And We're All Brothers: Singing in Yiddish in Contemporary by Abigail Wood

By Abigail Wood

The sunrise of the twenty-first century marked a turning interval for American Yiddish tradition. The 'Old global' of Yiddish-speaking jap Europe used to be fading from residing reminiscence - but whilst, Yiddish music loved a renaissance of artistic curiosity, either between a more youthful iteration looking reengagement with the Yiddish language, and, so much prominently through the transnational revival of klezmer song. The final zone of the 20 th century and the early years of the twenty-first observed a gentle circulate of recent songbook courses and recordings in Yiddish - newly composed songs, recognized singers acting nostalgic favourites, American renowned songs translated into Yiddish, theatre songs, or even a few forays into Yiddish hip hop; musicians in the meantime engaged with discourses of musical revival, post-Holocaust cultural politics, the transformation of language use, radical alterity and a brand new new release of yankee Jewish identities. This publication explores how Yiddish music grew to become one of these effective medium for musical and ideological creativity on the twilight of the 20th century, offering an episode within the flowing timeline of a musical repertory - long island on the sunrise of the twenty-first century - and outlining a few of the trajectories that Yiddish tune and its singers have taken to, and past, this aspect.

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Additional resources for And We're All Brothers: Singing in Yiddish in Contemporary North America

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If today’s Yiddish culture is little spatialised within conventional frameworks and borders, it is nonetheless strongly felt as a kind of ‘counter-space’, a Yiddishland that is in part defined by its transformation of mundane, everyday spaces. In his 1967 essay ‘Of other spaces’, Michel Foucault labels such spaces ‘heterotopias’: places that contradict the geographies of everyday life; real spaces 1 Vivi Lachs observes that Morris Winchevsky’s poem, called ‘Akhdes’ (Unity), published in the Arbeter Fraynd in 1890, was in fact intended as satire: Winchevsky, a socialist, anti-religious, anti-capitalist, invokes unity tongue in cheek, in the knowledge that the Jewish world is not united.

It was not just this 36 And We’re All Brothers: Singing in Yiddish in Contemporary North America adoption of the song, but also its subsequent wide use, which have contributed to its status today. Ruth Rubin writes: Of all the songs of the ghettos, the one which spread like wildfire, almost from the moment that it left the poet’s pen, was the marching song by Hirsh Glik …. With almost magical speed it was caught up by all the concentration camps and by the time the war was over, it was being sung by Yiddish speaking Jews the world over and by a score of other peoples as well (1979, 453).

Yiddish and klezmer CDs were passed around the summer programme hall of residence, and those keen on singing found plenty of informal opportunities to engage their interest, from gatherings with a guitar outside the classrooms during a break to impromptu close harmony in the resonant space of an empty classroom. This culture of informal, creative singing came to fruition in the siyem hazman, the graduation ceremony on the final day of the summer programme. On the morning of 3 August 2001, students and teachers – joined by a considerable number of family, friends, a representative from the Forverts newspaper and other interested members of the Yiddishist community – gathered in the auditorium of the Center for Jewish History on West 16th Street for a programme whose blend of pageantry, high culture and parody echoed a longer Yiddish history of skits, purim shpiln and other theatro-musical expression.

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