Honeycomb Way offers up Jewish musical fusion
TORONTO — When two masters of radically different Jewish musical styles join together in performance next week, the outcome is apt to be aurally astounding.
Frank London, leader and trumpeter of the popular klezmer band The Klezmatics, and Yair Dalal, renowned Israeli oud player and Middle Eastern Jewish music aficionado, are currently composing songs that will blend their respective musical genres and then perform the pieces at a March 28, 8 p.m. concert at the Jane Mallett Theatre in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
The concert is titled The Honeycomb Way: A Musical Journey into the Sacred.
The two musicians are in town this week conducting master classes at the Koffler Centre with local players as well as working in a weeklong residency together with a who’s who of popular Toronto-based Jewish and multi-ethnic musicians who will accompany them on stage next Wednesday night for the performance.
Scheduled to perform with Dalal and London on stage next week are Sudanese multi-instrumentalist Waleed Abdulhamid; Aviva Chernick, lead singer of Jaffa Road; percussionist Rick Shadrach Lazar; Prague-born Yiddish singer Lenka Lichtenberg; Greek outi and bouzouki player Demetrios Petsalakis; South Asian drummer Debashis Sinha and Egyptian-Canadian songstress Maryem Tollar.
Reached in California by phone last week, Dalal told The CJN he was looking forward to working with London and the other musicians on this musical venture.
He said juxtaposing his beloved Jewish Iraqi musical influences with the Ashkenazi eastern European genre is not without its challenges. However, he said the two styles do share some similar scales and common Jewish melodies, and themes that he believes will render something beautiful for both the listener and the players.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to find common ground between the two [musical] traditions. Because the source of the music is common between the two,” Dalal said. “We both have songs from the Kabbalah, the Psalms, from Shabbat and other holidays. The words are the same. It’s just the melodies that changed.”
Dalal said before arriving in Toronto, he and London had already started experimenting musically together and that at times the initial sonic experience sounded odd to him.
“It felt a little bit strange. But it felt like I was making peace between the Jews,” he quipped. “There is the chassidic, klezmer, Babylonian and Moroccan [musical] traditions… and they don’t come together often. When people around the world think about Jewish music, they think about klezmer and don’t know about Middle Eastern Jewish music, which there is a lot of.”
He said The Honeycomb Way concert provides a unique opportunity for the world to find out more about this rich side of Jewish musical equation.
Dalal said he’s also excited to work with Lichtenberg, as the two are currently putting together an album called Lullaby in Exile, which will feature lullabies from both the Yiddish and Iraqi Jewish traditions.
“We’ve already recorded three songs. It’s a very exciting project,” he said.
For more information about The Honeycomb Way, visit www.kofflerarts.org or call 416-638-1881.