Music Preview: Yidstock 2024 — Roots and Branches


Debra Cash

“The only way to keep music alive is to treat it as a living thing and support artists who approach it that way, rather than as a museum piece of art.”

Yidstock, the New Yiddish Music Festival, will be held July 11-14, 2024 at the Amherst Yiddish Book Center.

A few months ago, Hankus Netsky, a pioneer of Eastern European music and professor at the New England Conservatory of Music, Klezmeier In 1980, he founded the Boston Klezmer Conservatory Band and saw a lively Jewish music performance at the Somerville Armory, sparking the musical revival. Looking around at the ecstatic crowd about the same age as his adult daughter, he turned to Judy Bressler, KCB’s original lead singer, and joked, “It’s a shame there aren’t any old people who like Yiddish anymore. “

While the joke is exaggerated, the sentiment is illuminating: Yiddish music is no longer primarily a touchstone for the immigrant generation and those who grew up speaking or at least understanding Yiddish at home. The klezmer torch has been carried forward by a new generation of artists born in the United States and Canada, as well as singers and instrumentalists in Europe, Israel, South and Central America, all of whom cherish classic klezmer, folk and musical instruments. Yiddish theater and Yiddish cabaret repertoire and investing in new musical expressions of its traditions. For many Jews descended from Ashkenazi immigrants, the klezmer remains Haimisha piece of music with a sense of belonging.

Next month, the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst will host its twelfth annual Yiddish music festival, the New Yiddish Music Festival. A four-day event including a series of concerts, workshops, lectures and special film screenings, the Book Center is located in a beautiful and evocative apple orchard on the edge of the Hampshire College campus.

Seth Rogovoy, curator of Yidstock. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Seth Rogovoy serves as the curator of Yidstock. The 2024 festival features fan-favorites such as klezmer superstars the Klezmatics (who opened the festival with a set that sold out almost immediately) and first-time Western Mass Music Festival performers artist. Over the course of four days, audiences will be able to experience international klezmer samplers with Josh Dolgin (aka Soknown Gephilte) from Montreal and Daniel Kahn from Berlin, an improvisational band that utilizes rap, funk and R&B styles. (I found Kahn’s adaptation of “Mentshn-Fresser,” a World War I Yiddish ballad about tuberculosis and polio, to be the most compelling music video of the pandemic.) Khumesh Lider (biblical story) The work of the great Yiddish poet Itsik Manger (1901-1969) by Basya Schechter and Avi Fox-Rosen should be another A highlight.

“The important thing is that the subtitle is Yidstock, New Yiddish Music Festival” Rogovi said. “We are committed to Jewish music as it has been heard for the past 50 or 100 years, and almost all of our artists use this musical history as part of the foundation of their creations. But we look for those who bring new artists who make something new, different, contemporary. The only way to keep music alive is to treat it as a living thing and support artists who approach it that way, rather than treating it like a museum piece of art.

Depending on how you count, the klezmer revival is in its third or fourth generation. Adah Hetko and Kaia Berman-Peters are part of the current cadre: with violinist and singer Lysander Jaffe and cellist Raffi ·Boden (Raffi Boden) performs Levyosn (Ashkenazi Hebrew, meaning “Leviathan”) together.

Heitko grew up in a musical family. Her father was a guitarist who played in everything from Elvis Presley to progressive rock bands, her brother was an old-time banjo player who also played Greek music, and her mother organized folk music Festival. Her obsession with Yiddish songs dates back to 2013.

Hankus Netsky, professor at the New England Conservatory of Music. Photo courtesy of the artist

“I had just graduated and was working in the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Vassar College. I was very interested in minority languages ​​at the university and in the Jewish community and Jewish community dynamics. I told the campus rabbi, who was really wonderful, that I was interested in Italian. I’m curious about the Dish language because it runs in my family. She replied, “Well, I went to a weird place ten years ago and thought you might like it.” ” That’s how I ended up going to Klezcamp, my first Klezmer festival.

Her bandmate Berman-Peters, the daughter of a Jewish studies scholar, took up accordion as a teenager and began attending Columbia University’s drop-in klezmer classes led by mandolinist Jeff Warschauer (who himself spent a lot of time Years spent playing with KCB — klezmer) The world is full of cross-connections. Ada then adds her folk sensibility and brilliant, singable translation.

Even though they view their work as a multi-influence act of “cultural sampling” and remixing, today’s young klezmer artists are quick to turn to their senior teachers and mentors, musicians and academics such as Netsky, Kahn, Warschauer, Schechter) for crying out loud. (Bresler formally mentored Hetko through the two-year Popular Culture Council Traditional Arts Apprenticeship, a recently terminated program that is sorely missed.) Special thanks to Hetko and Berman-Peters Women who are mentored by them in their fields.

Levyosn – This Boston-based group is part of the latest klezmer renaissance. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Netsky said that the practice of disseminating Yiddish music has changed. In the past, he would find a rare Yiddish 78, make a cassette, and then circulate it among the small circle of klezmer enthusiasts “like Trade it like a baseball card.” Today, YouTube is a rarity, and there are a few, if not enough, collections of digitized Yiddish music available online.

However, challenges to deeper engagement and understanding remain. “Young people realize that if they want to understand Jewish music, they better understand Hasidic music, they better understand cantor music, they better understand new, the various modal melodies you play in synagogue, because guess what? If you don’t understand the language of music, good luck creating Ashkenazi music. There is a whole world. What has happened now is that the world has opened up.

“Playing Yiddish Music [at the Yiddish Book Center] “You’re surrounded by symbols of Yiddish culture,” which is very special, Heitko said. “The large performance hall contains a golden peacock chandelier, which is a symbol of Yiddish culture, music and poetry. It is also related to the idea of ​​Jewish mobility, moving from one place to another. The persistence of this mythical symbol is of great importance to Very kind to me.

Add Berman-PetersGoing to Idstock truly feels like a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.


Debra Cashis a founding senior contributor to Arts Fuse and a member of its board of directors, and works at the Jewish Women’s Archives.



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