The Shpil (Los Angeles)
Claire Bergen is a third-generation klezmer whose obsession with Yiddish and Eastern European music begins with her great-uncle Harry, born in southeastern Poland, who played trumpet with the great Dave Tarras in New York. Her father and uncle carried the torch, playing the Borscht Belt resorts of the Catskills as teens in the 1950s. Her own studies have brought her to KlezKamp, KlezCalifornia, KlezKanada, and right back to southeastern Poland, where she basked in the birthplace of Yiddish language and culture and learned Polish folk repertoire from the Mudryk family band in the village of Lubzina. Claire is violinist in The Shpil. In 2006 she organized a Concert for Peace benefiting the American University of Beirut Medical Center and in 2009 she co-produced The Unity Project, which brought together klezmer, Arabic music and other genres.
I chose to participate in this project because I believe that music can be a powerful source of social and cultural change. I have been questioning received knowledge about Jewish history in the twentieth century and before since my days as a Hebrew School student, while remaining actively involved in the Jewish community, from which I draw spiritual and cultural sustenance. I hope that this project can contribute to a rich Jewish culture that upholds the dignity and human rights of all peoples and cultures, including those of Palestinians who today live under the occupation of the Israeli military.
KlezPO (Klezmer-Projekt-Orchester) (Göttingen, Germany):
We are a 20-plus piece semi-professional band from the heart of Germany conducted by Wieland Ulrichs. We play Klezmer, liturgical Jewish music, Yiddish vocal songs, and add in some world music spices for concerts, workshops, and dance events.
Bint al-Shalbiye is the orchestral version of a Palestinian Love song. "The Daughter Of Beauty" is a woman who is always out of reach, it's impossible to get close to her. The same story could be told in Germany, Palestine or USA.
This version was arranged by the Norwegian composer Bru Oystein Frantzen who once worked at the Edward Said National Conservatory, East Jerusalem. The score is courtesy of the Conservatory. With this piece we contribute some music from the other side of a wall we do not like at all - and we Germans do have quite some experience with walls!
David Symons of Inner Fire District (Vermont):
David Symons is a performer and teacher of Yiddish music, an accordionist, singer, cornetist, arranger, composer, band-leader, actor, and activist from Burlington, Vermont. He founded and led the bands Black Sea Quartet, Inner Fire District, and The Salt Wives, and was a founding member of Berlin's The Painted Bird. He teaches klezmer music at the Summit School in Montpelier, VT. Last December, he traveled to Cairo, Palestine, and Israel as a delegate to the Gaza Freedom March, and chronicled the experience in a blog.
Why I contributed to the compilation: "Nick contacted me and asked if I would submit some music. The project brings together two of my primary, though essentially unrelated, interests, namely, Yiddish music and stopping the destruction of Palestine by Israel and the United States. How could I say no?"
Go Van Gogh (San Fracisco):
Jesse Walkershaw says,
Personally, I am a jew, and as I utilize ideas and esthetics from cantorial and Ashkenazi folk traditions (among many others), I consider myself a creator of jewish culture. However, Go Van Gogh (the band) has no central political or musical theme. We are contrasting individuals, each with unique ideas and aspirations. The process of seeking common ground is the glue that holds us together. If only it were so for all the world.
My great grand father Israel Isaac Axelrod/Shamfrof/Shaw, with whom I cowrote Oif Der Fater (posthumously for great grand dad) was a political journalist among the variety of things he did to put bread on the table. Although he was a zionist, I have no doubt that he would be 100% in support of his work being included in the Klezmer Against The Wall project. How could a man who was for workers and civil rights in the early 20th century, be other than entirely opposed to the Israeli state policies of the early 21st century. The Warsaw ghettoization of Gaza, extrajudicial murder of political opponents, or the "Separation Wall" are made from the same fabric as manifest destiny, jim crow laws, and Imperialist wars of conquest. He did not support those evils, why would we support these.
