Ghetto Tango
featuring Zalmen Mlotek and Adrienne Cooper

album cover. Ghetto Tango
Traditional Crossroads CD4297, 2000

Traditional Crossroads

Let us now consider the powerful new recording Ghetto Tango (see website,, out on Traditional Crossroads CD 4297. I first heard this piece, and first recorded it, at Ashkenaz '97, in Toronto. It consists of Adrienne Cooper singing songs that were sung in makeshift cabarets in the ghettos during WWII. She is accompanied by Zalmen Mlotek who, in many ways, is to piano and Yiddish song what Adrienne is to voice: an amazing musician and one who is inseparable from the popularity and popularizing of such song today. So, what you get are these two voices--or one voice, one piano, singing songs, from the (now) well-known "Frihling" to parodies and satire composed in the ghettoes, themselves, even including a bar mitzvah speech from the getto, and an anti-nazi song by Berthold Brecht, "Song of the Nazi soldier's wife." This is important repertoire. It is a part of our memory that we need most--a Jewish response to terrible times that we must never forget. (It is also important to remember that, while Brecht was not in a ghetto or concentration camp, he, like his collaborator, Kurt Weill, was forced to flee the Nazis.) But it is also amazing music performed with a life and excitement and grace that, but for the subject, occasionally cause one to forget the occasion, just as the songs were written and performed in the ghettoes for exactly the same reason. The album opens with a lively, almost joyful "Moyshe Hold On" (Moyshe halt zikh) and never lets go, not for plaintive or sly, nor for powerful. And for that, as I have written before, there is nothing better than the gorgeous voice of Adrienne Cooper, or the full, insidious piano, of Zalmen Mlotek (whose accompanying vocals are rather nice, too). and then, less we forget, there are also the thoughtfully gripping introductions by Ms. Cooper to place the songs in context. Lest we forget. Lest we also forget the human spirit.

This review was originally part of a group review, "Five Essential Releases," in May 2000. At some point I added track information and gave it it's own page. It deserves it, don't you think?

Originally Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/27/00

Personnel this recording:
Adrienne Cooper: voice
Zalmen Mlotek: piano


  1. Moyshe halt zikh—Moyshe Hold On (Vilna Ghetto) 2:39
  2. Coolies (Warsaw Ghetto) 3:47
  3. Mues—Money (Warsaw Ghetto) 2:58
  4. Mazl / On a heym—Luck / Homeless (Sosnow Ghetto) 3:29
  5. Makh tsu di eygelekh—Close your eyes (Lodz Ghetto) 3:20
  6. Peshe fun Reshe—Peshe, the girl from Reshe (Leyb Rozental, Vilna Ghetto) 3:08
  7. Yisrolik (Leyb Rozental, Vilna Ghetto) 3:27
  8. Moorsoldaten—the peat bog soldiers (Börgermoor Concentration Camp) 1:42
  9. Vayl ikh bin a yidele—because I am a Jew (Yankele Hershkovitz, Lodz Ghetto) 2:23
  10. Fun der arbet—slave labor (Kovno Ghetto) 3:58
  11. Nit keyn rozhinkes—No more raisins and almonds (Lodz Ghetto) 3:11
  12. Ver klapt es—Who's that knocking? (Lodz Ghetto) 2:56
  13. Friling—Springtime (Shmerke Kaczerginski, Vilna Ghetto) 5:50
  14. Song of the Nazi Soldier's Wife (words: Bertolt Brecht; music: Kurt Weill) 3:18
  15. Amerike hot erklert—America has declared (Lodz Ghetto) 1:26
  16. Yid du partizaner—Jew, partisan (Shmerke Kaczerginski, Vilna Ghetto) 1:35
  17. Minutn fun bitokhn—Moments of certainty (Mordkhe Gebirtig, Krakow Ghetto) 3:15
  18. The Bar Mitzve Speech 0:56

to top of page To top of page

the KlezmerShack Ari's home page
to About the Jewish-music mailing list
to The Klezmer Shack main page
to Ari Davidow's home page