Frank London / Ghetto Songs

Interesting graphic paired with utterly mundane typography - with shadow effect no less!

Frank London / Ghetto Songs, 2021
Available from Felmay (Italy) and from Apple and other streaming media services.

There is always more to Frank London projects beyond "just the tracks." This recording is yet another reminder of why we listen when Frank makes music. In this case, there was a residency in Venice five years ago to mark 500 years since the creation of the world's eponymous "ghetto." Then, a return in 2019 to perform The Merchant of Venice, in the Venice Ghetto, for the first time.

Now, in this recording, London has gathered a stellar group of musicians, including vocalists ranging from the exquisite Cantor Yaakov Lemmer to Cantor Sveta Kundish and Karim Sulayman. As is his wont, he expands the concept of ghetto to South Africa and the United States; includes music from around the Jewish world, and includes some new settings of his own, as well as the obligatory (the inspiration originating in Italy) Salomone Rossi

The album opens with two pieces that reflect the original 500th anniversary project: a Nina Roti-inspired London original setting of a 16th century poem by Angelo Beolco, written for the aforementioned premiere of Merchant of Venice, immediately followed by a Salamone Rossi song, "O dolcezz'amarissime." These are two of several Italian settings, including Cantor Lemmer's luminous performance of "Oseh Shalom" using a traditional Italian liturgy tune (different from the tunes I grew up with in suburban North America).

We are reminded of Ghettoes around the world with Sveta Kundish's rendition of the Gebirtig song, "Minutn fun bitokhn" (Moments of Hope), and the Gershon Sirota setting of "Retsey" from the 20th Century repertoire of Warsaw Cantor Gershon Sirota. We go beyond Europe with "Nirdi Natan Reiho," from the Morocan Mellah.

We then travel around the world, with "Life is a Ghetto" (originally recorded by the American band, "War") and "Accordion Jive" from the Capetown Township in South Africa, finally closing with an Italian liturgical setting of the Khanike song, "Maoz Tzur."

This is the sort of mix only Frank London can pull off—a dazzling tableau of music across time and cultures that exemplifies the human spirit and unquenchable dreams of freedom, as we seek to transcend not only the ghettoes of the past, but ghettoes in our own minds. It is also a harmonious, beautiful journey through music cultures around the world, from the 16th century to our contempoary pop charts. It is not a recording to miss.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 24 December 2021.

Personnel this recording:
Frank London: music director, trumpet
Karim Sulayman: vocals (1,2,5,6,7,10,12)
Cantor Sveta Kundish: vocals (2,3,5,7,10,12)
Cantor Yaakov ‘Yanky’ Lemmer:: vocals (4,11)
Brandon Ross: vocals (9), guitar
Marika Hughes: cello
Ilya Shneyveys: accordion, piano, organ
Gregg August: piano, bass
Kenny Wollesen: drums
Rachid Halihal: oud & violin (5)


  1. Amore an (Venice; words: Il Ruzante; music: Frank London) 2:33
  2. O dolcezz’amarissime (Venice; words: Luzzasco Luzzaschi; music: Salomone Rossi) 2:12
  3. Minutn fun bitokhn—Moments of hope (Poland; words & music: Mordechai Gebirtig) 3:46
  4. Oseh Shalom—Bringer of Peace (Italy; words: trad. liturgy & Cantor Yaacov Lemmer; music: trad. & Frank London) 3:44
  5. Nirdi Natan Reiḥo—The breath of all beings; (Morocco; words: Rabbi Abraham Ibn Musa; music: Trad.) 8:15
  6. La Barcheta—Gondolier's song (Venice; words: Pietro Buratti; music: Reynaldo Hahn) 4:41
  7. Ve’Atah El Shaddai (Venice; words: Sara Copio Sullam; music: Frank London) 3:58
  8. Accordion Jive (Capetown Township; composer unknown) 3:16
  9. The world is a ghetto (USA; words & music: War) 7:29
  10. Tahì Tahà (Venice; words: Momolo Mandolin; music: Frank London) 2:21
  11. Retsey (Warsaw; words: trad. liturgy; music: Repertoire of Gershon Sirota) 5:54
  12. Ma'oz Tzur—Rock of Ages (Venice; words: trad. liturgy; music: Benedetto Marcello) 3:51

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