KlezMyriad (1998)

Dirty Linen, Feb/March 1999

” … tunes that incorporate a Yemeni melody, a Greek waltz, Ladino ballads … flamenco guitar, Arabic drums and straight ahead Yiddish folk ballads. The arrangements are provocative, particularly on a reworked version of “Maoz Tsur”, a traditional Hanukkah song, but can also be amusing, such as on “Kvetshing” (Yiddish for complaining), in which a few voices are heard moaning and groaning uninterruptedly for nearly a minute. How can you not love a song called “The Shlump”? This latest disc shows off the group’s talents marvelously and earns them an important place in the growing ranks of new-generation klezmorim who are preserving, but also extending, Jewish music into the next century.” (ES)

Lyrics to all the songs can be downloaded here:



1. Shdemati – River of Light [8:35]

Shdemati by Shenhar/Admon

River of Light by Moshe Denburg

Moshe: Vocals, Guitar, Myrna: Vocals, Yona: Vocals, Lead Guitar, Djembe

Julian: Accordion, Synth, Synth Bass, Harmonica, Adel: Bongos

Solos: Julian (Accordion/Synth), Yona (Electric Guitar), Synthesized Rhythm Sequencing: Julian & Moshe.

The sentiment of the farmer in early modern Israel, his love of the land and his spiritual connection to it, is celebrated in Shdemati (My Field).

River of Light is part translation part heart-echo of the Israeli classic.

2. Moyshele Mayn Fraynd (Moyshele My Friend) [4:37]

by Mordechai Gebirtig (1877 – 1942)

Arranged by Moshe Denburg

Myrna: Vocal, Cam: Violin, Heather: Cello, Julian: Accordion, Moshe: Guitar.

Mordechai Gebirtig, the celebrated Yiddish poet and songwriter, wrote this song of reminiscence for the friends of youthful days – ‘we are getting older now, my friends, and I find myself yearning to be with our stern teacher with the cane in his hand.’

3. Outerlude I – Sherele di Greek [0:45]

Music: Traditional Arrangement: Tzimmes

Lead Guitars: Yona, Rhythm Guitar: Moshe, Accordion: Julian

A Bouzouki-like version of the famous chestnut of Jewish celebrations, this outerlude serves as an intro to ‘Fanfarinette a la Grecque’.

4. Fanfarinette a la Grecque [3:01]

by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) Adapted and Arranged by Moshe Denburg. Yona: Lead Guitar, Julian: Accordion, Moshe: Guitar, Vocals, Zils, Shaker, Myrna: Vocals, Danny: Double Bass, Adel: Tambourine

Originally a light waltz in 6/8, this Tzimmes take on CBC’s Disc Drive theme gives it a Greek feel in 7/8.

5. Maoz Tsur (The Strength of the Rock) [3:02]

Music and Text: Traditional, Arrangement: Moshe Denburg

Moshe: Vocals, Guitar, Myrna: Vocals, Yona: Vocals, Lead Guitar, Julian: Accordion, Heather: Cello

A traditional Hanuka hymn set to a beautiful melody which is not often heard.

6. Si La Mar (If the Sea) [7:02]

Adapted and Arranged by Moshe Denburg, from the Ladino repertoire.

Myrna: Vocals, Moshe: Vocals & Guitar, Julian: Accordion, Synthesizer, Synth Bass, Yona: Lead Guitar, Cam: Violin, Adel: Tambourine, Bongos, Solo: Yona (Guitar)

From the Judeo-Spanish repertoire, this song has a truly Spanish feel to it. The sense of fervent longing for the beloved is ever present – ‘If the sea turned to milk, I would become a fisherman, I would fish for my sorrows, with the sweet words of love.’

7. Outerlude II – Sunset Doina [1:27]

by Lache Cercel

Violin: Lache, Synth: Moshe

A Doina is an improvisation over a chord progression in free rhythm. It stems from Romania and has been part of Klezmer music for a very long time. Romanian Violinist Lache Cercel tells us that the Doina began in feudal times and is a song tinged with the sadness of missing someone. It calls forth the natural world, rivers, the forest, the Carpathian Mountains, and emulates the singing of a woman or a shepherd.

