May 09, 2015
How an Afro-Jewish band rocked Nazi-occupied Denmark
How an Afro-Jewish band rocked Nazi-occupied Denmark
It seems an impossibility: in Nazi-occupied Denmark in the 1940s, one of the hottest jazz orchestras around was the interracial Harlem Kiddies, with two white and three black band members – and a Jewish singer in front. The story of how the band came to be so popular is one that uncovers the great role that jazz and race played in the occupied territories during the Second World War.
Several factors contributed to the social and political atmosphere that enabled their success. In the occupied territories in the Second World War, Denmark was known as the Sahnefront – the cream front – due to the co-operative government and the relative leniency of the occupying forces.
There was a desire on both sides to make a pretence of life continuing as before and therefore a reluctance to clamp down on the entertainment industry. As long as you could still go out dancing, how bad could it be? And, contrary to popular belief, the Third Reich never issued an official and total ban on jazz. Rather, the policies on jazz were filled with ambivalence and inconsistencies.
On one hand, jazz was deemed a “degenerate music”. Despite difficulty in pinning down exactly what jazz was and in which ways it was offensive, Nazi ideology agreed it posed a threat to German high culture.
On the other hand, the difficulty in defining the dangerous elements of jazz also made it possible for it to slip through the net of regional and national decrees and prohibitions. The entertainment and recording industry in Germany was a real economic boon as well as a tool for propaganda. Seeing the effectiveness of popular music, Goebbels even authorised a German jazz propaganda band – Charlie and His Orchestra that aimed to stir up Allied sympathy.
In the occupied territories, jazz continued to exist and even thrive. In Norway, a ban on radio jazz transmissions meant an increase in live performances, both public and underground, and in Paris the popularity of Romani jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt, allowed him to avoid both racial and artistic persecution.
And the war years became one of the most fruitful periods for Danish jazz. For one thing, the nightlife in Copenhagen boomed during the German occupation. Clubs and dance restaurants featured live jazz performances on a regular basis and big swing cavalcades drew audiences of up to 8,000, according to an old news clipping. Because of the war, no British or American musicians were touring and jazz records were not imported from overseas, meaning Danish jazz musicians were able to perform and record as never before.
So jazz, in Denmark and in other occupied territories, became a music of resistance. It was the music of the Allied forces, a music despised by the Nazis, and a music of joy and syncopation in a time of fear and regulation. The symbolic significance of jazz during the occupation resulted in a huge rise in audiences.
Race and ideas of authenticity had been part of jazz since the very start, and it also played a part in the creation and reception of the Harlem Kiddies. Jimmi and Jonny Campbell, whose African-American father had arrived in Copenhagen in 1891, teamed up with Kaj Timmermann, a drummer with a Congolese-Danish background. Timmermann saw the potential in a black and white orchestra that could play on assumptions about jazz, blackness and authenticity.
Kaj Timmermann and the Campbells were largely ignored by the German forces of occupation. But band members were met with both acceptance and harassment in varying degrees.
Raquel Rastenni, the Jewish lead singer, was heavily harassed, particularly by the Danish national socialists, and eventually had to flee Denmark in October 1943 along with the majority of Denmark’s Jews. Yet she was also loved and likened to Ella Fitzgerald. Rastenni later expressed the seeming impossibility of the situation:
There we were, on stage in the Café München. Three negro boys and a Jewess, while the Germans tore up and down the streets in Copenhagen.
The prominence of the Harlem Kiddies reveals the intricacies of race and national identity under the occupation. The audience, which hailed them as some of denmark’s best musicians, also insisted that it was their un-Danish interracial nature that made them so. This slap in the face of Nazi ideologies of racial purity meant that the band was embraced as part and parcel of the everyday Danish resistance to the Nazis.
August 27, 2014
End of an Era: Forward on the Last KlezKampThe Forward ran a short story on the upcoming "last Klezkamp".
. It's the end of an era, to say the least. Adrienne Cooper z"l and Henry Saposnik were leaders in recognizing you have to teach the next generation to keep things going. Music is such an important identity marker for Jewish young people. It would be great if more of the Jewish community institutions recognized that as well and put more music into practice!
December 29, 2013
Asian-American Woman Rabbi is Also a CantorWhile Angela Warnick Buchdahl was named Senior Rabbi of Manhattan’s Central Synagogue, it is noted that she is also a trained cantor. Lots to celebrate in song. http://forward.com/articles/188845/central-synagogue-names-first-asian-american-head/
January 25, 2013
Billy Jonas and Naomi LessThis from Newle:
"There’s acid rock, blues rock, glam rock, punk rock, and about 100 more variations of good ol’ rock and roll. But readers, there is also Jewish Rock!
And two of the top stars of this genre, Billy Jonas and Naomi Less (whose website has a rock star worthy url), are putting on a concert just for you.
Jewish Rock Radio is streaming a series of six online interactive concerts, and each concert benefits a great Jewish organization. We’re grateful that two of the concerts will directly benefit Keshet’s work for a fully inclusive Jewish community. You can catch Billy Jonas on January 30th and Naomi Less on February 6th, both at 8:30 EST. Pay what you can and listen to a great 30 minute concert."
