Sunday, March 16, 2014

Your Revival is Tacky and Bores Me. NEXT!

My friend Bob from Brockley hipped me to this today. It's a Jewish-Azerbaijani artist named Akshin Alizadeh who just happens to love Yiddish swing as much as we do. Check out how he mixes Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn with modern beats:

It's kind of fun. And I would like to hear more. But I'm also reminded of a rant that's been a long time brewing. So I went back into the dusty attic of my drafts folder and decided to publish the following. Consider it a preemptive shot against those hipper than I who might declare Akshin Alizadeh the vanguard of some techno-Yiddish revival. Before you take it from them, take it from me, two years ago.

(Spring 2012)

The Yiddish Revival Must Die And Heeb Magazine Nails the Coffin Shut

Maybe you've seen this already. Clips of the Jewrythmics were making their way around Facebook walls (including mine), courtesy of a promo bump from Heeb magazine. Jewrhythmics is a Russian/Israeli group making its mark with classic Yiddish songs set to a retro 80s disco.

Here's a clip of them doing a medley including Mayn Shteytele Belz (a Yiddish nostalgia song about the town of Belz, written in America for the American Yiddish stage and screen):

OK.... Am I the only one who hears Pet Shop Boys + Yiddish? Here's a comparison:
The comparison, of course, is intentional. According to their website:
Jewrhythmics is working on the disco-axis Moscow/Tel Aviv: The one city - that radio stations are playing the 70/80's sounds all around the clock – meets the other, which is located in the centre of the Middle Eastern techno club culture. The Disco-Sound is not reproduced in a digital way, but in the sense of a throwback to the early disco era with a variety of analogue synthesizers, drum machines and traditional instruments (guitars, accordion, clarinet and more). Over those spherical sounds hovers the original and genuine Yiddish song as the wave-like echo of a bygone era. 
And according to Heeb blogger Dan Sieradski in 'Jewrhythmics Take Yiddish Revival to the Next Level'
 "Jewrhythmics not only resuscitates decaying cultural forms, it makes them get up and dance. And it is the greatest. thing. ever."
Greatest. Thing. Ever. Since when does the Simpsons comic book guy blog for Heeb? Really. Some Barry Sisters chestnuts laid over a retro-disco beat is the greatest thing ever? THIS is the "next level" in the so-called Yiddish revival?

I mean, is it better than Israeli-Russian Yiddish death metal?

Is it better than the other metal Yiddish band, Dibbukim?

Is it better than OG Canadian hip-hop Yiddish mixologist So Called

Is it better than this ska version of Lomir Ale Zingen

Is it better than my favorite hair metal Yiddish fusion band, Yiddish Princess

Is it better than my favorite punk/gypsy Yiddish fusion band Golem

Is it better than the Godfather

Does anything make Jewrhythmics stand apart from its many predecessors in Yiddish fusion? They've even got a cutesy Jew pun name. (Something I thought would be way too corny for the sangfroid irony of Heeb, but ok.)  

The only thing setting Jewrythmics apart from the crowd is that their production values are much higher, at least in video form. Calling this important reveals an ignorance of everything else that came before, oh, say, yesterday. Claiming Jewrhythmics resuscitate "decaying cultural forms" straight up implies that the last 35 years of the so called klezmer revival never happened. Which, I have to be honest, is a pretty fucking stupid thing to say.


Bashing Heeb feels very turn of the millennium. You won't believe this, but it bores me. And I normally wouldn't say anything about the Jewrhythmics. They're not my gleyzele tey, but they also don't tickle my rage bone. They want to work in Yiddish? Good for them. They get vocalists who are actually familiar with the language? God bless 'em. They have a manifesto? Let she who has not manifested cast the first stone. 

But just because it's in Yiddish doesn't mean I'm gonna like it. There's plenty of Yiddish drek out there. Mostly I smile politely and walk on by. Which is not to say Jewrhythmics is drek. Like I said, their vocalist(s) clearly speak Yiddish. There's nothing terrible about the music. It's just not my cup of tea. But garbage journalism is garbage. It claims to speak for ideas, for something important, when all it really does is speak to our own cultural ignorance. 

1 comment:

  1. You're right Rokhl, Jewrythmics really sounds like PSB. Maybe I'd like them a bit if they were sounding rather like PSB in West End Girls than in Always On My Mind or It's a Sin...

    And thank you so much for your selection of Yiddish artists. I just can't stop listening to Gevolt (they remind me of Rammstein), So Called (especially Rock the Belz; have you seen this amazing video?) and Golem! (Train across Ukraine is my current favourite).