"Potchka - To keep busy with no clear end in mind or to mess around"
Immigration and expulsion have been constant threads throughout our time, shaping our cultures and lands. On 29th April 1492, Spain's Catholic monarchs passed the 'Edict of Expulsion of the Jews', persecuting the Jews for "subvert[ing] and steal[ing] faithful Christians from our holy Catholic faith"*. Forced with a choice of converting or leaving, many families fled to Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Greece and Iran, among other countries.
The Jews had a strong connection to Spain and, given only months to gather possessions, several families kept the keys to
their homes: as a symbol of their past, and with the hope of one day returning. In some rare cases the key has survived, passed
down through generations.
In 2012 the Spanish government, in a gesture of reconciliation,approved a bill allowing descendants of the expelled to seek dual citizenship.
* Read a translation of the Edict of Expulsion here: http://www.sephardicstudies.org/decree.html
P.S. We're making a music video and need your help!
We need your old, unwanted keys (if you have any)
Influences Playlist #1
We thought we would share a playlist of some of the music that we've discovered and that have influenced our writing. We've featured some of these artists in previous Potchkas so have a look to find out more and you can join our mailing list to hear more about what we're up to.
1. Louis Danto
2. Gila Beshari
3. Naomi Shemer
4. Aris San
5. Felix Mendelssohn
7. R. Haim Louk
Lid Fun Esterke
Yeroushalayim Shel Zahav
Songs Without Words - Venetian Gondellied
Di Zeides Mit Di Bobbes
Here we are, working on Louis Danto's version of 'Di Zeides Mit Di Bobbes' which translates from Yiddish as 'The Grandfathers and Grandmothers'
Music has the potential to stop time and even dissolve your ego and your problems, that in essence is what Nigunims are about.
Nigun, which literally translates as “Melody” is a style of song specific to the Hassidim (mystic sect. within the Jewish faith). It is traditionally sung and has no words or accompaniment. A melody would be repeated (sometimes for hours) with the intention to reach a trance like state and to become closer to God.
Like most oral traditions, Nigunium have been sifted through many generations and only the most memorable have survived. Fragments of these melodies can be found in many Klezemer tunes and seem to be a key component when trying to identify the "Jewish" sound.
We have been drawn to and influenced by Nigunium for their mystic qualities, (in certain Nigun) a sense that melody is trying to defy gravity and also for its misleading simplicity.
It is believed that whilst a group are singing a Nigun, their souls connect and the spirit of the Rabbi who composed the tune. also becomes present.
The Israeli singer, Gila Beshari, is known for her interpretation of traditional Jewish music from Yemen. As a by-product of growing up in Israel in the 1970's we can also hear a variety of other musical influences in her music. As well as singing religious music, Beshari draws on the history of Women's Yemenite folk song Lively, practical and full of humour by nature, the words would typically discuss home life, relationships between men and women, youth and love.
Click on the image to listen to the album!
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Today is Rosh Hashanah, which literally translates as, "head of the year" and it is the begining of the new Jewish year. One common asscociation with this holiday is the Shofar; A musical instrument which made out of a ram's horn and is one of the most ancient instruments. dating back to stories from the Old Testament.
On the day of the ceremony it is played in a very specific way, combining 3 different sounds:
Tekiah - one long, straight blast
Shevarim - three medium, wailing sounds
Teruah - staccato notes n short succession
This is repeated three times. Each of these sounds has a different meaning and the combination of the three sounds is said to be a spiritual alarm clock, waking us up from our automatic pilot ritualised life's to become more awake in the moment.
Louis Danto (1929-2010)
As we ventured into researching Yiddish Art Song, one of the first musicians we encountered was lyric tenor and cantor, Louis Danto.
His control, phrasing and ability to make the music breathe, strongly resonated with us and in an instant made us go... "Thats it!".
Born in Poland, Danto eventually resided in Russia due to the War and became involved and recorded significant material from 'The Society For Jewish Music in St. Petersburg'.
Here is an all time favourite of ours, a traditional song called "Lid Fun Esterke" (The Song of Esterke).
Music Vs. Cars
In the early 1900's in Eastern Europe, when Ferrari's, television and skydiving hadn't come into the picture, THE most exciting thing at that time, for audiences and Klezmer musicians alike was simply playing a really fast tune!
This was also around the time that the first car was being tested and the drivers and passengers had to whole-heartedly accept the possibility of their souls being left behind in the blazing trails.
Credit to Alan Bern for sharing this story with us!
Dr. Alan Bern
Photo taken by Lloyd Wolf
An all round amazing guy with an astonishing knowledge of Yiddish music and a very special, some-what sensitive approach to teaching, Dr. Alan Bern - Accordanist, Pianist and Composer, is at the fore-front in the revival of Yiddish music.
As well as being program director at Yiddish Summer Weimer in Germany, Alan runs a band called 'Brave New World''
We first met Alan in a Masterclass organised by JMI in 2014. He gave us a real insight into the history of Jewish music and also answered a lot of questions that we had.
"Der Elegante Esel - Triophilia"
Since their invention in 1861, postcards played a significant role in keeping the Jewish race united and connected. They had a number of social uses, such as connecting friends and family far away, sharing pocketsize songs in hebrew and yiddish or even being used as a public forum for social commentary.
Click on the image for the full article and a link to over 1000 other postcards!