Debbie Burke has published her sixth book, this time about klezmer. While her books are primarily about jazz – both fiction and nonfiction – this time she’s reached way back in her family tree more than a hundred years ago to muse about her paternal grandfather who came from Lvov. What music would her ancestors have been listening to? Were there roving musicians? And what did they play? Her conclusion: based on the location and time period, in there somewhere, there must have been klezmer. This is the story behind Burke’s newest book, “Klezmer for the Joyful Soul” (Queen Esther Publishing LLC).
“When I looked at the genealogy study that my uncle sent to me in 1998, a few stunning things came to light about the towns my forebears lived in, their ultimate extraordinary passage to America and their hardships once they got here (in my case, taking them to the Lower East Side of Manhattan),” relates Burke. “Their ebullience to be on American shores was blemished by experiencing abject poverty, alcoholism, business failure, infidelity and general existential malaise. With all that, I have to believe that some new joys occasionally infiltrated their lives in the form of music. Somewhere in the air, there was music: Yiddish music, Yiddish theater and klezmer.”
The book immediately shot up to the #1 New Release on Amazon for five weeks and occupied the #1 spot in three categories: Ethnomusicology, Jewish Sacred Music and Jewish Music. Starting with the background and history of the music, the book progresses with Burke’s signature interview format using carefully researched questions that elicit fascinating responses. Included in the book are many of the art form’s luminaries, including David Krakauer, Alicia Svigels, Hankus Netsky, Michael Winograd, Eleonore Weill and many others with a foreword from Pete Rushefsky from the Center for Traditional Music and Dance/Yiddish New York.
Burke was a recent guest of radio host Hal Slifer on Boston’s Chagigah Radio (WERS-FM) where she talked about her book and introduced two of her favorite klezmer songs, “Di Sapozkelekh” [“My Boots] by The Klezmatics and “A Nakht in Gan Eydn” [“A Night in the Garden of Eden”] by The David Klezmer Quintet. The show can be heard here:
With thanks to Hal Slifer, WERS-FM Radio
(c) 2021 Debbie Burke