Pan Shot Records

The results of a recent Canadian census reveal that over 200 languages are spoken in Canada. I’m guessing Yiddish doesn’t rank high on the list (estimates are the dialect is spoken by fewer than 50 thousand at the turn of the 21st century – there were millions more before the Holocaust). Similarly, many indigenous North American languages have been forgotten and, without benefit of the written word, may never be heard again. But, once again, the international language of music takes it under its wing as it has with Scottish Gaelic and Garifuna (two examples of languages that are high on the endangered list through lack of use). Artists and tradition bearers like Mary Jane Lamond from Cape Breton and the late Andy Palacio have recorded contemporary albums in these forgotten tongues to attract continued interest. Now, German-Israeli singer Maya Saban is revitalizing the Slavic traditional and cabaret modern heritage of Yiddish music with her band Jewdyssee. The new album called 5773 (the current date on the Jewish calendar), tells a lot with is cover graphics. In stark contrast against a white/grey background we see an uprooted tree stump with its root system still intact. Sprouting from the dead stump is a single green shoot, representing no doubt a fresh start from a decimated culture with deeply rooted traditions. Their website encapsulates the project as “crafting cultural history with party rocking beats in a powerful balance of Yiddish melodies and club rhythms. It’s a way of celebrating musical “yiddishkait”in the most vivid way.” We’ve heard similar soundscapes before courtesy of backward leaning, forward thinkers like The Real Tuesday Weld. The term ‘antique-beat’ comes to mind when listening to 5773. The Yiddish historical place in German club culture is vividly addressed in the modern treatments of Bei Mir Bis Du Shejn and Cabaret. Even Havanagila gets an urban makeover. More intriguing still are the less well known tracks that don’t leave you distracted by the process of sifting out a familiar melody from the unique treatments. Beltz, Mayn Shtetele Beltz is most captivating, reflecting on home and a tree planted there long ago. Another standout is Fiselekh Tsum Tantsen which also appears on a compilation of these kinds of sounds called ‘Swing Diskoteka’ on Eastblok Music.