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29 April 2009

Review: Klezmer Killed The Radio Star

Review: Klezmer Killed The Radio Star
Mames Babegenush

I’ve been following Mames Babegenush for the last couple of years and have been looking forward to the release of their debut album, Klezmer Killed The Radio Star. The wait is over, and I can tell you that this is an album that is destined to make its mark on the Klezmer landscape. The Denmark-based sextet has a sound that combines the best parts of old and new Klezmer to create a sound all their own. Imagine traditional European Klezmer, filtered through mid-20th century American Klezmer styles of New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, then updated with a modern European twist. They have a big sound, led by a horn section comprised of Clarinet, Trumpet, and Sax. The result is a very entertaining Klezmer sub-genre that is my personal favorite. The talent here runs deep, from soul-searching Doina to the wild madness of the Sirba and Bulgar. They have a knack for playing in both a straight traditional style and then switching to a more rock-influenced style. Both work very well and show a respect for the music’s roots as well as pushing the envelope just a little.

I’m not going to try to pick a favorite song, because they are all great songs and medleys. Many are longtime favorites that I have played myself, and some are new to me. The arrangements are very good and give each soloist plenty of space.

The opening track, Noch Der Havdole, starts with a quiet Accordion intro, then adds Drums in a very traditional Klezmer style. The Horns and Bass join and start to build up the song and pick up the tempo to the end. I really liked the Sax counter melody, a nod to the New York style that I like so much. Nice use of the Wood Block, too.

Tepliker Sher starts with heavy Bass and Rock Drums, then the Accordion joins before the Horns come in with the melody. This is probably the fastest I have heard this song performed, building up a good head of steam right to the end.

Bessarabian Hora/Sirba is a nice change of pace, a slow ¾ Hora to start. I know this one as Romanian Hora and I like this arrangement for the nice background accompaniment with the Trumpet, Sax, and Clarinet taking solo turns. The Sirba picks up the tempo into a nice two-beat tune with Clarinet, Sax, and Muted Trumpet. The tune changes again into a Bulgar and picks up the tempo some more. A clever false ending brings on yet another tune, keeping the energy going right to the end.

Clarinetist Emil Goldschmidt takes on the Doina with a soulful and traditional sound that evokes the style of Brandwein and Tarras. Trumpeter Bo Rande takes over to start In A Rumeynisher Shenk, still in a slow tempo. He gets a sweet, smooth sound from the horn that I like very much. Clarinet and Sax take turns as well, adding their special touches. I like the background parts played by each horn behind each soloist. That makes for a great sounding band. The tempo picks up, switching between a two-beat and Bulgar rhythm. Drummer Christian Horsted does a great job here as well.

Fun Tashlikh is a popular song from the repertoire, and it has been recorded many times in recent years, but Mames Babegenush opens it up a bit more with a strong Bulgar tempo and giving the Horns and Accordion some room to explore the fun world that this song is capable of creating. I like this particular arrangement very much.

Kojak is another great tune, showing how well the band blends all the instruments into a great arrangement. The Drums and Bass really drive the band here, changing the pace a bit with a steady Balkan rhythm. There is an open section for an extended solo from Rande on Trumpet.

Galatas is a Bulgar feature for Clarinetist Goldschmidt and Trumpeter Rande. Heavy driving Bass and Drums make this a fun song to listen to. This is a traditional tune, but they take it to a completely new level.

Opshpiel far di Makhetonim starts with slow Drums, then the Clarinet enters with the solo melody. Goldschmidt is in top form here, delivering a soulful and gritty sound that shows his considerable talent. Sax takes over the melody with Trumpet accompaniment. Then a fast Bulgar starts with a song I know as Bukovina Chusid’l. This is another favorite of mine, and again I like the Bass and Drums here a lot.

Zol Zay Gelebt/Bulgar ala Naftule
starts with a fast Freylekhs in a Chicago style. There is room for an open Clarinet solo before moving on to the next tune that I know as Purim Nigun. It is a good, fast Bulgar with a nice arrangement.

Fufzehn Yahr von der Heim Awek
starts with a lovely Trumpet Doina which leads into the main theme. This is a beautiful song that shows the depth and sensitivity of the band. Lukas Rande shows some nice Sax work as well, before Goldschmidt takes over on Clarinet. The horn accompaniments are very nice here. The song changes character to a Terkish style, then changes to a Russian March to end the piece. The contrasting styles make this one another favorite track.

Nigun is an unaccompanied Accordion solo from Nicolai Kornerup and it adds a nice touch to the album. Many times the Accordion does not get a moment to shine, but this gentle tune is a nice way to show us the softer side of the instrument and also eases us back to our own world as we say goodbye to Mames Babegenush.

