"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Klezmer 'Expert'

My friends Anna and David are getting married on Sunday. Anna e-mailed me last week to say, "Since you are indeed the expert on the subject of awesome cool klezmer-type tunes, would you consider putting together a rollicking good-time medley of festive songs to put our guests' toes to tapping? We are thinking our little reception will definitely need some klezmer/gypsy accordion-rockin' type pizazz." I immediately agreed to do it and couldn't have been more excited.

Where did this supposed expertise in Jewish folk music come from? It was about six years ago that I had my formal introduction to klezmer: an outdoor concert that I went to with my grandma. My grandma recalls that I was "bored," that I "didn't like it," and that I was "not at all" into the concert. In 2003, I interned for the Long Island Traditional Music Association's Old Time Fiddle Festival. This exposure to folk music led me to appreciate various subgenres of folk-rock and folk-punk. I eventually became very interested in Jewish punk, leading me to write an article for New Voices in 2005 and travel to California in 2006 to cover a Jewish punk tour for the Forward. In the last year and a half, I've seen klezmer-punk group Golem four times and zydeco-klezmer-Celtic-punk band The Zydepunks three times. My exposure to Golem and other modern klezmer acts has evolved from my interest in Jewish punk.

When I told my grandma about my apparent expertise, she said, "It shows that you grew up and that your tastes change." When I e-mailed my friend Sherri asking for song suggestions, she replied, "So everything I know about present-day klezmer has come from you ... so I'm not much of a help." (This is coming from someone who just got asked to play trombone with a klezmer band at a wedding!)

There's just one small problem with all this: I'm not a klezmer expert. I barely know enough klezmer to do a passable job! Fortunately, I do have enough familiarity with klezmer to serve as a good starting-off point. I was able to pull various klezmer songs from my Golem and Zydepunks CDs as well as some compilations I've acquired and burned through the years. I also knew some friends who provided some help. One sent me songs from Yarmulkazi, the Freilachmakers, and the Cracow Klezmer Band, all of which I'd never heard of before.

All in all, I'd say my klezmer mix turned out pretty good. Maybe I could pass as an expert to even more people!


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