Read more at: https://newsle.com/article/0/56910172/
January 16, 2013
Barclay's Center Feature Helfgot and PerlmanStory in the Times:
December 10, 2012
Article about Pro Musica HebraicaHadassah Magazine November 2012 ran an article "The Sound of Classical Jewish Music Preserved" about the work of Pro Musica Hebraica in both Washington, and now in NY. http://www.hadassahmagazine.org/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=twI6LmN7IzF&b=6725377&ct=12495031¬oc=1
December 02, 2012
Philip Glass at 75The Forward profiled Philip Glass as part of a series with article and a video by reporter. http://forward.com/specials/forward-50-2012/philip-glass/?no-mobile-redirect
November 27, 2012
History of JDub in BrooklynInkAn interesting oral history of JDub Records ran in the BrooklynInk online. While short lived, the label had an impact on Jewish culture over several years.
September 30, 2012
Perlman/Helfgot CD in panel at CJHThe Center for Jewish History and the American Society of Jewish Music, along with Sony Masterwords, sponsored a panel discussion about the new CD, “Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul.” between two world-renowned musicians, violinist Yitzchak Perlman and Cantor Meir Helfgot. Hankus Netsky, spoke of his role as arranger and producer The Forward carried a story about the event:
August 08, 2012
Marvin Hamlisch rememberedin The Forward:
http://forward.com/articles/160693/marvin-hamlisch-was-top-of-the-pops/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=The%20Forward%20Today%20%28Monday-Friday%29&utm_campaign=Daily_Newsletter_Mon_Thurs%202012-08-08 and around the world:
August 06, 2012
Noreen Green in LAA conversation with Noreen Green of Los Angeles Jewish Symphony
August 03, 2012
The H-Song in Wall Street JournalEven if you're kinda or really sick of "hava nagila," read this article. JMWC thinks the changing fortunes of this song shows growth of Jewish culture toward the next generation's sensibilities. Are we there yet?
July 30, 2012
Tribute to Mickey Katz in Cleveland, OH“Tribute to Mickey Katz” concert by Yiddishe Cup
WHEN: 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 9
WHERE: Alma Theater in Cain Park, Cleveland Heights
TICKETS: 216-371-3000, www.cainpark.com or www.ticketmaster.com
Read about all about Mickey Katz in the Cleveland Jewish News:
Hava Nagila at OlympicsThis story from the Forward
June 25, 2012
First Jewish Music Festival in TatarstanThis is a fascinating article. In the Muslim country of Tatarstan, there was a held a Jewish music festival, not only spreading good music, but holding out hopes of peace. Read about it in the English Language Kazan Herald.
June 11, 2012
Tango and moreFrom Buenos Aires to the Promised Land in Washington Jewish Week
April 24, 2012
World's Oldest Holocaust Survivor is Musician7 Life Lessons
July 29, 2011
Lebanese Dancer Tells World She Wants PeaceAn article appeared in the Jerusalem Post about a Lebanese Dancer who dared to express her wishes for PEACE on stage at a heavy metal concert. She performed on the same stage with Israelis, and held aloft the two flags, in a gesture of a wish for peace. Maybe if the men politicians, power people and haters of the old generation had the bravery of this girl, there would be peace...Orphaned Land - Norra el Norra - HELLFEST 2011 http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=231492
April 12, 2011
Passover PlaylistThe NYT has an article with a "playlist" for a Passover seder. I think readers of the Jewish Music WebCenter might want to contribute their own listings for Passover. So write us and let us know. http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/at-joedoe-its-not-passover-without-a-playlist/?smid=tw-nytimes&seid=auto
April 08, 2011
Judicial Review of "Divine Sparks"In a very interesting way, The Boston Jewish Music Festival is continuing to build education about Jewish music. They've collaborated with The Arts Fuse: The Culture of New England, a discussion forum. This is their sixth session, "this time a discussion of the concert “Divine Sparks,” a provocative attempt to explore how Jewish cantorial music and other kinds of religious song can spark musical improvisation and spiritual experiences." Written by Steve Elman, the reviews are opinions of six knowledgable people who attended the event in March.
The Arts Fuse is an organization that attempts to provide serious, informed criticism and opinion about the arts, not just random blog posts or “Tweets.” It attempts to be literate, not wasting its readers’ time with rambling, poorly written copy, and it attempts be thought-provoking,inspiring a conversation among critics, producers, and consumers of the arts. http://artsfuse.org/
September 13, 2010
Living in Harmony NewsLetterLiving in Harmony Newsletter is about musical events in Israel. If you are interested in receiving regular news information, you may wish to consider subscribing online. Lloyd Masel bring you "what's on the music scene in Israel." It's free, so check it out.
