CD REVIEW, October 2017
What a joy!
In this age of when the public have chosen to categorise songs of tradition and the genre (a French word meaning like, or similar to, but not the same) of protest song together, here you have exponents of the sharp edged, barbed urban statement straight from the streets where the Jewish immigrant encountered England.
Gradually under the influence of such street culture, the language of usage from the coarse and cutting edge of Loshen Ashkenaz slowly merged in the half way stage of “Yinglish” as she was “spoke”. A blend of Yiddish and English kind of!
The sentiments expressed in the lyrics and melodies that Katsha'nes bouyantly perform on this CD, are those of the first annotated generation of “Agunot” (The chained women tied by religious law to the men who deserted them.). A situation explained by the spiky performance on this release of the song “Di brivelekh fun Rusland – Letters from Russia”. Abrasive too are items “London bay nakht/London by night”; “Azoy geyt dos gelt avek/That's how the money goes”.
Listening to the biting lyrics of some of these ballads, I was reminded of serious composers with names like Eisler, Dessau, Weill, who in the years between the two World Wars and particularly during the Weimar Republic, worked with Berthold Brecht and produced songs such as “Mack The Knife”.
This CD holds a spotlight to a very productive time of Yiddish tenament expression and the influence upon it of the English Music Hall and of America's Vaudeville stage.
Katsha' nes here give voice to some souls of the immigrant settling generation, not so much the communities of Yiddish speaking “Lantsmun*”, but mainly to the children of the ghetto suffocated by a constricted claustrophobic environment, full of dark and dimly lit alley ways and shadowy tenant courtyards that needed a lighter touch
A sense of venturing out with a mouthful of a new language, a breaking of the heavy shackles with the past, but sometimes having to acknowledge that you could do nothing but wear them even when they were broken.
* Lantsmun = men of the immigration who came from the same village
DEREK REID (Song collector, folklorist, writer)