Hammering out Yiddish tunes
By Jonathan Krashinsky

Consider jazz and soul blended together, based on the revivals of traditional Jewish melodies and Yiddish culture, performed in front of copper reliefs depicting traditional folk-village scenes that both inspire and compliment the music itself. Sound complicated? Conceptually, it is. It's also innovative and vibrant, and the Livnat brothers, creators of the concept, have performed with Stevie Wonder for US President Bill Clinton, and in concerts, on TV programs and in local and international festivals. Arik Livnat, who plays saxophone and flute, and his brother Aviv, who plays guitar and sings (in Yiddish, natch), are at the creative heart of the concept, although for their upcoming show they'll be joined by three other musicians - Oded Goldshmidt on bass, Haggai Fershtman on drums, and Tal Hephter on keyboards. The title of their show, Songs Hand-Hammered in Copper, actually takes its name from the title of a copper relief by renowned artist Arieh Merzer, who also happens to be the brothers' grandfather. It is Merzer's reliefs that provide the backdrop, both literally and musically, for their show. The Yiddish culture, depicted in these reliefs, isn't just history. For the Livnat brothers, it's something alive, even thriving. This blend of traditional Yiddish music and modern, even innovative use of jazz and soul gives the show a broad appeal. As their international coordinator Nurit Gordon says, "the older generation loves it, because of the tradition... and the younger generation really loves the jazz... it's not klezmer and it's not pop," she explains. "They're virtuosos, and they take traditional tunes and they improvise over them. It's as jazzy as jazz gets." The appeal of the music isn't restricted to Jewish audiences. The Livnats have toured extensively across Eastern Europe and found especially receptive audiences in areas like Bulgaria and Poland, giving credence to the idea that music is universal. At one performance in Poland, they began with their interpretation of a traditional Jewish tune that they had discovered in the form of notes, titled "The Jewish Brigade." To their amazement, the wholly non-Jewish crowd joined in to sing their version of the song, which was, they insisted, known as "The Polish Brigade." There's a certain satisfaction in knowing that a Jewish tune could be adapted from the surrounding Polish culture, given a Jewish tone, survive the Holocaust, be adapted to a more modern style, performed again in Yiddish by Jewish artists, and be enjoyed and related to by a Polish audience. Songs Hand-Hammered In Copper will be featured at "Beit Shalom Aleichem" in Tel Aviv on Wednesday at 21:00. Friday, December 1 / 2000.

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