Budowitz / Mother Tongue

Album cover: That international 'folk music of the natives' look. Hah! Budowitz
Mother Tongue
Koch International GmbH CD 3-1261-2, 1997

A friend was lamenting to me about how boring klezmer avant garde had become. "I hear that even the new Klezmatics cd will be a turn to the right" he says. (We'll go into why right-wing would be considered the opposite of "avant garde" some other time and place.) I thought for a minute. "You know, I opined, "the cutting edge of klezmer today is groups like Di Naye Kapelye and Budowitz."

Although the cover of this new release proclaims "Music of the 19th Century Klezmorim," and despite the fact that the cover is designed to make the CD fit in with "traditional songs of Syrian Jews" and "ancient folk rhythms of the Israelites field recorded by Avram Lomax," I think it's true that Budowitz represents the most exciting, push the edge, get up and dance klezmer happening. It just sounds different from anything else in the klez world, and yet it's so listenable (if you don't mind tapping your toes and stifling the urge to get up and swing around the room) and exciting. It's also fun to play this album to people who know Balkan music well and to listen to them gasp as beats and rhythm syncopate just as they are supposed to be.

Rather than play klezmer as transmogrified by contact with jazz and everything else in America, Horowitz and others have spent years in the field talking and making music with surviving klezmorim and gypsies, as well as listening to radio transcriptions and old recordings. The result is something that sounds very new, very familiar, and most important, something that swings like crazy. It's the fusion music that we call klezmer as it was played in villages throughout Eastern Europe a century ago and less. You can even hear the process happen on the opening cut, as singing by Cili Schwartz is appended to the Budowitz update of the same melody. And from there on out, it's all Budowitz.

Take away the bar mitzvah beat of much of modern klezmer, let the ensemble swing together, speeding up and slowing down as the melodies change or the dancers tire, and familiar-sounding music sounds new again, and the joy of dancing without the metronomic quality of a drum machine is impossible to stop. Playing on older instruments also seems to add warmth. To hear the tsimbl, and old-style button accordions, the three-stringed cello--all fit the music perfectly, and make one wonder if we haven't lost something with modern instrumentation. Best of all, by returning to the 19th century sources, Budowitz creates something that is compelling to everyone, previous klezmer fan or not. It takes more than good musicians and good research to make good music, though. There is a chemistry here that works.

For those people who play klez, or who are interested in playing klez, it should be noted that Horowitz has also provided detailed notes about the songs, followed by an extensive glossary and an "interview" worth the price of the CD all by itself. For the rest of us, read the notes later. Dance now, and if you didn't already feel happy, you will in a few minutes.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 3/15/97

Personnel this recording:
Joshua Horowitz: tsimbl, 19th century button accordion
Walt Mahovlich: C-clarinet
Steven Greenman: violin
Lothar Lässer: 19th century button accordion
Géza Pénzes: cello, contrabass

Special guest:
Cili Schwartz: voice (track 1 only)


  1. Cili's Kale Bazingns 1:42
  2. Bughici's Tishn Nign 1:55
  3. Gut Morgn 3:10
  4. Unzer Toyrele 2:46
  5. Bolgarskii Zhok 2:33
  6. Pedotser's Tants 3:21
  7. Fried's Sher 2:50
  8. Yankowitz's Doina 2:32
  9. Druker's Bulgarish 1:48
  10. Beckman's Hora 2:54
  11. Rumeynishe Sirba 2:26
  12. Gute Nakht Sirba 1:30
  13. Solinski's Rumeynishe Fantazi 3:34
  14. Bessaraber Khusidl 2:36
  15. Belf's Khusidl 1:21
  16. Leibowitz's Khusidl 3:13
  17. Mazeltov, Mazeltov 2:29
  18. Horowitz's Doina 2:49
  19. Freylekhs Fun der Khupe 3:14
  20. Steiner's Honga 2:19
  21. Schwartz's Sirba 3:09
  22. Dulitski's Skochne 2:20
  23. Ukraynishe Kolomeyke 1:49

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