Tzimmes (pronounced: tsi'- mes), is a Yiddish word for a sweet culinary concoction made variously of stewed carrots, honey, raisins, and prunes; it is considered to be the perfect complement to the main course of a Jewish feast. In another, more humorous connection, Jewish people are warned not to complicate a simple matter, with the adage: "Don't make me a big Tzimmes!" (It is safe to say that the warning is usually ignored!). All in all, a Tzimmes seems to go in many directions at once - you can eat it, you can think about it, you can ask for the recipe, you can compare it with the one your grandmother used to make, etc., etc.
Tzimmes had its humble beginnings in 1986 in Victoria, B.C., and for about 4 years played for enthusiastic Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike. They disbanded in 1990, but as mazel (luck) would have it, two of its members, namely Moshe Denburg and Julian Siegel, moved to Vancouver. They fell out of touch for about a year, but in the fall of 1991, together with a longtime friend of Moshe's from Jerusalem, Yona Bar- Sever, Tzimmes was re-formed. Soon after they were joined by vocalist Myrna Rabinowitz, and not long after that, by Egyptian percussionist Adel Awad.
Now, three albums wiser, the group is still very much committed to presenting Jewish Music in its many facets. Their songs range in style from European Klezmer to Mid-Eastern Sephardi to North American Folk, with strong vocals in several languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and English. New settings of traditional repertoire alternate with original creations which reflect an ongoing integration of new materials.
Like its music, the group has continued to grow and adapt, playing in a variety of configurations. Since the year 2000, new members of the Tzimmes family include Phil Belanger on Drums, Saul Berson on Alto Sax, Clarinet, & Flute, Margaret Taylor on Violin, Amy Stephen on Accordion, and Doug Stephenson on Bass.
Moshe Denburg (Voice, Guitar, Band Leader), originally from Montreal, came to the west coast in 1982. He has traveled and studied music worldwide, including Israel, where he lived for 7 years. He has been a musician all his life, singing and songwriting in Jewish and Middle Eastern idioms extensively. He is an accomplished composer, and his works have been performed, recorded, and broadcast all over the world. As Composer/Arranger for Tzimmes, Moshe has given the group its overall musical direction since its inception.
Yona Bar-Sever (E. Bass, Guitar, Voice, Djembe) was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel, where he was a much sought after Bass player. For a number of years he earned his livelihood playing nightly at the prestigious Khan Club in Jerusalem, accompanying in a wide variety of styles, from Rock to Hassidic to Middle Eastern to Israeli Folk. He moved to Canada in 1975 and has lived in Vancouver ever since. Today he divides his time between music making and personal counselling. Whether on Guitar, Electric Bass, Vocals, or Hand Drums, his Salonikan roots lend Tzimmes a Mediterranean and Sephardic mood.
Myrna Rabinowitz (Voice) was raised in Montreal in a Yiddish speaking environment, and has lived in Vancouver since 1970. A singer all her life, she lends to Tzimmes her love for and knowledge of the Yiddish component of Jewish Music. As a performer and songwriter Myrna's dedication to Jewish song, whether on stage or as part of Synagogue service, is recognized all over North America. Apart from her work with Tzimmes she has contributed her talents as a singer and songwriter to the highly successful Shir Hadash albums, "Or Shalom", and "And You Shall Teach Your Children".
Phil Belanger (Drums, Percussion) is known on the Vancouver scene as a Drummer/Percussionist of great musicianship and vast experience. Phil has been working with Tzimmes since 2000, and his drumming and percussion colorings give the group a solid rhythmic foundation. He handles popular and classical music with equal facility and his innumerable credits include symphonic, jazz, latin, and Jewish ensemble work.
Saul Berson (Alto Sax, Clarinet, Flute) is a multi-instrumentalist who has been exploring an extensive array of stylistic ground for the past 15 years. His musical abilities span a wide range, and include klezmer, jazz, and inter-cultural music. A recent addition to the Tzimmes roster (2001), Saul lends to the band a new and tremendously versatile instrumental resource. His own quartet’s 1998 recording, From Here to Beyond, was nominated in the "Best Jazz Album" category for the 1999 West Coast Music Awards.
