The Epichorus @ Washington DC Jewish Community Center, Washington DC - May 13 2015.
I am quite happy to attend my first event of the 16th Annual Washington Jewish Music Festival in this comfortable auditorium. I have seen some superb acts before that took lots of paths out of middle eastern music into fascinating places. And tonight, this is no less eclectic journey as this New York ensemble creates some of the most comfortable, yet challenging music you could ask for.
They start with rabbi Zach Fredman who plays a little guitar (which is what he learned on, but not his favorite), a saz (emitting worldly sounds), and an oud (which has challenged him the most). He tells us he was cutting out early of his final year of study in Jerusalem to go take lessons in Syrian music. Thankfully he succeeded in both areas of study as he has a great style with all three of his instruments.
And even more worldly expansion begins with his eclectic group of players featuring percussion, stand-up bass, violin, and flutes. Top all of that of with a female singer, Priya Darshini, who speaks and sings about 15 languages and brings her Indian heritage into the musical mix. The flute and bass solos are quite stunning while the strings create mesmerizing patterns that the percussionist punctuates. Darshini has a lovely voice and has the versatility to enliven each song.
Fredman is correct when he says he is happy he can play his original songs with such a fine band and have them fit in with the historical classics the group handles so well. It is all smooth and exciting, whether it is a modern song, an ancient folk classic, or a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan cover. And with a band that appeared to be having as much fun as the audience, this was a lovely evening of captivating music.
Golem @ 6th and I Synagogue, Washington DC - May 14 2015.
The 16th Annual Washington Jewish Music Festival is nearing an end, but it is going out with a loud band as tonight's group of New Yorkers have a ton of energy to share with the crowd who are more than ready. Golem works the gypsy punk terrain that is getting rather crowded of late, but they specialize more in the trad-gypsy with speedy playing and a sense of fun with their music.
There is no guitar, with violin and trombone trading off solos along with the bass, drums and accordion laying down the foundation. Male and female vocalists work together and offer a variety of moods and tones. Tempos vary enough and the songs are always vibrant, worldly, and extremely well played. The Ukranian songs go down well along with the Yiddish tunes, but everything clicks with the dance happy crowd.
It was kind of hard for me to watch the stage when just off to the side, a barely school age girl was fully engaged with the music with wonderful dance moves. She pogoed, circled, waved her arms, shook, with energy I haven't seen since a Bad Brains show from the early 80s. She locked into the tempos and was a great reminder of the simple essence of the joy of music.
Between that youthful unpretentious energy and this festival's display of diverse world music, it is an important reminder for all of us to continue to explore beyond the comfortable boundaries that we establish too early in life.
(1) Washington Jewish Music Festival,
(2) Zach Fredman (The Epichorus),
(3) Golem (unknown/website).