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Jane Enkin Reviews Tarbut 2017 Concerts

by Jane Enkin January 12, 2017

Tarbut 2017 concerts
review by Jane Enkin


The Rady JCC's Tarbut Festival challenges Winnipeg audiences in many  satisfying ways.  The first concert in Tarbut 2017 was billed as AvevA:  Ethiopian Israeli Soul.  The emphasis here was on American-style soul music, with electric instruments, rock drum kit, and the powerful vocals of the young singer-songwriter, AvevA.  Many of her songs were in English, with inspiring lyrics on themes such as antiracism.  Aveva’s style shifted subtly when she sang in Hebrew, and more intensely the few times she sang beautifully in Amharic.This pop concert was perhaps most suited to a club for young audiences, with a dance floor – but as always, the Tarbut audience at the Rady Centre was engaged and happy.

Lerner – Moguilevsky Duo, from Argentina, closed the festival at the West End Cultural Centre.  I was surprised at the audience's joyous enthusiasm, this time for sophisticated, ever-changing improvised music based on folk themes.  Cesar Lerner played a large part of the concert on accordion, and also played percussion and piano.  Marcelo Moguilevsky switched fluidly from one wind instrument to another, including clarinet and a variety of flutes.

The duo draws on klezmer roots – you would hear a familiar-sounding melody and rhythm, then suddenly the ground would shift beneath your feet as melody would wander and rhythm would be disrupted, with traditional klezmer motifs shimmering into the sound then disappearing again.

With friends, I tried to find a way to define their sound – we had heard of klezmer-jazz fusion, but this was not jazz.  Finally we settled on “klezmer-new music fusion” as a way to approach an understanding of what we had heard.

“We have this music from our grandparents as a legacy,” the musicians explained. “We can't repeat them but we can love and honour them.”

Part of the deep, beautiful experience of a Lerner – Moguilevsky Duo concert is the way they speak, with heartfelt teachings about the music. They have played together, while sustaining their solo careers, for 35 years.  They got their start playing Jewish weddings.  “Then we got serious: Not more music with chicken!  We respect wedding musicians but not for us.  We were looking for ourselves; we were looking for freedom.”

After decades of exploring their Ashkenazi roots, the duo have begun to incorporate Sephardi songs into their music.  Moguilevsky’s singing is gorgeous, a haunting and moving sound. He sang simple versions of the songs, then again the duo improvised, with the singer moving to wind instruments and then to the piano.

The duo’s sound is lush, although pitches and rhythms are often abrupt, harsh, surprising – challenging, in other words.  Improvisation is central to this music. “We are in the green room before the show praying that something will happen.”

Their message to audiences, spoken directly at the end of the concert, is passionate – we must listen.  They explained that the heart of their music is the way they listen, and they urged each of us to listen collaboratively, creatively, to one another.





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