Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.




Wolf Krakowski, a singer from Massachusetts, used to skewer Jewish musicians on the Internet for performing in Germany.  One of Wolf’s most memorable lines was “Nobody looks good in brown lipstick.”  (Meaning, don’t kiss German tush.)

One American klezmer — who played in Germany a couple times — thought Wolf was stiff-necked. The musician wrote back to Wolf: “I’m a vegetarian and don’t wear leather.  I am not evil. I don’t eat
meat . . .”

No sale.  Wolf wrote, “Heaven forfend that any unpleasantness intrude upon your pursuit of the deutschmarks.”

Wolf dropped off the Jewish-Music Web forum shortly after that.  Nobody took his place.  Impossible.

Few, if any, American klezmers are as hard-line on Germany as Wolf.  (Wolf was born in a Displaced Persons camp and has valid reasons for his position.)

The postwar generation in Germany is an appreciative, knowledgeable audience, according to many American klezmers. Just about every German town has a klezmer band.  Nearly every American band wants to play there.

Yiddishe Cup would go to Germany.

Nobody has asked.

Got sort of asked.  A festival in Fuerth, Germany, wrote me several emails about how they were looking forward to Yiddishe Cup’s appearance at the Fuerth Klezmer Festival. Then the committee switched leaders, or something, and I didn’t hear from the organizers for a long time.  I emailed.  Nothing.  I phoned.  I got a man on the line and said, “Do . . .  you . . . speak . . . English?”

He said, “I’ll give it a try.”  Easy-breezy, with a British-tinged German accent.  His only stilted  line was his last one: “We will not be needing you.”  I heard that as “Ve vill not be needing you, Mr. Yiddishe Cup.”  Sounded like Kissinger or Colonel Klink.   Kissinger.  Kissinger was born in Fuerth.

Germany could use some Mickey Katz parodies.



I want to introduce Yiddishe Cup in a foreign language.  “Nuestro keyboardist es Alan Douglass …”  That would be in Buenos Aires, say.

Der Rhythmus der Tradition.  Der Beat der jungen Generation.  Aus der Reihe KulturSpiegel.

That German is real.  Yiddishe Cup is on a just-released Sony Germany compilation CD, Balkan Basics World Tour II.

[The rhythm of tradition.  The beat of the young generation.  From the Culture Mirror series.]

Yiddishe Cup doesn’t generally play Balkan music.  No problem, the other bands on the CD do.  Taraf de Haidouks, Boban Markovic, Balkan Beat Box.

Yiddishe Cup’s contribution is Mehkuteneste Mayne (My Dear In-law) — straight-ahead klez.  We’re right after Tsu Der Kretshme (To the Tavern) by Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars.

London, a founder of the Klezmatics, is one of the top players in world music — and one of the coolest.   He wears a Jim Brown yarmulke; shades; a billowy, flowery shirt; and yet somehow doesn’t look like a 51-year-old Jewish guy at a Woodstock party.

I’ve seen London a few times at KlezKamp. He’s ingenious, making new music with pros and amateurs alike.  He organizes multi-generational bands: teenagers pound drums, senior citizens skvitch (screech) on violins, and assorted pros hold it all together.  London directs this KlezKamp ensemble with his hairy, Cro-Klezmer Man mien.  That’s side one of London.

Side two is Frank London as New York Jewish intellectual.  In a Pittsburgh newspaper, he used semiotic and qua to discuss an upcoming Klezmatics concert.

That wasn’t just postmodern.  That was Post-Gazette.

London calling . . .

Yiddishe Cup, and others, is on Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH.

Yesterday Yiddishe Cup was an Ohio klezmer band.  Today Yiddishe Cup is an Ohio klezmer band, but add irresistibly au courant.  Other tunes on the Balkan Basics project are “Sex Bomb,” “Rod Serling’s Trip to Bulgaria” and “Are You Gypsified?”  (By Globeal.Kryner, Mastika, and Taraf de Haiduks, respectively.)

