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Beyond Klezmer: Jewish Traditions And Modern Beats Collide In Berlin

Published: Aug 22, 2013
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Those who associates Jewish music exclusively with Klezmer is in for a big surprise in Berlin.

The city’s young artists are combining Jewish musical traditions with elements of modern styles in a bid to cover the entire gambit of genres.

As the current line-up of events across Berlin are looking back on the capital's cultural diversity in the 1920s as part of the city’s theme of the year, ‘Diversity Destroyed’,  a vibrant and forward-looking development can also be seen on the stages of today.

This is because Jewish Berlin is so much more than just a past phenomenon to be remembered and commemorated; it is an active part of the present-day identity of the city.

It's exciting to discover the diverse ways Berlin artists are mixing their own styles with Jewish traditions and experiences to create something entirely new. Here’s just a sample of what’s hot-to-trot in the city’s music scene at the moment…

Yiddish Evergreens In A New Guise

Classics such as Bei Mir Bist Du Sheyn embody anything but old-fashioned or pure nostalgia for singer Sharon Brauner. Brauner, who grew up in West Berlin, combines the songs of her childhood with elements from jazz and pop, Balkan polka, Arabic music, and even South American rhythms on her album Jewels.

Yiddish Way Of Life In The 21st Century

On her album Jewdyssee, German-Israeli artist Maya Saban celebrates the Yiddish way of life in the 21st century by taking us on a musical odyssey through tradition with a mixture of electro beats, trumpets and clarinets. The musician has been recently working for Lena Meyer-Landrut’s team on the German TV show The Voice Kids, but also appears regularly on Berlin concert stages.

Jewish Avant-Garde With Tradition

American artist Daniel Kahn refuses to be pigeon-holed, describing the music of his band The Painted Bird as "a mixture of Klezmer, radical Yiddish songs, political cabaret and punk folk." He sings in English, German and Yiddish and has already memorialized his adopted home of Berlin in songs such as Görlitzer Park.

Contemporary Klezmer

More and more Berlin ensembles are winning over audiences with variations of classic Klezmer. Among these groups are the three instrumentalists Franziska Orso (clarinet), Robert Kessler (guitar) and David Hagen (bass), who appear together as the Klezmeyers. The trio spices up elements of Klezmer with flamenco, tango, jazz and Arabic rhythms.

Gipsy Jazz And Russian Swing

Eastern European folk and gypsy jazz have also found a home on the Spree. Clärchens Ballhausinvite you to join them once a month as they travel to a bygone era when house band, Gipsy Restaurant, plays in the beautiful hall of mirrors. The Trio Scho has brought Russian swing and ballads from the 1920s to the city as well. These three musicians from the Ukraine have been performing on Berlin's stages since the early '90s.

Unkosher Parties

Modern Jewish culture in Berlin is also closely associated with Berlin's club culture. DJ Aviv Netter's gay-Jewish meschugge parties have become some of the trendiest events in the Berlin nightlife scene in recent years. The unkosher parties continue every other Saturday in Berlin-Mitte. Israeli-style club nights are also hugely popular, with DJs from Tel Aviv performing regularly in the city.

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