Hammering out Yiddish tunes
By Jonathan Krashinsky
Consider jazz and soul blended together, based on
the revivals of traditional Jewish melodies and Yiddish culture,
performed in front of copper reliefs depicting traditional folk-village
scenes that both inspire and compliment the music itself.
Sound complicated? Conceptually, it is. It's also
innovative and vibrant, and the Livnat brothers, creators of the
concept, have performed with Stevie Wonder for US President Bill
Clinton, and in concerts, on TV programs and in local and international
Arik Livnat, who plays saxophone and flute, and his
brother Aviv, who plays guitar and sings (in Yiddish, natch), are at the
creative heart of the concept, although for their upcoming show they'll
be joined by three other musicians - Oded Goldshmidt on bass, Haggai
Fershtman on drums, and Tal Hephter on keyboards.
The title of their show, Songs Hand-Hammered in
Copper, actually takes its name from the title of a copper relief by
renowned artist Arieh Merzer, who also happens to be the brothers'
grandfather. It is Merzer's reliefs that provide the backdrop, both
literally and musically, for their show. The Yiddish culture, depicted
in these reliefs, isn't just history. For the Livnat brothers, it's
something alive, even thriving.
This blend of traditional Yiddish music and modern,
even innovative use of jazz and soul gives the show a broad appeal. As
their international coordinator Nurit Gordon says, "the older generation
loves it, because of the tradition... and the younger generation really
loves the jazz... it's not klezmer and it's not pop," she explains.
"They're virtuosos, and they take traditional tunes and they improvise
over them. It's as jazzy as jazz gets."
The appeal of the music isn't restricted to Jewish
audiences. The Livnats have toured extensively across Eastern Europe and
found especially receptive audiences in areas like Bulgaria and Poland,
giving credence to the idea that music is universal. At one performance
in Poland, they began with their interpretation of a traditional Jewish
tune that they had discovered in the form of notes, titled "The Jewish
Brigade." To their amazement, the wholly non-Jewish crowd joined in to
sing their version of the song, which was, they insisted, known as "The
There's a certain satisfaction in knowing that a
Jewish tune could be adapted from the surrounding Polish culture, given
a Jewish tone, survive the Holocaust, be adapted to a more modern style,
performed again in Yiddish by Jewish artists, and be enjoyed and related
to by a Polish audience.
Songs Hand-Hammered In Copper will be featured at
"Beit Shalom Aleichem" in Tel Aviv on Wednesday at 21:00.
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Friday, December 1 2000 / 4 Kislev 5761
Monday, July 22 2002 (RealAudio Stream)
The Livnat Brothers Life in Galej ZaHaL
Jewish Jazz in Prag:
Die Livnat Brothers im Akropolis
Jewish Jazz in Prague:
Livnat Brothers in the Akropolis