About this Recording
76026-2 - UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - Yale Strom: Klezmer (Cafe Jew Zoo)

My desire to explore the evolution of different sounds of New Jewish Music (under the heading of klezmer) was the initial inspi

My desire to explore the evolution of different sounds of New Jewish Music (under the heading of klezmer) was the initial inspiration for this CD.  The range of music emanates from the DNA of klezmer, which is the melismatic prayer modalities chanted by the ancient Hebrews of the Middle East.  We klezmorim today often overlook that Abraham came from Ur in Iraq, and not Uman in Ukraine.  Thus, in tunes like “Bonesetter’s Last Dance,” “Dorohoi Khusidl,” “Hora Din Caval,” and “Shakiris,” the Middle Eastern tonalities can be easily heard. 

That said, I also want to trace how Jewish music (both instrumental and vocal) has developed over the centuries.  Having firmly established the music’s roots, I wanted to explore the limitless possibilities of the music’s potential.  Of the vocal pieces, I wanted to challenge myself to write new Yiddish poetry set to music.  In the tradition of many Yiddish poets and writers, I wanted these lyrics to reflect my own sense of social, political, and spiritual values and concerns.  This tradition of framing art within a human and humanitarian context feels particularly Jewish to me. 

The positive aspects of the proliferation of Jewish art are balanced by the fact that there is not an equal proliferation of Jews; this fact, coupled with the world’s negative feelings about the state of Israel and the continuance of the same old tired anti-Semitic canards, leavens my joy at klezmer being performed all over the world.  The Jewish people have been marginalized throughout history, and despite the popularity of Jewish art forms (films, music, literature, etc.), this has not changed.  As the world’s Jewish population fails to grow in proportion to other ethnic groups, the variety of Jews and Jewish cultures in the world is in danger of becoming increasingly rare.  Hence the CD’s title – Café Jew Zoo – these tunes represent

different “species,” or aspects of the Jewish experience.

– Yale Strom


Mein bager oystsuforshen di antviklung fun farsheydene klangen fun Der Neier Yiddisher Musik (unter dem rubrik klezmer) iz geven di ershte inspiratsye far dem kompaktl.  Der greykh fun der musik fliest fun dem klezmer kval, dos zenen di reikhe tfiles un nigunim gezungen fun di amolike Ivriim.  Mir, heintike klezmorim, fargessen oft az Avrom iz gekumen fun Ur in Iraq un nit Uman in Ukrayne.  Heyst ess, az in melodyes vi “Bonesetter’s Last Dance,” “Dorohol Khusidl,” “Hora Din Caval,” un “Shakiris,” ken men leikht hern di tener fun mitl mizrekh. 

Ikh vil oykh ontseykhenen vi Yiddishe musik (instrumental un mit gezang) hot zikh antvikelt durkh di doyres.  Hobndik eingeshtelt di vortslen, hob ikh gevolt oysforshn di umbagrenetste potentsialen fun der musik.  Far di lieder mit gezang hob ikh gevolt fodern fun zikh, aleyn tsu shreiben neieh Yiddishe poezye tsu der musik.  In der traditsye fun a sakh Yiddixhe poetn un shreiber, hob ikh gevolt az di verter zoln ibbergebn mein eygenem gefiel vegn sotsiale, politishe, un geistike asokim.  Di traditsye fun einramen kunst in a menchlikhen un humanitarishen kontekst tapt on mein Yiddshkeit.

Di positive protim fun der tseshpreytung fun Yiddisher kunst zenen balansirt mit dem vos ess iz nito di zelbe farshpreytung fun Yidn; der fakt, tsuzmen mit der velt’s negative gefielen vegn Yisroel, un di keseyderdike alte antisemitishe guzmes, derminert mein simkhe vos klezmer musik vert hein geshpielt ibber der gantser velt.  Far dor-doyres hut men bagrenetst dos Yiddishe folk, un trots der populerkeit fun Yiddisher kunst (kino, musik, literatur), hut zikh dos nit geendert. In der tseit, ven di Yiddishe bafelkerung vakst nit proportsyonel tsu andere etnishe grupes, iz di farsheydnkeit fun Yiddisher kultur in gefar...Deribber – der nomen fun dem kompaktl – di lieder shteln for farsheydene protim fun Yiddishe lebns derfarungen.

- Yale Strom



I discovered this melody in a Yiddish book given to me by Fira Kofman, who moved to Birobidzhan (The Jewish Autonomous Region) from Minsk in 1934.  Fira is a true idealist to this day, and was one of the major city planners and builders of Birobidzhan.  I had gone to Birobidzhan to make a documentary film about the history and present times of this fascinating chapter in Jewish - and Soviet - history.  That film, “L’Chayim, Comrade Stalin!” features two of my original compositions from this CD: “Waltz Amur” and “L’Chayim, Comrade Stalin!” as well as this song. The lyrics are typical of the propaganda fostered by the Soviet government to encourage settlement (and funds from individuals and organizations like IKOR) to the region.  Birobidhzan was the world’s first secular, Yiddish, communist homeland for the Jews, and predated the establishment of Israel by 20 years.

Hora din Caval

I was inspired to write this melody during my travels through Northern Romania.  I heard a shepherd playing the caval (a Romanian wooden flute), and the title of this piece translates to English as “Hora (Romanian dance) for the caval.”  The piece combines Romanian folk with klezmer styles.  I wrote this for Fred Benedetti, with whom I’ve been playing for almost 30 years.  He arranged this for classical guitar.

The Bonesetter’s Last Dance

This melody is based on the melody that I wrote for “Yekele the Bonesetter.”  I was interested in exploring the Ottoman influence on Romanian klezmer music, and this piece is in a less typical 9/8 (2-3-2-2) than one more often hears in Balkan music (2-2-2-3).  This 9/8 rhythm is known as karshlama in Turkish, which means “Face to Face.”  The rhythm heard here is common to the folk music of Albania, Macedonia and Northern Greece.  The piece opens with a taksim.

Stoliner Skotshne #1

Stolin, a Khasidic stronghold, is a small town just outside of Pinsk, Belarus.  This tra

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