Forshpil / Tsvey
Forshpil / Tsvey, 2020
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In my imagination, had the Klezmatics been born in Europe instead of NYC, and featured Sasha Lurje on vocals instead of Loren Sklamberg, and perhaps the instrumental virtuosity of Ilya Shneyveys instead of Frank London, they might have captured the Europeana-Yiddish metallic feel of Forshpil. Since things worked out differently, Sasha, Ilya, and company had to do it themselves. These are not bubbe's and zeyde's Sapozkelekh (that version was on their first album). If you remember how much fun Yiddish Princess was, or for that matter, how much you enjoyed their first album, you'll love this. For that matter, if you have any sense of European rock these last few decades, this will seem like "just a great rock album," not an entirely new chapter in modern Yiddish music.
After an appropriate prolog, Lurje and the band give us a healthy taste of what exploration of Yiddish culture in the 21st century means as she sings the familiar chestnut "forn avek" while the band lays down an entirely untraditional heavy metal backing, electric guitar and violin wailing away. If this isn't the way ruth Rubin taught it, that was a different century. Given the power of the band, Lurje can rock out and push her voice in ways that aren't always possible singing the more sedate Yiddish arrangements for which she is known elsewhere.
Even when songs start relatively quietly, as on "Oy dortn dortn", accompanied by Shneyveys' piercing flute, or on "Oy vey mame," where the ensemble still conveys power, and an ability to reach into psychedelic harmonies that would be equally at home in a local dance club as on the big stage at Ashkenaz (where I first heard the band live?) I especially love it when the band stretches out, as on this song, with Khramtsov's violin wailing away as if in counter to Lurje's voice, and then the voice returns, caressing the beat quietly, softly back to earth.
What seems especially noteworthy is that none of these songs are new. They reflect a deep awareness of (primarily) Yiddish song from sources ranging from Bronya Sakhina to Lifshe Schaechter-Widman to the late, great Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis; a transformed stew of Europeana and Yiddish. Nor would this be a modern Yiddish album without a transformed nign, the album-ending "Mezhiritsh".
I love this take on Yiddishkeit. I love the loudness of this album. I do miss the jazzier notes from their first album, but music changes. Coming from a talented team of European musicians this is also an in-your-face response to those who declared "Yiddish is dead." Hah! It's also a smack back in the face to covid-19. On the Bandcamp page, the group writes, "nostalgia for a world that never existed." I would claim, quoting Ram Das "Be here, now." Available from Bandcamp, of course, and from better streaming services everywhere.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1 January 2022.
Personnel this recording:
Sasha Lurje: voice
Ilya Shneyveys: Hammond Organ, synth bass (3-6, 9-10), electric bass (1-2, 7-8), guitars (7-8), banjo uke (8), glockenspiel (8), glass marimba (8), flutes (8, 10), drum machine (9), voice (10)
Mitia Khramtsov: electric violin
Roman Shinder: electric guitar
Zheka Lizin: drums
Featuring “the horns of Dobranotch” (10):
Ilya Gindin: clarinet, alto sax
Max Karpychev: tenor sax
Grisha Spiridonov: trombone
Alexey Stepanov: tuba
- Forshpil 1:46
- Forn avek 5:17
- Bay a taykhele/I want you (English for "I want you": Martina Baltkalne) 5:03
- Di sapozhkelekh tsvey 5:49
- Fishelekh in vaser 5:12
- A naye geshikhte 3:24
- Oy vey mame 6:02
- Oy dortn dortn 4:37
- Tsvey taybelekh 4:37
- Mezhiritsh 3:32
All songs traditional, arranged by Ilya Shneyveys and Forshpil, except (4) "di sapozhkelekh tsvey" (music - traditional, lyrics - traditional/Michael Alpert).