Sunday, October 22, 2017

What’s the Matter with the Klezmer?: The Peter Sokolow Story

The Peter Sokolow Story: A nice entertaining short documentary film on klezmer music, as told by Peter Sokolow (aka “Klezmer Fats”), who started playing klezmer in “the Catskills” in 1958 as a college student. The Catskill Mountains, approximately 100 miles or 160 kilometres north of New York City, was viewed then—reaching the height of popularity post-war, a reputation that lasted until the late 1970s—as an idyllic and ideal vacation spot for Jews to spend summers away from the sweltering city, where hotels like Brown’s, Grossinger’s and the Concord became popular with their all-inclusive packages for kosher food, entertainment and activities. There were many well-known Jewish performers and comedic acts, and there was also klezmer, or Jewish music, which was then considered primarily as dance music for weddings, bar mitzvahs, dances and other such Jewish community celebrations. The last few decades, however, has seen klezmer become a genre of its own, possibly driven by nostalgia and marketing. The Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project writes: “Sokolow tells his compelling life story, from growing up the son of a musician in New York, to performing for the Yiddish-speaking communities in the Catskills, to ultimately discovering and mastering klezmer under the mentorship of some of the genre's most renowned musicians. As he sits at his piano, Sokolow ponders whether cultural authenticity will persevere or become a vestige of the past.” Who can tell? Yet the past seems better in so many ways; and klezmer does have a soulful searching sound grounded in the past traditions. Afilu azoy, shpil mir a kleyn klezmer.
Via: Youtube & Yiddish Book Center