Free Radicals (Houston)(read the lyrics to our track "the Occupation")
Free Radicals doesn't play klezmer exclusively, but when we do, it often tends to be our heaviest music. Maybe this is because our band members have several Jewish ancestors, because when we play one-two beats we get confused as to whether we are doing polka, klezmer or punk rock, or because we're so frustrated that people in Israel Palestine are still killing each other. We criticize the brutality of our own government, but just as we like to internationalize our music, sometimes we like to internationalize our criticisms of oppressive policies. Our upcoming CD "the Freedom Fence" will look at some of the parallels between different walls like the one near us here in Texas with Mexico and the one in Israel Palestine, but we are glad to be teaming up with a bunch of other bands to underline a similar message.
In response to the call from Palestinian academics and intellectuals, Free Radicals is refraining from performing at or recording on projects sponsored by Israeli institutions unless they are explicitly anti-occupation.
The Just Desserts (Austin, TX):
Lisa Shawley says...
"The Just Desserts aren't a band, they're a MOVEMENT!". When we overheard this, we giggled, but also appreciated hearing it, since our official mission statement is "to encourage expression, exploration, and inclusion through music and culture in the human community." Taken a step further, our goal is always to be ambassadors for peace by building bridges between people, generations, cultures and countries with music.
Since our incarnation 4 years ago, Michael and I have been bringing together our collective skills, past experiences and passions for the power of music as art and as a tool for healing. Through fifteen years of work as a professional music therapist (and accordion player), I came to learn that music is a powerful tool to create a safe, opening space for individuals to express their authentic voice simultaneously with others, making a powerful and equally authentic new and musical group voice. Before we met, my partner, the cellist Michael Shay, was likewise honing his craft and passion for bringing diverse artists together for mutually rewarding collaboration and creative innovation.
Together as The Just Desserts, we have begun to put this vision and principle of uniting individual voices into a co-created group voice on an international scale. Our latest album, La Valentina features collaborations between Ecuadorian and Austin musicians, interpreting songs from 7 countries. Next stop: Palestine? Being included on this compilation (KMAW) fits in with our belief that individual voices CAN come together happily and peacefully in a group to truly really create new solutions that work for everybody.
Nick Cooper, producer:
I am glad to be working with all these wonderful bands to bring attention to such an important cause. It seems like the energy levels of many forms of non-violent resistance have been growing internationally with the BDS Movement, the 2010 Assembly of Jews: Confronting Racism & Israeli Apartheid, and the Free Gaza Flotilla. I have written many articles about Israel / Palestine: (1, 2, 3, 4) but now I am using music to bring a "tough love" message to Israelis about policies that I find completely unacceptable.
If my birth in 1968 had been to poor parents in Palestine, I would have been under occupation or siege the entire 42 years of my life. Living in the former homes of my grandparents might be some Israelis, who unlike me, would be free to travel as they pleased. I would be 20 times more likely than an Israeli to have been killed or have my children killed in the violence.
I think Israelis would feel incredibly liberated if they left behind the role of jailer; needless to say, Palestinians would feel even more liberated. Maybe it takes an artist to visualize such a thing. I ask Israelis to imagine it, and to understand why this request, or rightful demand, from international civil societies is getting louder and louder. People are yelling, and interrupting sports events, concerts, performances, and conferences. I can imagine someone interrupting a performance of mine and yelling at me, and I imagine it would be miserable. It's time for an end of this small misery and the deeper misery of life in Palestine. It is miserable either to be in jail or to be a jailer, but it is the jailer who has other choices, who has more luxuries, and who has the keys.
Please check out: Ethnic Cleansing of 1948, ei, Angry Arab, Arab Voices, and The Institute for Middle East Understanding.
Mark Weinstein's Jewish Jazz Ensemble (New Jersey):
Aufwind (Berlin, Germany)
Artie Fishel and the Promised Band Courtesy of Gilad Atzmon (Israel / UK)
Di Nigunim (San Diego)
Julia Olivarez (Houston)
Dug Falk (Houston)