The audio quality is excellent, with an extended low end that gives punch to the Bass and snap to the Kick Drum. The Drums and Cymbals are some of the best I’ve heard. The Accordion is blended nicely, and the Horns sound very clear. I did notice some room ambience on the Clarinet and Sax during the solo moments, but it doesn’t detract from the performance in any way. The mix sounded wonderful on my home theater and only lost a bit on the bottom end when listening on earbuds.

I had a pre-release copy of the album, so I did not have the full CD package. I did see the album artwork, though, and there appear to be album credits along with band photos and some pretty outrageous graphics. I’ll update this after I receive a production copy.

Mames Babgenush have hit upon a winning combination of artistry and originality while simultaneously being faithful to the tradition and pushing the genre forward. Klezmer may have killed the radio star, but Mames Babegenush has brought us a breath of fresh air. Well done, guys.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Klezmer Killed The Radio Star
Mames Babegenush

Band Members:
Emil Goldschmidt > Clarinet
Bo Rande > Trumpet
Lukas Rande > Saxophone
Nicolai Kornerup > Accordeon
Andreas Møllerhøj > Bass
Christian Hørsted > Drums

Track List:
1 Noch der Havdoleh
2 Teplikher Sher
3 Bessarabian Hora
4 Sirbas
5 Doina
6 In a Rumeynisher Shenk
7 Fun Tashlikh
8 Kojak
9 Galatas
10 Opshpiel for di Makhetonim
11 Zol Zayn Gelebt
12 Bulgar ala Naftule
13 Fufzehn Yahr fon der Heim awek
14 Nigun

Mames Babegenush MySpace

24 April 2009

Klezmer Podcast 51- Watcha Clan

I posted Klezmer Podcast 51, featuring an interview with Watcha Clan from Marseilles, France. You can listen from iTunes and:
Klezmer Podcast

21 April 2009

Watcha Clan New CD

I just received this CD announcement from Watcha Clan. Look for a review and podcast interview soon!

WATCHA CLAN presents :


Nu album coming out the 3rd of april

released by Piranha (Berlin)

available on LP and Download

Diaspora Remixed is a community global beat project featuring
electro-world DJs met on the tour trail around Europe. Transglobal
Underground, Shazalakazoo, EarthRise SoundSystem, Dunkelbunt, Dj Click,
Gaetano Fabri, BalkanXpress, Undergang, Spark, Mars Exist, Barrio
Populaire and Stratman put their personal spin on W-Clan's Diaspora
Hi-Fi, a 2008 World Music Charts Europe top album.


1.Lei Lei Ha (TransGlobal Underground remix)

2.Balkan Qoulou (Shazalakazoo remix)

3.Balkan Qoulou (Dunkelbunt remix feat Cloud Tissa & MC Killo Killo)

4.Tchiribim (Balkan Xpress remix)

5.Goumari (EarthRise SoundSystem remix)

6.Goumari (Shazalakazoo remix)

7.Diaspora Dub (Undergang remix)

8.Limu (Mars Exist remix)

9.Goumari (Dj Click remix)

10.Eli (Gaetano Fabri remix)

11.Eli (Barrio Populaire remix feat Fil-a-fil)

12.Goumari (Spark remix)

13.Les courbes de ton corps (Stratman remix)

available on:

itunes, CD1D, Piranha, emusic, juno, dj download...

Distribution France by Discograph / Germany by Indigo

Digital distribution by Zebralution

We would like to thank all friends, partners and promoters who help us to diffuse the Diaspora Sound...

Peace, Salam, shalom...

Cheers from Marseille.

More infos on:


17 April 2009

Klezmer Podcast 50- Ljova And The Kontraband

I have posted Klezmer Podcast 50 with guests Ljova and Inna from the group Ljova And The Kontraband. You can listen from iTunes, Klezmer Podcast and Blubrry

14 April 2009

Review: Traveling The Face Of The Globe

Review: Traveling The Face Of The Globe
Oi Va Voi

I have to admit that I am a newcomer to the music of Oi Va Voi. Having said that, I can say that their music is immediately recognizable as their own, mixing several musical styles with their London Pop groove and creating a signature sound that I would call World Pop. Oi Va Voi have put together a magic combination of pop music and lyrics, with the elements of Gypsy/Klezmer/Latin/Flamenco rhythms and melodies. This is what we are presented with in great abundance on their new album Traveling The Face Of The Globe. The title grabbed my attention right away. Traveling and music go together very naturally, so I was eager to see what the band had came up with and whether the music would live up to the title.

The opening track, Waiting, sums up my feeling of having missed out on Oi Va Voi for the 10 years they have been together, since their days at Oxford. The song has a feeling of anticipation, with a good hook and a nice background of pizzicato strings and smooth horns. And we are introduced to the lush vocals of Bridgette Amofah.