August 21, 2009
Bernstein Davening in the VernacularThe Jewish Daily Forward contains a fascinating article on Leonard Bernstein for both his “Trouble in Tahiti” opera and a new book by Barry Seldes “Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician” (University of California Press). http://www.forward.com/articles/112431/
December 07, 2008
Hadassah Magazine Features KlezmerA terrific picture by Jean Fruth of Cookie Segelstein, klezmer violinist, graces the front cover of Hadassah Magazine this month with a feature article on traditional klezmer music, written by George Robinson. There are lots of photos including Cookie, Josh Horowitz, Stu Brotman, Andy Statman, Alicia Svigals, Pete Rushefsky, Joel Rubin, Michael Winograd, Yale Strom, and others. George does a good job of explaining the branch of klezmer that focuses on traditional folk and how it differs from other groups. Cookie, Josh and Stu have a group called Veretzki Pass, which is an amazing group, especially to hear in person. It might be noted, as his article touches on the topic of sources, that we owe a debt of gratitude to klezmer musicians such as Josh Horowitz and Bob Cohen for years and years of dedicated research in Europe on recovering as much authentic music as possible. Josh has also transcribed some of his findings in a book which was briefly reviewed on this site Sephardisches Liederbuch (The Sephardic Songbook): 51 Judenspanische Lieder (51 Judeo-Spanish Songs) back in 2002. [ http://www.jmwc.org/jmwc_bookandscore_reviews.html. ] George also gives a "must haves" listing for this style of klezmer music in the article. To find out even more details about recordings and klezmer music and the musicians in this Hadassah Magazine feature, visit the Klezmershack. http://www.klezmershack.com, the world's premiere website devoted to klezmer music with over 12 years of materials, commentary and reviews of recordings, listings of bands, articles and just about anything one would like to know about klezmer music.
If you're not a member of Hadassah and don't get the magazine at home, you can find out about subscription inquiries to get a copy at 800 664-5646 or look at the Hadassah website at http://www.hadassah.org
November 24, 2008
Job Opening in New OrleansTulane University through Library Associates Companies (LAC) seeks a creative, dynamic Head of Music & Media Librarian to work within the Public Services Division at an academic library located in New Orleans, LA. Reporting to the Director of Public Services, the Head of the Music and Media Librarian will play a key role in the Library’s efforts to rebuild its world-class music collections, which were heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. He or she will participate in committee service within the library and through professional activity help to advocate for the interests of librarians at Tulane and throughout the profession. The librarian may share reference duties with other librarians at a central Reference and Information Desk including some evening and weekend duty; and participate in the library’s instruction program. RESPONSIBILITIES:
* Develop new music and media collections in both digital and print formats;
* Act as bibliographer and liaison to the Music and Communication departments, providing reference and instructional services;
* Supervise a full-time Media Specialist who oversees the day-to-day running of the library’s music & media facility;
* Manage the development of a growing collection of audio recordings, video recordings, and other media which support the university curriculum, including a Film Studies program within the Department of Communication.
* Develop a dynamic vision for the library’s music and media resources, following national trends, current research, and the latest practices in the field;
* Participate in committee service within the library and through professional activity help to advocate for the interests of librarians at Tulane and throughout the profession;
* Some reference duties as required;
* Participate in the library’s instruction program.
* Master’s Degree in Library Science from an ALA accredited program or a significant background in music;
* Knowledge of music bibliography as evidenced by course work or experience;
* Two (2) or more years experience in reference and instruction in an academic library setting;
* Advanced degree in music or musicology or an interest or experience in film and media studies is preferred;
* Knowledge of trends in music and media librarianship including emerging digital formats;
* Familiarity with copyright, licensing and preservation issues;
* Excellent communication and teaching skills;
* Enthusiasm for an innovative and changing environment;
* Previous experience in collection development and a demonstrated skill in library instruction is preferred;
* Willingness to participate in professional development and in the shared governance of the Library and the University.
* For immediate consideration please email your cover letter and resume to Recruiter Brad Rogers at, firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Please reference position title as the subject line of your email.
* Library Associates Companies is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer that values diversity in the workforce.
July 20, 2008
Faith Steinsnyder featured in Forward articleAn article in the Forward about Faith Steinsnyder and her impact on the American cantorate on the July 9th worth viewing. http://www.forward.com/articles/13728/
June 11, 2008
Jewish Music Distribution Contact InfoFor those that want the contact info for Jewish Music Distribution, here's the most recent:
Jewish Music Distribution
PO Box 67
Hailsham BN27 4UW
Free phone: 0800 7811 686
Tel/Fax: (44) 01323 832 863
April 15, 2008
Gala Concert kicked off NY's Celebration of Israel at 60
"On March 30th, the Zamir Choral kicked off New York City's celebration of the 60th
Anniversary of the founding of Israel to a sold-out Carnegie Hall.
The star-studded concert featured the Zamir Chorale and Friends, including the
Theodore Bikel, Debbie Friedman, Cantors Alberto Mizrahi, Jack Mendelson and Lorna
Wallach, and a special guest appearance by HaZamir: The International Jewish High
School Choir, all under the direction of Matthew Lazar, Founder and Director of
the Zamir Choral Foundation.
The concert traced the history of Israel through music, with musical selections that ranged from Hebrew chant through favorites from the beginnings of the state to contemporary peieces, including the world premiere of Israeli composer Yehezkel Braun's Bayom HaHu, specially commissioned for this concert.