8. Klezmyriad [5:20]

by Moshe Denburg,

with thanks to Paul Belserene for the title idea.

Cam: Violin, Julian: Accordion, Moshe: Synth, Electric Guitar, Claves, Tambourine, Yona: E. Bass, Adel: Darabuka, Bongos, Synth Sequencing: Julian, Craig, and Moshe

Here’s a piece of ‘Klezmer-con-Fusion’. For those familiar with Klezmer modes they’re all here – Ahava Raba, Magen Avot, Misheberakh – placed in a Jazzy and somewhat Latin rhythmic context.

9. Always Forgiven [4:38]

Words and Music by Moshe Denburg

Myrna: Vocals, Moshe: Vocals & Guitar, Julian: Accordion & Synth Bass, Blaine: Bb Trumpet, Cam: Violin

Love requires reconciliation, the inner certainty that one has been forgiven.

10. Avre Tu Puerta Serada (Open Your Closed Door) [2:52]

Adapted from the Traditional Ladino Repertoire. Arrangement: Tzimmes

Myrna: Vocals, Moshe: Vocals, Guitar, Sandblocks, Yona: Vocals, Lead Guitar, Tambourine, Julian: Accordion, Synth Bass, Solo: Julian (Accordion).

Another Judeo-Spanish serenade, in a lilting 3 beat

11. Outerlude III – Kvetshing [0:56]

by Moshe Denburg

Consort of Jaw’s Harps: Moshe, Hyper Male Chorus: Moshe and Yona

To kvetsh means to complain; it also means to pinch or squeeze. In English we may say that someone is ‘pushing it’, in Yiddish we would call him a kvetsh. . This is what my mother was apt to sound like (my father too, come to think of it) after a long hard day. At any rate, the Jewish penchant for kvetshing is celebrated here to the hilt, in this mid-album catharsis.

12. The Shlump [4:32]

by Moshe Denburg,

with special thanks to Seymour Levitan and Paula Kirman for help with the Yiddish lyrics.

Myrna: Vocals, Moshe: Vocals, Guitar, Jaw’s Harp, Julian: Accordion & Synthesizers, Yona: Electric Bass, Lache: Violin, Jason: Drums, Solos: Lache (Violin), Julian (Accordion)

A shlump is a person who is somewhat slovenly in appearance, with the personality of a ‘drip’. This song celebrates the modern day shlump in all his nerdish tendencies.

13. Dror Yikra (He Shall Declare Freedom) [7:05]

Text: Dunash Ben Lavrat (10th Century), Music: Traditional, Arrangement: Tzimmes

Moshe: Vocals, Guitar, Tamboura, Zils, Myrna: Vocals, Yona: Vocals, Lead Guitar, Electric Bass, Julian: Accordion, Synth, Steve: Ashiko, Adel: Darabuka, Frame Drum, & Tambourine, Solos: Moshe (Vocal Improv), Yona (Guitar), Julian (Accordion), Adel (Darabuka).

A traditional hymn in honour of the Sabbath, with a markedly Middle Eastern sound and rhythm, is the final offering.

Outerlude IV – Coda-da-da [0:14]

Performed by Adel Awad

Just a little goodbye, the Darabuka has the last word.


Jewish Music manifests itself in many forms, from the purely vocal to the purely instrumental, in religious as well as secular contexts, in idioms spanning a variety of cultures from the Judeo-Arabic East to the Judeo-Christian West, and in the various languages associated with these cultures such as Yiddish (Judeo-German), Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), and Hebrew (the language of the Bible and Jewish Liturgy).

Art both reflects life and is the harbinger of renewed consciousness, and today the Jewish musician negotiates the same global imperative which artists of all cultural stripes negotiate. The apolitical ambassadorial spirit inherent in cross-cultural bridge building, ever the work of the artist worldwide, has been given a new and heightened impetus in the communications age we live in. And in this, Jewish Music is very well tooled, Jewish artists having been cultural globe trotters for two thousand years.