I Know What You Are switches gears and shows how the band starts to mix world styles with pop lyrics. The song starts with a Klezmer Clarinet in a slow hora tempo with Accordion providing the rhythm. Amofah sneaks in with the vocal in a subdued low key. The song builds from there with the addition of drums, horns, and more strings. A Cantorial interlude keeps the Jewish feeling going as the song builds in intensity then drops suddenly back to the simple, quiet ending.

The title track, Traveling The Face Of The Globe, starts out again with a Klezmer-style intro using a Bulgar rhythm, then switches abruptly to the pop vocal of Amofah, yet is sprinkled with Klezmer fills from the horns. This song speaks of travels around the world and mentions a number of sites and countries. A hot Trumpet solo break from David Orchant adds to the excitement and leads back to the vocal.

Every Time is my favorite track, and shows a different side of the band. A mellow intro leads to the smooth, airy vocal of Stephen Levi, who adds a bit of Cantorial improvisation along the way. Later, the song shifts character in true Oi Va Voi fashion. A haunting Klezmer Clarinet break leads into a high energy vocal from Amofah with a pop style background. Then Levi returns with the opening theme overlaid. I really like the way these two different melodies mix, the mellow with the energetic. It’s a very interesting bit of arranging.

S’Brent features guest Yiddish Vocalist Agi Szaloki in a slow ¾ tempo. A solo from Violinist Anna Phoebe adds to the cultural authenticity of the song, before moving to a heavier pop instrumental through to the end.

Magic Carpet takes us a bit further afield on the world music stage, starting in a Latin electronic feel and ending in a Middle Eastern String/Percussion vibe. As the band’s only instrumental track, it serves as a showcase for the great musicianship and arranging talent of the band. I really like the way the Trumpet and Clarinet sound together on this track.

Dusty Road is another feature for Amofah, slightly reminiscent of American Folk music. But then a Jazz Trumpet comes along to mix things up. Adding an Electric Guitar and Violin break changes things yet again. And check out the Jew’s Harp and Whistling at the end adding a cool effect.

Foggy Day is my second favorite song. Opening with solo Acoustic Guitar, Amofah again treats us to her heartfelt Vocal and her ability to convey a feeling of isolation in a small town shrouded in fog and gloom. She walks the streets in anonymity, unseen, and nobody knows her name. Then she sings of climbing above the city to a dreamy place in the sun with bight water and clear skies. In true Oi Va Voi fashion, they sneak into a Flamenco Percussion rhythm which somehow is a perfect juxtaposition to the slow Vocal.

Wonder is a nice ¾ tempo pop ballad with an airy Vocal by Amofah accompanied by Acoustic Guitar and Violin.

Long Way From Home
is another favorite of mine. A memorable Vocal melody mixes with a great rhythmic rock accompaniment from the Guitar and Bass, as well as Klezmer fills from the horns.

Stitches And Runs
is a fun song that starts with strings and drums and moves to Clarinet and Vocal. The middle section changes character with a slower tempo, then picks back up for the ending.

The final track, Photograph, features guest Vocalist Dick Rivers with a French monologue and English Vocal. The weary sound of his voice perfectly fits the reflective and somber feeling of the song. The subdued accompaniment from the band lets the voice carry the song, giving a final farewell to our global travels.

The mix on this CD is excellent, with each instrument clear and distinct, and just the right amount of processing on the vocals. It sounded great on everything from earbuds to my home theater. Since I had only a promotional copy of the CD I do not have a full list of credits or complete liner notes. The packaging was minimal. I will update this review if I can get a full production copy of the album, which has a release date of 11 May, 2009.

It is clear that Oi Va Voi have established themselves as a force on the worldwide pop scene, and adds a twist by adding ethnic influences to their original compositions. I love the sound of the group and look forward to seeing what direction their music will take next. I highly recommend this album to both those who are already Oi Va Voi fans and those that are seeking out new music. Oi Va Voi have won me over and I will be following them closely.

As a suggestion for anyone who for whatever reason doesn’t want the entire album, I would recommend that you at least purchase my favorite tracks: Every Time, Foggy Day, and Long Way From Home.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

Traveling The Face Of The Globe
Oi Va Voi
Oi Va Voi Recordings OiVaVoiCD2

Band Members:
Nik Ammar (Guitar, Vocals)
Bridgette Amofah (Vocals)
Josh Breslaw (Drums)
Stephen Levi (Clarinet, Vocals)
David Orchant (Trumpet)
Anna Phoebe (Violin)
Lucy Shaw (Bass)

Track List:
Waiting 4:10
I Know What You Are
Travelling The Face Of The Globe 3:48
Every Time 5:36
S'brent 3:56
Magic Carpet 4:34
Dusty Road 3:17
Foggy Day 3:36
Wonder 3:16
Long Way From Home
Stitches And Runs 3:38
Photograph 3:43

Oi Va Voi MySpace
Oi Va Voi interview on Klezmer Podcast