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Undzer Yiddishland

Fourteen leading singers, all originally from the USSR, have joined forces to form a new project at the initiative of Roman Grinberg.

“We are driven by a longing for the old homeland and the old Yiddish songs that we remember from our childhood. We are impelled by a strong desire to write and sing new songs in our mame-loshn (mother tongue). This has united us, the children of Yiddishland.”

The story behind

During the first lockdown at the time of the corona pandemic, when the world seemed to stand still for a while and musicians were not able to perform to their audience, the international project Yiddish Song: Step Forverts was launched on the initiative of Polina Shepherd and Efim Chorny.

More than 40 leading Yiddish singers and activists from all over the world took part and presented their musical creativity and diversity in a series of living room concerts online.

Fourteen of those singers, all originally from USSR, have produced their first collaborative album, created in partnership with the international Festival of Arts Sholom-Aleikhem GALA. Undzer Yiddishland is a colourful bouquet of wonderful and diverse songs, voices, genres and personalities.

Ruth Levin

Efim Chorny

Sasha Somish

Mikhail Altshuller

Zhenya Lopatnik

Slava Farber

Polina Shepherd

Vira Lozinsky

Timur Fishel

Marina Vakubovich

Maria Vacubovich

Psoy Korolenko

Alina lvakh

Roman Grinberg

/ ARTISTS

Ruth Levin

Jerusalem, Israel

Ruth Levin was born in Moscow. She is the daughter of Leibu Levin, the well-known Czernowitz born Yiddish actor, singer and composer. After immigration to Israel Ruth studied with Nechama Lifshitz and Benjamin Zemach.

Ruth is recipient of the Hersh Segal Prize for Yiddish Culture, 1997 and 2002. In 2006 she published the anthology of Yiddish poetry set to music by Leibu Levin. Ruth has played numerous dramatic roles in theater and film, and created a variety of Yiddish solo programs.

Since 2013 Ruth Levin has been the editor of the cultural transmission on Jerusalem Yiddish Radio, and later on Radio Yiddish Pour Taus. She also writes poetry in Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian and translates Yiddish and Hebrew literature.

Photo: Vladimir Volf Kirilin

Efim Chorny

Chisinau, Moldova

Efim Chorny was born in Chisinau, Moldova into a singing Jewish family. From the age of 6 he sang in the Jewish Music and Drama Theater. In 1992 E.Chorny and Susan Ghergus founded the „Jewish Song Theater”, which toured a number of European countries.

From 2005 Efim has sung in several international projects. He also teaches and composes Yiddish songs, some of which have been performed and recorded by renowned musicians such as Adrienne Cooper, Shura Lipovsky and Lorin Sklamberg.

Efim tours Europe and North America extensively in the duo Chorny & Ghergus, which was awarded the S. Mihoels International Festival, the Bubbe Award for the best new Yiddish sang and the Adrienne Cooper „Dreaming in Yiddish” Award.

Photo: Shendy Copitman

Sasha Somish

Lviv, Ukraine

Sasha Somish – Yiddish singer, actress and activist – grew up behind the scenes at the Jewish Theater in Lviv and has been actively involved in the international movement of Jewish cultural festivals since 2001. As one of the creators, she has been managing the LvivKlezFest led by Adel Dianova since 2009 with great success.

Sasha Somish founded the Yiddish band Shtrudl (formerly Varnitshkes) inspired by a strong desire to attract people of different ages and backgrounds to study Yiddish musical heritage.

Sasha has received awards at many competitions and music and theater festivals. Nowadays Sasha regularly performs as a duo with her husband Oleksiy Darmodekhin and takes part in various international projects.

Photo: Alex Spivak

Mikhail Altshuller

Moscow, Russia

Mikhail Altshuller was born in Moscow. The singer and multi-instrumenta­list graduated from the Gnesins Russian Academy of Music and the Music faculty of the Moscow State Pedagogical University.

