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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Ale Brider"

Klezmatics - "Ale Brider" (1988)

Ah May Day!

So I already did "Sixteen Tons" and "Le poinçonneur des Lilas", and no version of "Joe Hill" seems to have made the book's list, and somehow Harry Belafonte got left out as well. It took me a while to find a "work" song for you all today, but the Klezmatics arraignment of the Morris Winchevsky song "Ale Brider" (the title translates to We're All Brothers) comes close. The lyrics don't specify labor, just people sticking together 'like no one else' and loving each other 'like a bride and groom'. That by itself doesn't sound like a labor song to me, but couple that with the fact that Winchevsky was a prominent socialist and later communist in America in the late 19th century and you can kind of see where the union POV comes in.

Klezmer is the musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe. This is the musical tradition that those of us in America probably think of when we think 'Jewish Music': clarinet, accordion, dancing, violin, some brass and lots of singing in Yiddish. The style is known in America because it only lived in America for a long time. It had died out in Europe, and never really traveled to Israel, whereas Jewish immigrants brought the style to New York City and beyond. It was a dying musical tradition even here, only heard in small enclaves for traditional ceremonies, but then younger musicians in the 60s folk scene sought out older musicians and kept it alive. Another revival happened in the 80s and that is where we join the Klezmatics, possibly the worlds best known klezmer and klezmer fusion band. This track is taken off of their debut album Shvaygn = Toyt  and is very straightforward. They used their contacts in the 'underground-roots-music' scene to get the Les Miserables Brass Band to perform on this track, which brings the volume and the revelry up a whole 'nother level. I have read a rumor in one place on line that says that they changed the lyrics of the last verse to make a risque joke, but I can neither confirm nor deny that they joked on King David.

1 comment:

  1. I can confirm for you that the Klezmatics did indeed joke on the last line.

    The lyrics are usually as printed here:

    Instead, the Klez sing "ale shvester" as the second to last line. For the last line they sing:

    un mir zaynin ale freylech
    oy, oy ale freylech
    (vi) yoynasan un dovid ha-meylech
    oy, oy, oy

    And we will all be happy
    like Jonathan and King David

    Jonathan and David being the Biblical "very, very, very good friends" that they were.

    Of course, IMHO, it would have been even more funny if they had sung, "un mir zaynin ale feyglech" but perhaps that would be taking things a bit too far.

    This is, hands down, my favorite version of ale brider and of course, I love the Klezmatics, may they all live to 120 and continue to bring us amazing music.