Review | Personnel | Songlist/sound samples
Review of "Sounds of the vanishing world," 1999
Before heading off to Eastern Europe in the fall of 1996, I got several pieces of e-mail talking about Krakow. In particular, everyone seemed to agree that there was one band that one had to see, Kroke. The band was originally promoted by Cafe Ariel, and provided music for the Stephen Spielberg movie, "Schindler's List." As it happens, the band was on tour when I was in Krakow, but I did at least have the chance to snag one of their cassettes.
In an era when "klezmer" has become something of a protest fad among young folk in Poland and Germany, Kroke seem to exemplify an interesting klezmer derivative. The music is too dark to really represent traditional klezmer. At times, it is almost as if the Velvet Underground have been reborn as a klezmer band. At the same time, the music is certainly interesting and fun, if not danceable. I am also tempted to read into the dark sound of the band an inevitable comparison to what it must be to play klezmer in a city that was 35% Jewish before the Holocaust, much of the population apparently assimilated and moved out of the former Jewish ghetto, and whose Jewish population consists now of fewer than 200.
When the band is magic and let's loose, as in the huge medley, "Remembrance of Kazimierz" or the ethereal "Jerusalem" (which make up most of the second side of the cassette), it is riveting. And yet, if the incessant minor keys of "Stetele" or "Hora" become overbearing, there is some minor relief in the band's version of "Czarnobyl" (often called "Hoo Tza Tza") with occasional moments of apparent virtuosity and frivolity, and a state of near-carefreeness on "Lomir zingen". In all events, I don't care. This is very much an interesting album done by good musicians. If it is less than traditional (something that would usually excite me, say, in an American klezmer band), it is also clearly grounded in that tradition. I'd love to see them live, and I really wish I had trusted what I heard enough to get their second cassette while I was in town, as well.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1/26/97
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