FolkWorld #75 07/2021
© Felmay

Article in Italian

Ghetto Songs

Frank London’s new album (Ghetto Songs) is inspired by the Jewish ghetto of Venice, from which the word ghetto itself originates. Ghetto Songs guides us on a musical journey that moves through space and times – a fascinating intertwining of sounds, voices and languages.

Ghetto Songs

Tracklist: Amore an | O dolcezz’amarissime | Minutn fun bitokhn | Oseh Shalom | Nirdi Natan Rekḥo | La Barcheta | Ve’etah El Shaddai | Accordion Jive | The World Is A Ghetto | Tahi Taha | Retsey | Ma’oz Tsur

Frank London "Ghetto Songs (Venice and Beyond)", Felmay Records, 2021

The idea of FRANK LONDON’s new album comes from the historic Jewish Ghetto of Venice, from which the word ghetto itself originates. In 2016, on the occasion of the five hundredth anniversary of the Venetian ghetto, FRANK LONDON was invited for a residency by the foundation BEIT Venezia. A Home of Jewish Culture to elaborate creatively the Jewish Venetian musical heritage. This first led to London composing the music for the first historical staging of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in its original setting, the Ghetto. The project continued in 2019 with a concert showcasing the many voices of world ghettos.

Inspired by these experiences, Ghetto Songs album’s tracks guide us to a musical journey that moves through space and times, touching the various Jewish communities around the world. The musical atmospheres are always different: from the Fellinesque world that opens the recording (Amore an) to the seventeenth-century world of the second track (O dolcezz’amarissime). From the Yiddish folk song of the Krakow ghetto (Minutn fun Bitokhn),to the voices of the Marrakesh Mellah (Nirdi Natan Reiho), passing through the Cape Town’s ghetto (Accordion Jive), up to the universal concept of ghetto of The World is a Ghetto, reinterpretation of Eric Burdon’s War hit. FRANK LONDON, with his curiosity for other music, be it exotic or nostalgia for the past staged before our eyes, expertly composes and holds the ranks of this fascinating intertwining of sounds, voices and languages.

FRANK LONDON, winner of the prestigious Grammy Award, is co-founder of Klezmatics. His main works include di Yiddish Opera in a Cuban nightclub Hatuey Memory of Fire; Salomé, Woman of Valor (with poet Adeena Karasick); Jewish Music from Astro-Hungary, with Glass House Orchestra; the folk opera A Night In The Old Marketplace, 1001 Voices: Symphony for a New America. In is career he has collaborated with John Zorn, Itzhak Perlman, Pink Floyd, LL Cool J, Mel Tormé, Lester Bowie, LaMonte Young, They Might Be Giants, David Byrne, Robert Wilson and Vinicio Capossela. He appeared on more than 500 CD and appeared on Sex and the City.

Frank London

Artist Video Frank London @ FROG

LONDON has assembled an incredible cast to perform Ghetto Songs. Masters of all styles and genres of music, they include three Grammy-Award winners and have performed with an astonishing list of artists.

Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman (tracks 1,2,5,6,7,10,12) is the 2019 Best Classical Solo Vocal GRAMMY Award winner. An expert in Renaissance and Baroque music, his recordings include Songs of Orpheus and the collection of Schubert songs, Where Only Stars Can Hear Us.

Cantor Svetlana ‘Sveta’ Kundish (tracks 2,3,5,7,10,12) was born in Ukraine, lived in Italy, Israel, and now Germany. Versatile beyond belief, she sings classical, folk, experimental, traditional, and sacred music. Sveta studied Yiddish song with the legendary Nechama Lifshitz; opera at the Prayner Konservatorium in Vienna; and then got ordained as a Cantor at the Abraham Geiger Kolleg in Berlin.

Cantor Yaakov “Yanky” Lemmer (tracks 4,11) is the greatest of the new generation of ‘Khazns’, Jewish religious singers dedicated to the old style of cantorial singing. He began his singing career as the star soloist of the Young Israel of Bethel Choir in Brooklyn, NY, where world renowned Cantor Ben Zion Miller took him under his private tutelage. Yaakov earned a scholarship to the Belz School of Jewish Music at Yeshiva University, where he studied with Cantors Joseph Malovany and Bernard Beer and with cantorial legend Cantor Noach Schall.

Ilya Shneyveys

Guitarist and singer Brandon Ross (track 9) has worked and collaborated with the most innovative voices in modern music including Henry Threadgill, Wadada Leo Smith, Cassandra Wilson, Jewel, Tony Williams, Oliver Lake, Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris, Bill Frisell, Me'Shell N'degeocello, Arrested Development, Archie Shepp, Muhal Richard Abrams, and many others. Jazz Times wrote, “Ross is the epitome of the postmodern guitar hero, a fretboard virtuoso who adheres to no particular sound or genre, moving freely from the feedback-laden assault (to) electronics-heavy jumble to delicate beauty.“ Ross co-leads the avant power trio, Harriet Tubman, (with bassist Melvin Gibbs, and drummer JT Lewis).

Percussionist Kenny Wollesen has recorded and toured with Tom Waits, Sean Lennon, Bill Frisell, Norah Jones, John Lurie, and John Zorn. He is a founding member of the New Klezmer Trio and a member of the Sex Mob and Himalayas groups.

Cellist Marika Hughes grew up in a musical family – her grandfather was the great cellist Emanuel Feuermann, Marika has worked with Whitney Houston, Lou Reed, Anthony Braxton, David Byrne, Adele, Henry Threadgill, D’Angelo, Idina Menzel, Nels Cline, and Taylor Mac.

Bassist Gregg August has performed and/or recorded with The New York Philharmonic, Steve Reich, The Bang on a Can All Stars, Ornette Coleman, Chick Corea, Branford Marsalis and Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, with whom he’s won 5 Grammy awards. He was on the Downbeat Magazine Critics’ Rising Star Poll in 2017, 2015 and 2013.

Originally from Riga, Latvia, Ilya Shneyveys has performed and taught at major Jewish festivals around the world, including Yiddish Fest Moscow, Yiddish New York, Klezfest St.Petersburg, Klezfest London, KlezKanada, Montreal Jewish Festival, Toronto Ashkenaz Festival, Krakow Jewish Festival and more. He’s a member of the klezmer-balkan band Dobranotch (RU) and has performed and collaborated with Opa! (RU), The Klezmatics (US), Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird (DE) and many others.

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Frank London, (3) Ilya Shneyveys (unknown/website).

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