My knowledge of Yiddish consists of only a handful of words. A new one to add to my vocabulary is klezmer, which is Yiddish for “musician.” It comes from the hebrew kele zemer meaning “instruments of music.” This traditional form of music was brought to America from Eastern Europe.
Today there is a revival in the Jewish traditional music klezmer, especially here within California. You may have heard Mostly Kosher perform last month at the Orange County Yom Hatzmaut celebration. Mostly Kosher is a Jewish cultural revival band based in Southern California. The band is composed of eight multi-talented musicians and directed by Leeav Sofer. Last Fall, they released a self-titled album and performed an album release concert with Craig Taubman and the Pico Union Project. While the band’s mission is to preserve Jewish musical traditions, influences from other cultures are evident in their songs, from Afro-Cuban and Jazz to Yiddish theatre. Being able to watch these songs as they are performed live is sure to provide a different experience than simply listening to the album at home. No matter who you are, some of the songs will get you on your feet. One of my favorites is the first track Ikh Hob Dikh Tsufil Lib (I Love You Much Too Much). It’s impossible not to dance to this song. The music definitely moves your body. As a tanguera (someone who dances tango) I can’t wait to dance to this song at my next practica!
Other songs on the album will take you back in time as they stay true to another Jewish tradition—storytelling. I can feel the struggle conveyed in Papirosn (“Cigarettes”) and the celebration in Shivchei Ma’oz – Ma’oz Tsur. A yiddish lullaby that most of us may be familiar with in some fashion is Ofyn Pripetshik (On the Hearth). The song tells the short story of a rabbi teaching his students the alphabet. Even though the album jacket translates each song, the beautifully arranged music provides the meaning all on its own.
The band will be performing next on June 6th at Temple Beth Torah in Ventura and August 9th at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Visit the band’s website at www.mostlykosher.com to purchase the album and get to know the band some more.
Dvorah Lewis is pursuing her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science with a specialization in Archival Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.