From the Sephardic traditions of Iberia to today’s klezmer innovators, this is a celebration of the living heritage of Jewish music which continues to captivate audiences far and wide.
With the help of the wonderful Galileo music label in Germany, we’ve been privileged to compile this collection of Jewish-inspired music, with its central theme being the value of cross-cultural exchange. During its near-thirty years in existence, the Rough Guide music range has released several Klezmer-themed albums, but never an album which includes some of the other different facets of Jewish music.
With this in mind, what better way to begin than with a celebration of the rich and often overlooked Sephardic musical traditions, with their roots in the Jewish communities of medieval Spain and Portugal. The beautiful opener ‘Adio Kerida’, performed by Liona & Serena Strings, is sung in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) and combines influences from classical, folk and Spanish music. Also featured is the wonderful Al Andaluz Project, another musical ensemble renowned for their reviving of the music of the Jews who flourished in Spain under Moorish rule until the end of the 15th century when they were expelled. Sephardic folk songs are characterized by their heartfelt passion and have been passed orally from generation to generation, such as the moving ‘El Rey Nimrod’ by Annwn, which tells the story of the birth of Abraham, the father of the Jewish people.
From songs of a ‘Golden Age’ to those of the present, Jewdyssee are a band formed around German/Israeli singer Maya Saban which transports Jewish/Yiddish culture into the 21st century with its unusual mix of electro beats, trumpets and clarinets. ‘Cabaret’ is a standout track from their revolutionary album 5773, best described as a musical mélange of traditional Yiddish music with club, electro and swing sounds. Likewise, the charismatic seven-piece Don Kipper imbue their music with cosmopolitan urban energy, born of the influence of North-East London’s cultural crossroads. She’Koyokh are another London-based band whose ‘Der Filosof/Flatbush Waltz’ partners a satirical song mocking rabbis of the Hassidic movement with a waltz that has become a standard of the klezmer repertoire.
Andrea Pancur is a Munich-born singer who has been cited as one of the most important exponents of Yiddish culture in Germany with her unprecedented musical hybrid of Klezmer and Bavarian folk music, as can be heard on her flamboyant rendition of ‘Drey Dreydl’. German-Jewish history is likewise central to the work of fellow Munich musician Nizza Thobi. Born in Jerusalem in 1947 to a Sephardic family, Thobi came into contact with German and Yiddish culture at an early age and has since devoted her career to finding out more about their tragic connection, which she brings to life with her wonderfully soft and husky “mother tongue” vocals. Also of Israeli origin, Yinon Muallem began playing Middle Eastern percussion before learning the oud and developing his composition style, which takes in traditional Jewish music, Turkish Maqam and jazz. Now living in Turkey, Yinon travelled back to Israel to record and inspire his acclaimed Back Home album which includes the featured ‘9 Times Shalom’.
Mames Babegenush was founded in 2004 by a group of friends with an ambition to reform the klezmer scene in Denmark. To this day they continue to leave their personal mark on their music and the rip roaring ‘Tornado Albastru’ is no exception. Further upbeat virtuosity can be heard by the band fittingly known as Klezmer-ish, a group who are committed to exploring the music of immigrants from different cultural backgrounds. Formed by four members of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the riotous closing track ‘The Klezmer's Freilach’ sees the band freeing themselves from the "shackles" of the rigid hierarchy of classical music.