Julian Siegel (Accordion/Midi Accordion), originally from Mexico
City, has devoted much of his life to playing Accordion. He has traveled
widely, living in Israel, Pittsburgh, and Victoria prior to coming
to Vancouver in 1990. A born musical talent, he was a recognized accordionist
in Mexico by the age of 17, winning two national competitions. He
possesses a natural love for all Jewish music and is equally at home
with the Sephardic or Klezmer genres. Julian was a mainstay performer
with Tzimmes during the years 1988-2003 and gave Tzimmes its overall
instrumental colour with his unique and versatile Midi Accordion/Synthesizer.
Gary Cohen (Guitar, Darabuka, Voice), originally from Montreal,
was a founding member of Tzimmes and performed with the ensemble during
its Victoria phase. He joined Tzimmes for several tracks on its debut album Sweet and Hot, and
has been a friend of the band all these years. Gary presently lives
in Victoria pursuing a varied musical career which includes work with
his band Mitzvah.
Dick Lurie, z"l, (Flute)
was an early member of Tzimmes in its Victoria days. Born into an
English family, having a Jewish father who hid his Jewish heritage
as much as possible, Dick took a personal interest in matters Jewish,
learning Yiddish and Klezmer music.
He played a very significant role in
Tzimmes' success during the years 1986-90. He died in a car
accident in ca.1994, at the untimely age of 52.
Itamar Erez (Keyboards, Synth Bass, Guitar) is an Israeli born Canadian
composer, pianist and guitarist with a breadth of expression from
European classical to jazz, world music and beyond. He has studied in Israel, Germany, England, Scotland, and Canada,
and has received numerous awards and commissions. A member of Tzimmes from 2003 to 2007, Itamar
has an international career, touring regularly with a variety of world
music and jazz ensembles. His own ensemble, ADAMA, explores
the musical commonalities of Middle Eastern, Flamenco, World Music
and Jazz. ---
Adel Awad, z"l (Arabic & Latin Percussion), from Cairo, Egypt,
was a veteran multi-percussionist specializing in Arabic Drums. He
took an active part in the Vancouver ethnic music scene, and was featured
on innumerable recordings and in many venues, including International
Drum Heat and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Adel's incredible
musical energy was legendary with audiences wherever he went, and
he had a unique gift for mesmerizing
listeners with his solo work. He passed away on May 6,
2007, of complications from Lupus. He was 51 years old.
He passed away on May 6, 2007, of complications from Lupus. He was 51 years old.
- See individual disc entries.
Today there is a nexus of interest in what is called World Music. Generally, this term alludes to the many styles of music that have their roots in cultures other than the mainstream. Jewish music, outside of Israel, is one of these musical cultures.
The music of Tzimmes, and Jewish Music generally, reflects a large cultural spectrum - everything from Middle Eastern (Mizrahi/Hebrew) to Eastern European (Klezmer/Yiddish) to Mediterranean (Sephardi/Ladino), and contemporary musical vernaculars. The music of Tzimmes is at the forefront of this multi-faceted approach to Jewish music making today, and indeed, this musical diversification describes our people's historical-cultural wanderings very well.
Original in concept and sound, Tzimmes occupies a niche of its own in Jewish Music. Over the 12 years of its existence, they have concertized in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and England, at Folk Festivals and Communal Events, for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike.
The ensemble size varies according to the needs of the event, the complete instrumentation includes: 1-3 Voices (male and female); 2-3 Guitars; Keyboard & Synthesizer; Violin or Woodwind (Alto Sax, Clarinet, Flute); Electric Bass; Drum Set, and Hand Percussion (Arabic Drum, Djembe, Tambourine).
A fine educational workshop on Jewish Music can also be provided as described below.
If you'd like to know more about Tzimmes and discuss the logistics of a concert, please contact the Band Leader, Moshe Denburg at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Many Faces of Jewish Music:
An original presentation with the aim of giving audiences and participants an idea of the many tributaries of Jewish Music, to wit: Eastern European, Mediterranean, Near Eastern, and Western. The differences between Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi will be explained - examples from the Tzimmes repertoire will illustrate the variety of languages, rhythms, and modes in Jewish musical experience.
Participation, in the form of singing, playing, and asking questions, is encouraged. Take-home song and theory sheets will be available.
The workshop can be formatted in a variety of ways:
The presentation is also geared to a variety of age groups - anyone from 12 years old and up can enjoy and absorb it.