|Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00|
Performing artist Socalled brings
For the Jewish Free Press
In the forty or so centuries since Miriam led the Hebrew women in song after leaving Egypt, and the twenty-five or so centuries since the Jews sang "By the Rivers of Babylon" after being exiled from Israel (way before Boney M discoed that one up), be it cantorial music, nigunim or klezmer, Jewish music has been about the Jewish experience. One brilliant example of how that traditional approach has been altered by the diversity of Jewish life and Jewish music in the 21st century is coming to Temple B'nai Tikvah on Monday, October 17 – the artist Socalled.
This Canadian boy is a fella clearly in touch with his Ashkenaz roots. Listen to his Ghettoblaster Intro from the CD of the same name. It starts with a car going by; the driver pops a cassette in and we hear the car stereo playing a bouncy Yiddish tune; it couldn't be more classic if Woody Allen walked by. The Yiddish crooner is then taken off the cassette and boosted properly into the forefront, now joined with a hip-hop beat and a layering of various spoken word pieces. It's lo-fi and it's high art. It uses the minor keys that are so familiar to Jewish music, the Jewish music of grandparents, of great-grandparents but infuses the Yiddish flavour through hip-hop.
Take that recipe and make it even more potent: take your deeply-steeped Yiddish/ultra modern hip-hop sensibilities and sandwich yourself with a purist from each extreme. That's what Socalled did with his brilliant post-Ghettoblaster old world/new world combination. Abraham Inc. is a partnership with David Krakauer, champion of klezmer music and world-class clarinetist; and legendary funk trombonist and arranger Fred Wesley, celebrated for his work with James Brown and George Clinton. Instantly recognizable as having one foot in the old Yiddish world, it has an authentic urban vibe, a Jewish 15th-century comfortably wearing 21st-century Fleuvogs or Converse sneakers. Every recording Socalled makes branches out in different directions, but his roots are strong and clear.
But Socalled is still even more than that. He is the subject of The "Socalled" Movie, a documentary released in 2010 by the National Film Board of Canada, which also features Krakauer and Wesley. The documentary includes footage of the first "Klezmer Cruise," in which a boatload of klezmer fans sailed down the Dnieper River in the Ukraine. He is also a pianist, producer, composer, arranger, rapper, singer, journalist, photographer, filmmaker, magician, cartoonist and puppet maker.
On his new album, Sleepover, released this May 3, Socalled decided to go in a different direction. Sleepover, featuring over 30 guests artists, helping Socalled-once known as Jeff Dolgin - focus on his mission to "cross boundaries, to mix old and new sounds, acoustic and electric instruments, digital and analog recording techniques, while exploring different cultures and styles, all in the service of creating something catchy, smart, hilarious, emotional and timeless."
Temple Bnai Tikvah is coproducing this major Jewish musical event with the Calgary Folk Fest, the second coproduction between the two (the other was last March's sold-out David Broza concert). If you missed him at Prince's Island for the Folk Fest or just haven't gotten enough of his Socalled brilliance, come down to Temple B'nai Tikvah on Monday, October 17 for some more Socalled music. Bring your kids, bring your grandparents. Bring your dancing shoes...
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8 pm at Temple B'nai Tikvah. Tickets on sale at the Temple office, at the door or online at www.calgaryfolkfest.com, only $25.00.