The New York-based The Klezmatics is known for its adaptions of centuries-old, East European klezmer music – Jewish songs and dances – and transforming this spiritual legacy to the vibrant cultural scene of New York City. The Klezmatics always incorporated into these traditions heretic political issues relating to human rights and anti-fundamentalism with eclectic musical influences including Arab, African, Latin and Balkan rhythms, jazz, gospel and punk.
«Letter to Afar», The Klezmatics’ 13th and most adventurous album so far, was composed for the audio-visual installation by Hungarian filmmaker and video artist Péter Forgács, and recorded at Park West Studios in Brooklyn in April 2013. This installation was based on home movies made by New York’s Jewish immigrants who traveled back to visit Poland during the 1920s and 30s. Their films document poignant family reunions and everyday life in cities and small towns in the years before the Second World War, capturing culture on the brink, with no premonition of what awaits them. Unknowingly, they also provided a snapshot of the extraordinary autonomy and richness of Jewish life in interwar Poland, and the great diversity of schools, youth, self-help and cultural organizations that existed at the time. A few years later, ninety percent of Poland’s 3.5 million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis and their accomplices.
The Klezmatics evocative and haunting soundtrack was sourced from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, where Klezmatics’ vocalist-accordionist Lorin Sklamberg works as a sound archivist. The 15 Letters are moving and obviously melancholic instrumental and mostly minimalist meditations to lost lives in a vanished world, deeply rooted in the traditions of klezmer but propelled into acoustic-chamber, immersive ambient music. This double album filters inspirations from such distinct experimental artists like Brian Eno and David Torn and iconoclast composer Morton Feldman to the Klezmatics’ ever-inclusive musical universe.
Richie Barshay (perc), Matt Darriau (cl, kaval), Lisa Gutkin (vio), Frank London (tp, keys), Paul Morrissett (b, tsimbl), Lorin Sklamberg (acc, p, v), John Mettam (dr, perc)