KlezMyriad is a further step along this path of cultural diversification, adaptation, and new synthesis. Truth to tell, klezmer is but one specific form of Jewish Music, and the content of this album as a whole includes much that lies outside of the realm of klezmer per se. However the term ‘klezmer’, coined by the Jews of Eastern Europe and which in its etymology means ‘an instrument of song’, originally denotes the Jewish musician himself. Thus the Jewish Musician is understood to be ‘an instrument of song’, a channel in this world for sacred melody. KlezMyriad symbolizes for us the many ways in which the klezmer, the Jewish musician, expresses himself today.

Klezmer as a genre of Jewish music stems from Eastern Europe and the Ashkenazi (read: Western) Jewish experience. Originally a purely instrumental form associated with celebrations of life-passage events (Bar Mitzvahs, Weddings, etc.), it has taken on a firm collaboration with Yiddish song. Today’s practitioners are branching out in many directions and so apart from traditional klezmer there is Klezrock, Klezjazz, and so on. The title track, KlezMyriad reflects this new experimentalism. Klezmer music is also well represented by several other tracks: Sunset Doina, The Shlump, Sherele di Greek, and Moyshele Mayn Fraynd (Moyshele My Friend).

From here the music travels to the Middle East and to Spain and North Africa. Shdemati – River of Light takes an Israeli classic, gives it a North African rhythm, and medleys it with an original offering in English. Dror Yikra (He Shall Declare Freedom), a well covered Israeli-Yemenite tune, utilizes Middle Eastern imrovisational forms and the Darabuka – the Arabic drum par excellence. Maoz Tsur (The Strength of the Rock), a beloved Hanuka hymn, presented here in a not-often heard musical setting, is an example of Hebrew prayer.

A somewhat lesser known area of Jewish musical activity is the Judeo-Spanish, or Ladino repertoire. Ladino is a form of 15th century Spanish that the Jewish people took with them after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Though not presently an everyday language, Ladino is still very much alive in a large song repertoire. The Judeo-Spanish context still thrives by dint of the many Jewish communities of Central and South America, and even in a modern day revival of the Jewish communities of Spain.

A fascinating note on the Judeo-Spanish context was brought to our attention by some of our Flamenco playing colleagues who pointed out that there is much documented evidence of a connection between Flamenco and Jewish Music, mainly due to the interaction that took place, at the time of the expulsion, between the Gitanos (the Spanish Gypsies) and Jewish musicians. (N.B. – This strongly parallels the interactions of Jewish and Roma (Gypsy) musicians in Eastern Europe).

There is no doubt that the Ladino repertoire shares many musical attributes with Spanish Music. Much of the repertoire is comprised of serenades and love songs in a secular mold. It is important to note that Jewish people have always taken an active role in the culture around them, whether they resided in Spain, Iraq, or Poland. There was always an adaptation of culture demanded of the Jewish musician, and in good times he contributed greatly to the development of these cultures. So it is not simply a result of cultural borrowing but one of active cultural contributing that put these materials in Jewish hands.

On this album two selections based on the Ladino repertoire are presented. Avre Tu Puerta Serada (Open Your Closed Door) – a romantic serenade in a folksy 3 beat, and Si La Mar (If the Sea) – a thoroughly new adaptation which endeavours to paint a modern soundscape of the aforementioned Jewish-Flamenco interaction.

Finally there are those pieces which take us a little further afield. Always Forgiven is an original folk song in a spiritual vein, and Fanfarinette a la Grecque is a Tzimmes adaptation of the theme music for a CBC Radio show called Disc Drive – it is based on a 17th century tune by Jean-Phillipe Rameau. With apologies to Mr. Rameau, we have taken his air in 6/8 and rendered it in a Greckified 7/8, which takes us a little closer to our Eastern Mediterranean home.

So here is a snapshot of our musical journey – our musical wandering and wondering – the klezmer endeavouring to string a myriad of cultural strands onto tomorrow’s instrument of song.

Moshe Denburg

February, 1998.