Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me...
For those not familiar with the Yiddish language, let me start by explaining that "bubbe" in the above title means grandmother. The full title of Lori Cahan-Simon's album is Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me, Vol. One: Passover. At the time of writing this review, pesakh (Passover) is not far off, and whether you're religious or secular, this album would make for a wonderful seasonal treat; and even if you're not Jewish at all, it'll still make for a wonderful treat, any time of year, the songs are simply marvelous and Lori Cahan-Simon's great gift, like all great music and art is a gift to all mankind.
Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me is a collection of Yiddish secular songs connected with Passover. The lyrics and music of these songs are by some of the finest poets and composers that Yiddish culture has given rise to. For this reviewer, these songs are a new discovery, and to paraphrase Lori Cahan-Simon's introduction in the liner notes, meeting with them has been like finding a long-lost friend.
Lori Cahan-Simon's vocals are outstanding, as are Michael Alpert's, another veteran of the klezmer and Yiddish song "revival" also featured on this album. The supporting ensemble is superb and of impeccable pedigree, and Steven Greenman's arrangements are supremely crafted. Both production and presentation are simply wonderful, and there is a great atmosphere of heymishkayt (homeliness, homeyness). The listener is, as it were, somehow transported into somebody's parlour where the family and relations are gathered singing and playing, and he or she is made to feel at home. It is a comfortable as well as somehow comforting experience. The songs' stories are told with great eloquence and poignancy. Tales of great sorrow and sadness, of oppression and savagery, as well as of contentment and ultimately liberation and the triumph of the human spirit, unfold like some great epic. Here the listener without knowledge of the Yiddish language is greatly helped by the excellent liner notes by Lori Cahan-Simon, Dr. Itzik Gottesman and Steven Greenman, which include full translations into English of the lyrics of each song, a valuable aid to following the stories in greater detail. That said, even as a non-Yiddish speaker with only the most rudimentary knowledge of the language mainly through my interest in klezmer and Yiddish song, I found it unusually easy to follow the lyrics and understand most, almost instinctively, without reference to the booklet. Further testimony, as if it were needed, of Lori Cahan-Simon's great expressive gifts and her superb diction.
This album must be considered beyond essential in any collection of Yiddish song. The wonderful heritage presented in it simply must not be lost, either. To let such a thing happen would be unforgivable. Unfortunately, Lori Cahan-Simon is not, at present, supported by any record label, and had to raise finance to fund this album by herself. Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me is an ongoing project, and so I would like to urge you to support this worthy effort in any way you can. By buying the CD, or direct contribution if you can, or maybe you own/run or are part of, or even just know of, a business or some kind of organisation that might be able to help and support this cause. (Ms. Cahan-Simon's contact information can be found elsewhere on this page.)
© 2003 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
Lori Cahan-Simon, vocals
Steven Greenman, violin, arranger
Michael Alpert, vocals
Walt Mahovlich, accordion, flute
Alexander Fedoriouk, tsimbl (cimbalom), percussion
Norm Tischler, tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet
Henry Shapiro, bass, guitar
Lyle Merdler, trap set and percussion
Mel Arnoff, piano