Approaching Menachem Av: Remember a few weeks ago (see Da Roo Ron Ron Ron)? Seems like an awfully long time. Abq Jew recalls that he was planning (Billy Nader) to do a few blog posts about some of the new Jewish music that's just coming out.
In the meantime, we have run into The Three Weeks, when listening to music is discouraged. There are, of course, different interpretations of this discouragement. And far be it for Abq Jew to tell you, his loyal readers, how to observe! So here we go with an angry song that will not lighten anyone's heart.
The Triumph of Assimilation ... provides a well-planned showcase with slicing vocals that finds its place as aggressive as any Woody Guthrie labor song. It’s a broad folk-tradition collection.
Rubin does not seek to challenge, just take his righteous place alongside other people who seem to sing loud about their own issues. Lots of clever Jewish words thrown in for lyrical effect – I wonder if Bob Dylan would dare cover one?
I know Phil Ochs or Kinky Friedman would.
Somehow, Abq Jew had never heard of Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma. But his website (JewOfOklahoma.com - of course!) tells us (in part) -
Oklahoma-born, Texas-reared, and now living in New Orleans, multi-instrumentalist Mark Rubin is an unabashed Southern Jew, known equally for his muscular musicianship and larger-than-life persona.
Over an accomplished 30+ year career, he has accompanied or produced a virtual Who’s-Who of American traditional music, while straddling numerous musical genres, including Country, Western Swing, Bluegrass, Cajun, Tex-Mex, Polka, Klezmer, Roma, and more.
His credits in the Jewish music world include long time collaborations with Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, The Other Europeans, and Andy Statman, as well as two decades on faculty at KlezKamp.
Today, he lives and works as a professional musician in New Orleans and makes a study of the musical traditions and cultures of South Louisiana. He recently took a position at the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience where he jokes he's an exhibit.
... reflects Rubin’s desire to fuse his very Oklahoma and Texas “nurture” culture with the “nature” of his Jewish roots and his involvement in the Yiddish Renaissance’s Klezmer music scene.
If that sounds like a natural goal for someone with such a varied background, it definitely hasn’t been a simple one for Rubin, but it’s one that’s come sharply into focus on the new album.
The Triumph of Assimilation calls out the complexity of cultural identity in America and the bald-faced xenophobia and racism that Rubin has faced as a Jewish Southerner, but it also tracks the renewed threats of fascism and anti-Semitism in the South, where it now seems more “allowed” than ever in recent history.
Gebirtig wrote the poem while he was interned by the Nazi's in 1940. He and his wife were gunned down randomly during the clearing of the Krakow Ghetto in 1942. Rubin says:
Though is starts off sounding like gleeful revenge porn,
it wraps up as the quintessential
Jewish response to terror and oppression.
A Day of Revenge
That’s our Revenge…..
Why the anger? Why the call for revenge? Well.
Because of this essay -
Rafael Shimunov is an anti-Israel activist and “early leader" of IfNotNow (INN) who was arrested with other INN activists for holding an anti-Israel “liberation seder." He has defended anti-Semitic remarks, promoted incitement, defended violent demonstrators and spread hatred of Israel.
Shimunov attended an event that repurposed Jewish rituals to demonize Israel, protested against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has opposed the Birthright Jewish heritage tour and promoted anti-Israel agitators, as well as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement.
And Abq Jew must tell you - he must! he must! that our old 'friend' Linda Sarsour felt she needed to retweet Rafael Shimunov's antsemitic tweet.
world of Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma.
And Triumph of Assimilation.
Mark Rubin (Killbilly, Bad Livers) has always been Jewish, but has only made his Jewishness a central feature of his musical identity in the past 20 years. But as you can see from the presentation of his new album (not to mention song titles like “Down South Kosher” and “Good Shabbes”), the implications of his Jewishness and its intersection with his Southernness have become central to his musical and social concerns — and the musical result is engaging, fun, and at times chilling.
Someone who grew up having crosses burned on his front lawn and bricks thrown through his window on Hitler’s birthday, but who fell in love with the music of his region early on, is inevitably going to have a — shall we say — complex relationship with American country and folk-derived music and you’ll hear ...
... that complexity everywhere on this album: on his setting of Mordecai Gebirtig’s poem “A Day of Revenge”; on his ballad about the lynching of Leo Frank; on the “bonus Hanukkah track” “Spin the Dreidel.” And on his clawhammer banjo arrangements of Klezmer tunes.
The music is genius; spin this one at a partyand watch the conversations stop.