500 year after the opening of the world’s first ‘ghetto’ – the Jewish ghetto in Venice was established in 1516 – KlezKanada looks at the reality and the idea of ghettos, Jewish and others. ‘Ghetto’ is a highly charged word and concept, fraught with multiple meanings and associations. The Venetian Jewish ghetto was both a separation and an integration, an opening and a closing off, liberation and restriction. Max Weinreich, in his paper “The Reality of Jewishness versus the Ghetto Myth” asserted that “without a separate community there is no separate language,” to which we add ‘or separate culture, music, cuisine, identity.’ Ghetto as incubator of culture and identity; ghetto(s) as historical and contemporary reality.
On this, the 100th yortsayt of the most beloved classical Yiddish writer, Sholem Aleichem (1859 – 1916, born Sholem Rabinovitz in Pereyaslav, Ukraine), KlezKanada will look at the man, his work and his world. Sholem Aleichem’s will contained detailed instructions to family and friends with regard to marking his yortsayt, telling friends to gather together, “select one of my stories, one of the very merry ones, and recite it in whatever language is most intelligible to you. Let my name be recalled with laughter,” he said, “or not at all.”
Oy vey, Izmir: Turkey and The Ottoman Influence on Jewish and Klezmer Music
Over the years, KlezKanada has looked at many of the important areas where klezmer music formed, and the way musics and cultures intersect. The connection between Yiddish klezmer and Turkish music is frequently mentioned anecdotally, as in this Wikipedia entry: “Klezmer music’s roots are Eastern European, often Romanian and Moldavian with Greek and Turkish influences;” or Josh Horowitz’s course description for Grand Theft Ottoman: “Kandel’s Freylekhs Fun der Khupe is also a Crimean tune, the Heyser Tatar is a Khaitama dance in 7/16, and Brandwein’s Araber dance was played as a Greek Zeibekiko.” Zev Feldman is more nuanced. “By the eighteenth century, klezmorim were also prominent in Ottoman Moldavia, particularly in the capital, Iasi (Yash). Some klezmer lineages persisted for a century or more, such as the Lemisches of Iasi and the Beltsi in Moldavia, first documented in the mid-eighteenth century, who spread to Istanbul, Beirut, and Athens—and to Philadelphia in the United States.” (Note: KlezKanada trombone instructor Rachel Lemisch is a descendant of this important klezmer family.) The list of contemporary artists melding Yiddish and Turkish music is a long one, including Jason Rosenblatt & Shtreiml, Merlin Shepherd, Christian Dawid’s Trio YAS, and many more. We will give this fascinating subject a more focused investigation, looking at both history and contemporary practice.