YIDcore played the Chase Café on July 20, with Even Shsiyah. The latter band is a Chicago-based Southern-rock groove machine. Theyre Jewish too; the man at the mike is a rabbi, so imagine Shlomo Carlebach fronting the Allman Brothers.
The concert kicked off a series called, appropriately enough, “Tzitizt: Music from the Jewish Fringe.” Just some of the other acts coming to Chicago in rapid-fire succession this year: L.A.s Ladino-rappers, the Hip-Hop Hoodios; New Yorks King Django, who merges klezmer and reggae; sax prodigy Danny Zamir and his band, Satlah; and the bluegrass-meets-New-Age stylings of Simply Tsfat.
But next up are The Jews Brothers, a Jewish swing band from New Zealand, who will play four August dates in Chicago and Evanston after their stint at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Jewish music, it seems, is both out there and out there.
Tzitzit” is the first series offered by Kfar, a six-month-old organization spearheaded by its founder and director, Adam Davis.
Kfar is the Hebrew word for village, Davis explains. There are many Jewish acts in Chicago and elsewhere who need a context to meet each other and audiences. Kfar was created to provide that artistic village.” Kfars objective is to stimulate, promote and produce the next generation of Jewish expression, a mission for which Kfar has recently received a letter of support from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.
To Kfar, Chicago-born Davis brings both his avocation and vocation, marketing. Davis graduated from the University of Cincinnatis Conservatory of Music he is a trumpeter and singer and has appeared in off-Loop theatrical productions. He met many fellow artists who shared his feeling that we all sought some way to participate in Judaism using our art.
Davis realized that while mainstream American Jewish musicians had resources to connect with each other and audiences, nothing of that nature existed in Chicago, anyway for those artists on the edges of Jewish expression.
Davis also recognized that our generation could be creating more music, performance and art which speaks to us,” he said. Synagogue services, the singles scene, and Seinfeld reruns arent always inspiring connections to our people. So what is our generations Jewish culture? It must be more than bagel brunches on Sunday and Chinese food on Christmas. If were going to stay interested, weve got to find things that speak to us young Jews living in 2002.
Kfar is also part of a national trend to appreciate and promote alternative forms of Jewish expression: Heeb magazine; The Knitting Factorys spin-off Jewish Alternative Movement label; movies like Focus,” Pi, and Late Marriage; Tony Kushners play The Dybbuk”; Nathan Englanders storybook For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. There are already “scenes” in New York (based in the Makor center) and San Francisco (at The Hub), fostering and promoting such expression.
“But were talking about Jewish culture, which reaches back thousands of years, so of course there are precedents,” Davis points out, listing Emma Goldman, Lenny Bruce, Allen Ginsberg, and Gloria Steinem, all the way back to Abraham, Rebecca, and Moses, who were radicals back then.”
Turning again to the subject of Jewish music, Davis discusses the need for Kfar from the artists viewpoint. Chicago has some amazing talent, from Peter Saltzmans Revolution Ensemble for jazz to Dr. Armando Sussmano, who writes new Argentine tangos,” Davis said. Many are already serving as Artistic Associates, including singer/songwriter Ellen Rosner, (hip-hop artist) Cleetus Friedman, Rebecca Rosen, a choreographer, and Dian Ellenbogen, a poet.
Some of these acts dont have labels or agents and have to do all their own booking, promotion, and CD distribution. Some of these acts dont even know the others exist! Kfar will provide these resources and connections, helping to create a community of Jewish arts in Chicago.” Eventually, Kfar will expand to encompass all the performing and visual arts, Davis added.
A village is a community, but its also a place. The Web site kfarcenter.org will launch soon, but our long-range plan,” Davis said, includes a facility including an auditorium, rehearsal space, galleries, classrooms, a dance floor anything that can bring artists together with each other and the public.
Upcoming Kfar events include: a Songwriters Succoth; an indie-rock Chanukah jam; an Improv Purim-schpiel; and a the Karl Shapiro Memorial Jewish Poetry Slam.
Yes, Jewish art is out there. Thanks to Davis, Kfar is bringing it here.