For almost 20 years he worked at the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory Opera Theatre. Mikhail performs in many genres, both solo and as a part of various en­sembles and is winner of several international music awards.

Mikhail has been playing Klezmer music and performing Yiddish songs since 2002. He is the frontman of the band Farbrengen as weil as a mem­ber of other Moscow Klezmer bands. He participated in many internatio­nal Klezmer festivals and seminars in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Kiev, Kharkiv, Lviv, Vienna and Weimar.

Photo: Shendy Copitman

Zhenya Lopatnik

New York City, USA

Zhenya Lopatnik – a recent emigre to New York City from Kharkiv, Ukraine -Zhenya is one of the leading voices in a new generation of Yiddish singers and songwriters worldwide.

Born into an assimilated Ukrainian-Jewish family, Zhenya only discovered Yiddish in her mid-20s, but quickly made her mark in the field. In collaboration with pianist Yuriy Khainson, Zhenya has released three albums of original songs and has served for over a decade as the vocalist of Kharkov Klezmer Band.

Today she participates in two musical projects in NYC: Ternovka Ensemble brings an authentic sound of old and new traditional ballads, while Zapekanka Project has a Roma-Jewish style with songs about passion, freedom, and loneliness.

Photo: Ahron Moeller

Slava Farber

Baltimore, USA

Slava Farber, an Honored Artist of the Republic of Moldova was born in a real Jewish Shtetl Vertuzheni. The first language he began to speak and sing in was Yiddish.

For over 30 years Slava has been committed to Yiddish song. He arranges and gives a new sound to old Jewish songs popularizing them in Jewish and non-Jewish communities. He performed in FSU countries, Europe, Israel, USA.

Slava was awarded the medal of the city of Jerusalem „For a significant contribution to the development of intercultural relations between countries”. In addition to singing, he is recognized as a showman and conducted hundreds of Jewish and non­Jewish weddings, celebrations and other events. He recorded 4 CDs of Yiddish songs.

Photo: Vladimir Solovev

Polina Shepherd

Brighton, UK

Polina Shepherd grew up in a Russian Jewish home where songs were frequently sung at celebrations. When living in Tatarstan and studying at the State Academy, she played in Russia’s first Klezmer band after Perestroika, and toured the world with her own quartet Ashkenazim.

Now living in the UK, she leads choirs, performs, collaborates with bands, soloists, ensembles, and works internationally. Her latest project is 150 Voices, a recorded collaboration with the lead singer of the Grammy Award-winning Klezmatics Lorin Sklamberg and five choirs in the UK and the USA.

Her compositions, including music for theatre, choirs, song settings for Yiddish poems are performed all over the world.

Photo: Dina Malkova

Vira Lozinsky

Tel Aviv, Israel

Vira Lozinsky, Grand Prize winner of the 2012 International Jewish Music Competition in Amsterdam, was born in Beltz, Moldova, into a family of Yiddish artists. She is a daughter of the famous Yiddish poet Michael Felsenbaum and considered as one of today’s outstanding Yiddish singers.

She graduated with honors from the vocal program of Rimon School of Jazz & Contemporary Music. From a young age she was exposed to the cultures and musical styles of different ethnic groups living in Moldova such as Moldovans, Russians, Jews, Romanians, Roma and others.

Vira’s unique repertoire of new compositions and traditional favourites is rendered in a variety of musical styles, from East European Folk to South American Tango.

Photo: Moshe Cohen

Timur Fishel

Tallinn, Estonia

Timur Fishel was born in Kiev (Ukraine) in a Jewish family. His first introduction to Yiddish song was at Klezfest 2001 in Yevpatoria, Ukraine. lt changed his life and after that full-on introduction he began to learn Yiddish and Yiddish songs. 3 months later he performed his first solo concert with songs in Yiddish.

For 3 years (2003-2005) he was a teacher of Yiddish language in the Estonian Jewish Community. He has performed at many Klezmer Festivals in different countries and has had concerts of Yiddish Song in Europe, Canada, USA and Australia.

