Rise Up!


Once you get hooked up with the New Klezmer music scene, there seems to be no end to the amount of Jewish revival music produced. The Klezmatics have returned, bringing more modernized old tunes and new tunes that sound a thousand years old to disc. Klezmer music is the bouncy folk music of the eastern European Jews, a music that fell out of fashion for a while until everyone decided that assimilation only goes so far, and that today it’s OK to have ethnic roots.

This moody collection is full of mournful and didactic sounds, mostly from traditional sources (“Tepel” and “God, Master of the Universe”), with a few derived from late the 20th century (“Barricades” and “Holy Tongue”). Most interesting is the firm “I Ain’t Afraid” which declares, “I ain’t afraid of your Yahweh, I ain’t afraid of your Allah, I ain’t afraid of your Jesus.” It’s a call to cultural separation and trans-national identity, and one of the strongest songs on the album.

Listening to this record is similar to eavesdropping on a religious service. The words are strange, and you don’t understand all the implications, but there is a defiant air of solemnity and solidarity in this album, and I find that I keep listening to it while I’m writing other things — things nowhere near as religious as the music. Not bad for a band featuring a sabar-style djembe and a faux-Hasidic boys’ chorus.

Rounder Records: http://www.rounder.com

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