On Thursday, April 15 the Klezmer Ensemble, featuring Socalled, performed at Old Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia. The ensemble performed traditionally Jewish music with Socalled integrating hip hop and funk into the performance.
The word klezmer was traditionally used to refer to the musical instruments used in secular Jewish music first heard around the 15th century; however, in the late 1900s it became used to describe the professional musicians and then to describe the sounds as their own musical entity.1 The "Yiddish" music ensemble that performed the other night at the University of Virginia incorporated several violins, clarinets, trombones, trumpets, piano, accordions, mandolins, flute, and a bass. The director Joel Rubin combined both undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and community members to play in his ensemble. 2
Socalled can be described as "a hip hop maestro... a musician, producer, composer, arranger, magician, filmmaker, photographer and visual artist." 3 Born as Josh Dolgin, the Quebec resident became interested in playing the accordion at a young age. He played for numerous bands just outside of his community, including salsa, gospel, rock, and funk groups. 2 Never feeling close to his Jewish roots, he began to explore the sounds of old Yiddish records and realized the potential they contained for developing into "cool sounds he could sample to make hip hop beats." 3 He has created his own genre of music, incorporating the old traditional sounds of his Jewish heritage with the new sounds of his own generation and the pop music culture.
To begin the concert, Socalled played the accordion alongside Joel Rubin and the rest of the ensemble. It was a very traditional sounding song and tended to match the vibe of the audience (a mostly above 40 crowd). However, the mood quickly changed as during the next song Socalled was handed over the microphone to rap a Hebrew poem. He then took over the piano and continued to sing with a more pop sound on the next song performed. Next, he participated in a traditional trio style sound of music; however only Rubin on the clarinet and Socalled on the accordion were used. Finally, the sampler was utilized as Socalled put a wonderful back beat to the traditional sounds of the ensemble. He got the entire audience captivated as he performed a magic trick that was done by ripping up pieces of paper while getting the audience to clap with each "rip" sound he produced into the microphone and then stunned all viewers by magically creating a full piece of paper from the scraps. He appeared to just spontaneously push buttons on his sampler but all the previously recorded sounds meshed perfectly and the beats were wonderful additions to the violins and clarinets.
Finally, Socalled got to perform his very own song with his sampler: "These Are the Good Old Days." He changed up some of the lyrics to suit the present audience, but with his sampler he produced an entire band for himself, and then he asked Rubin and a guest trumpet player to accompany him for parts of the song. He also asked for audience participation in singing the "na na na..." part of the melody. The audience responded well to his more modern approach to the Klezmer sounds and actively shouted out their designated part. What could have been a lot of chaotic sounds filling the air blended nicely into a sound that before that night I could not say I had heard.
Socalled is unique in his attempts to blend the old with the new by his creation of digital music beats from Yiddish records and in his ability to combine very different sampled sounds from miscellaneous music genres into one new song. I highly recommend anyone to explore his music and read more about what goes into the creation of each song.
1 - Wikipedia