Yiddishe Cup wants this Balkan hubbub to last longer than 10 seconds.  The Challah Fame in Cleveland is hastily organizing a one-day symposium, “Jewish Cultural Ventriloquism,” featuring these four lecturers:

Frank London, trumpet
“The Visceral, Semiotic Link Between Klezmer Music and Yiddish”

Bert Stratton, clarinet
“Supple, Labile Ethnicity: Kiss Me, I’m Balkan (ne Klezmer, ne Jewish)”

Walter Zev Feldman, tsimbl
“Repurposing the Bagel Shmeer: Klezmer as JIF (Jewish Instrumental Folk Music)”

Steven Greenman, violin
“How About Those Steelers?”
Hear clips from the CD Balkan Basics World Tour II, direct from the Treffpunkt Musikshop.

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1 Wolf Krakowski { 11.04.09 at 9:38 am }

Hi Bert:

Your comments regarding an old exchange on the Jewish Music List
are inaccurate. I never “used to skewer musicians for playing in Germany” as you erroneously and carelessly state. You make it sound as if I had a dedicated campaign going. Not.

What I responded to (and what you have either misinterpreted and/or chosen to serve your own purposes) was one writer’s insufferable gushing over the wonderfulness of the German people for their support of klezmer music. Not exactly the same thing.

The phenomenon of Jewish music being marketed and consumed in countries where most Jews were murdered strikes me — and I speak only for myself — as a curious form of cultural necrophilia. That does not mean that I believe Jewish music should not be performed in these places, or that I disparage any musician for doing so. I hope I have made myself clear.

Why would I give a damn where a musician chooses to perform or not to perform? It’s not my business how a person pursues their art, livelihood or pleasure.

I would play anywhere my requirements are met — perhaps barring some exceptional circumstance. Those who know me, know that.

And don’t be calling me Wolfman; in the context of your public letter, it’s disrespectful. There was only one “Wolfman” — actor Lon Chaney; and only one man can be called “the Wolf,” — bluesmentsh Howlin’ Wolf.

Klez on, Bertboy!

2 zach { 11.04.09 at 11:11 am }

As an actual Balkan and klezmer musician, I can say that outsiders do tend to confuse the two (a concept which makes no sense to me).

People like Frank London (who I know well from KlezKanada) have managed to bridge the gap. His Brotherhood of Brass project was a phenomenal success, but may have contributed to the confusion.

3 Bert { 11.04.09 at 11:28 am }

To Wolf Krakowski:

I just changed this post’s “Wolfman” and “the Wolf” references to “Wolf.”

4 Wolf Krakowski { 11.04.09 at 2:04 pm }

Hi Bert:

Thank you. No hard feelings.

I just don’t think we should mess around with people’s names, unless permission has been granted. I’m “old school” in that respect.

I omitted something in my post; actually, there are two worthy Wolfmans to my knowledge. Besides the aforementioned great actor Lon Chaney, of blessed memory, there was also the uber-DJ, Wolfman Jack, o”h.

zay mir gezint,


PS: Check out our new video, “Vilna,” performed by Fraidy Katz.

5 bill jones { 11.04.09 at 2:20 pm }

Bert, Mazel tov on the Balkan Basics inclusion for Yiddishe Cup. Impressive company you keep. May it always be upwards and onwards.

Now about misquoting and insulting (sort of) another personality, just so we keep the buzz going. Has to be someone who will respond, of course.


6 Steven Greenman { 11.04.09 at 6:16 pm }

Is qua a legit word in Scrabble?

7 rokhl { 11.04.09 at 8:53 pm }

I often get requests from German journalists who come to NYC to cover the Yiddish scene. They want to capture our delicious Jewish authenticity, or some shtus like that. Anyway, I had one plead with me recently to be honest about how much I hated Germans who were into Yiddish and klezmer. She wanted something juicy for her report. I declined.

On the topic of Wolf Men, I recently learned that the classic Hollywood lore of werewolves (silver bullets, etc.) was entirely created by Curt Siodmak, a German Jew (of Polish origin). He was a well-known science-fiction and fantasy writer who wrote the script for The Wolf Man (1941). Wolves are powerful Jewish magic…

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