling with a similar presentation and the same scope: four aesthetically very appealing digipacks with three CDs each, each of which revolves around a specific topic: "The folk movement discovers the Yiddish song", " Yiddish song in the GDR «,» Yiddish songs from neighboring European countries «,» The American Klez vessel of the Lieder mer revival in Germany «,» The influence of Giora Feidman «,» The ›Yiddish 'world visits Germany«, »Further development of the Yiddish song in Germany«, »Music of immigrant Jews from Eastern Europe and international cooperation«, »Klezmer in the footsteps of Dave Tarras and Naftule Brandwein«, »Klezmer from the USA at the turn of the millennium«, »World Shtetl Weimar« and "New Yiddish Wave".
Those who are curious about these twelve CDs are really going on a journey through time and in all four directions. The word Germany in the title cannot and does not want to hide the fact that we are dealing with interpreters from all over the world, especially from America and Eastern Europe. It not only presents who has performed here, if only briefly, but whose music has had an impact in Germany. On the other hand, it is also clear that Germany's audiences, producers and musicians also had a great influence on the genre. But what is this genre? Anyone who embarks on the listening adventure will find out that the diversity of Yiddish music-making is simply confusing. At the beginning of the listening journey, you might think that the genre can be clearly defined. On the one hand there is the song in Yiddish, on the other hand klezmer music, traditional Jewish instrumental music. But there has always been an overlap in repertoire and style with music from Eastern European, Balkan and Greek music, with the musical styles of the Sinti and Roma. In the United States, from which the klezmer revival started in the 1970s, influences from jazz and other American forms of music were added. At the end of the journey - the last CD has the telling subtitle »Klezmer is dead! Long live Klezmer! «- one realizes that today in the age of» world music «nothing can be delimited at all. Jewish and non-Jewish interpreters may or may not sing in Yiddish. They resort to free jazz, classical art songs, reggae, tango, techno, hip-hop, salsa - you guessed it - simply everything back. The reference to Yiddish may then only consist in the choice of an instrument, a text or, on a subjective basis, a feeling of belonging.

Dispute of opinion in the Yiddish scene

Is it astonishing that Yiddish music has been suffering from a dispute of opinion for a long time, but which also fertilizes the scene? If in jazz you have come to terms with the fact that there are traditionalists and innovators, and that there is probably no art without such a dialectical interplay, the controversy of the Yiddish scene, which raged much more violently 20 years ago than today, is about something existential. If a culture has almost been lost through persecution, annihilation and assimilation, is it not a task to preserve what has been handed down, to reconstruct what has been forgotten? That is why there are musicians who travel the world, rummage through archives, study yellowed sheet music and scratched shellac in detailed detective work. They know that 90 years ago the same melody would have been decorated very differently in the Ukraine than 80 years ago on the American east coast, and then take into account performance-related subtleties in their music that others neither hear nor care about. And then there are those who follow the philosophy of the Argentine-Israeli clarinetist Giora Feidman, who more like any other popularized klezmer music in Germany. He reminds us that the word "klezmer" means "vessel of the song". For him the musician is "like a pipe through which water, that is, art, flows." Music is the "language of the innermost soul" and in this sense everyone can be a klezmer. For him, "every interpretation is improvisation" where you listen to your inner voice. Both currents are about authenticity, but a completely different one. Moving music, which can be enjoyed in 15 and 45 minutes, comes from all camps.
That the competent compilers and commentators are people from research and practice at the same time, greats like Dr. Alan Bern and Heiko Lehmann, who have contributed to the history of this music for a long time, make the accompanying reading particularly interesting. There are not only biographies, photos, complete discographic information and the lyrics of the songs (»only« in German) for all recordings (some of which are rarities, by the way), but even quotes from the musicians, not only from the original CD Booklets come from, for example, private e-mails. In short: the four 100- to 140-page booklets, like specialist reference works, would be picked up often and gladly if they did not easily dissolve into a forest of loose sheets even with careful use - the only downer in this anthology. It will find its place in every good collection alongside Joel Rubin's numerous anthologies of Jewish music published by Trikont and Wergo.

Marcus A. Woelfle, RONDO issue 4/2010

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