Jamie Renton on a CD of cool kosher music
Various Artists: Shtetl Superstars (Trikont)
Could this be the soundtrack to that much talked-about cultural phenomenon, the New Kosher Cool? Compiled by Oi-Va-Voi’s Lemez Lovas and Yurly Gurzhy, the man behind Berlin’s Russendisko club night, this 19-track snapshot of contemporary global Jewish music is likely to come as something of a shock to those expecting musical purity or old time sounds.
Yes, you will find traditional Klezmer here, you will even find passages from the Torah. But they are mixed up with punk, hip-hop, ska, surf guitar and drum n bass.
In other words, this is Jewish culture doing what it does best — taking from and contributing to whichever part of the world it finds itself in. This is the music of the new generation who came after the 1970s klezmer revivalists (the last notable wave of Jewish music), young people unafraid of reaching back to their roots, but confident enough to draw on what is around them.
Opening with Gurzhy’s reggae rockin’ remix of the Amsterdam Klezmer Band’s “Immigrant Song” (one of seven exclusive tracks here), the album moves from UK to USA, Israel to Russia, and all over Europe.
Even those well versed in this music will unearth some worthwhile discoveries, such as US Yiddish ska merchant King Django and Holland’s Alec Kopyt.
New converts can look forward to discovering such fine tunes as Balkan Beat Box’s “Adir Alam” (a funky dance-floor-filler built around a couple of chanted lines of prayer) and Canadian klezmer noir accordionist Geoff Berner’s typically smart “Lucky Goddamn Jew”.