Timur likes reinterpreting songs, sometimes changing parts of melodies, sometimes adding his own lyrics or some recitation to a famous song to keep it new and alive.

Photo: Anira Kirna

Marina Vakubovich

Bat Yam, Israel

Marina Yakubovich, born in Ostrog, Ukraine, received her MA in Teaching Music at the University of Rovno and taught music at the conservatory. Since 1998 she began singing in Yiddish at Klezfests in various cities. In 2000 she received the Grand Prix at the Solomon Mikhoels International Jewish Music Competition in Moscow.

2001 Marina immigrated to Israel. She performs a lot of concerts with Yiddish songs in Israel and abroad. Marina has been collaborating with the Yiddishpiel Theater for many years and taught master classes in various International Yiddish song workshops.

Marina released two albums with Yiddish songs. Her 3rd album includes music of her own compositions based on the poems of prominent Yiddish poets.

Photo: M. Y.

Maria Vacubovich

Moscow, Russia

Maria Yacubovich calles herself “a singing journalist”. Originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Maria joined the FSU Klezmer revival in the 1990s, participating in festivals and seminars. She sings music of 1930-40 in six languages: Yiddish, Russian, English, Hebrew, German and Polish and performs as the duet Jacob’s Rose together with the violinist Alexey Rozov as well as with his Orchestra.

Maria writes: “I am interested in the stories behind the songs, their authors, the world around them. The Jacob’s Rose Duet – my colleague Alexey Rozov and me, do our best to present these songs to our listeners in the most appropriate way and increase the general awareness of our culture amongst a wider audience”.

Photo: Yulia Vendeland

Psoy Korolenko

New Jersey, USA

Pavel Lion, a.k.a. Psoy Korolenko was born in Moscow. He is known as singer-songwriter, multilingual author, translator and scholar. On stage since 2000, he released several books and more than 20 CDs, solo or in collaboration with leading artists of the contemporary Yiddish scene.

Psoy is one of the organizers of JetLAG, a Russian American festival which presents many Yiddish singers and Klezmer musicians. The album of rare Moisei Beregovsky collected songs “Yiddish Glory”, based on Psoy’s collaborative work with historian Anna Shternshis, was nominated for a Grammy and won The Fiddler On The Roof award in Russia.

His latest composition is called “Elegye”. The artist wrote a melody and created a song based on Sholom­ Aleikhem’s auto epitaph, inscribed on the writer’s tombstone.

Photo: Shendy Copitman

Alina lvakh

Moscow, Russia

Alina lvakh was born in Lviv, Ukrainian SSR. In the 90s she won several prizes in singing competitions and became a soloist in the klezmer ensem­ble Simha directed by Leonid Sonts. She has been a regular participant and presenter of masterclasses at Klezmer festivals in St. Petersburg, Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Moscow.

In 2013, in collaboration with the composer Leonid Morozov, she released the project Pesni-motanki (lit. Songs as rag dolls). In 2016, together with virtuoso pianist Mike Kaufman-Portnikov, she released the project Padam, dedicated to Edith Piaf. Alina performs both solo and with KLEZMASTERS, directed by Lev Sandyuk. Since 2016, she has been the head of the troupe of the Moscow Gubernsky Theatre.

Photo: A. I.

Roman Grinberg

Vienna, Austria

Roman Grinberg was born in Beltz, Moldova and studied music in Vienna. He is considered one of the most versatile Yiddish performing artists of our time. Roman works internationally as a composer, arranger, pianist, singer, songwriter, actor and vocal coach.

He is artistic director of the Vienna Jewish Choir and the Vienna Klezmer Orchestra, Vice President of the European Association of Jewish Choirs and director of the Yiddish Culture Festival Vienna.

Awarded over 20 prizes Roman has given concerts and taught in 48 countries around the world, released 18 albums and written over 120 music works, including Yiddish songs, Klezmer tunes, jazz, pop/rock, Viennese waltzes, choral and orchestral works.

Photo: Daniel Shaked

/ CD

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