‘Borat’ Composer’s Hanukkah CD

By Nathan Burstein

Published November 20, 2008, issue of November 28, 2008.
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Borat’s brother has recorded a Hanukkah album.

Erran Baron Cohen, brother of British comedian and “Borat” creator Sacha Baron Cohen, released his first holiday-themed collection, “Songs in the Key of Hanukkah,” on November 18, offering up original compositions as well as new, genre-fusing updates of classics, such as “Hanukkah oh Hanukkah” and “Ma’oz Tzur.” Recorded in London, Tel Aviv and Berlin, the album features songs in English, Ladino and Hebrew, with musical collaborations by Israeli singers Idan Raichel and Avivit Caspi, among others. “Hanukkah has always been a kid-focused holiday,” Erran Baron Cohen said in a press release, “so the challenge was how to transform the music so that it was cool and interesting for adults and yet something that the whole family could enjoy.”

The resulting album, which merges such musical styles as klezmer, reggae, hip hop and tango, is in stark contrast with Erran Baron Cohen’s less family-friendly entertainments. The London-raised composer wrote the score for the 2006 mockumentary “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” in which his brother’s antisemitic Central Asian protagonist toured the United States in hopes of meeting Pamela Anderson. Despite the official protests that the film drew from the Kazakh government, Erran Baron Cohen was later asked to write a symphony for the Turan Alem Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra, which was performed in London in May 2007.

His next undertaking is another nonreligious affair: the score to his brother’s latest film, an as-yet untitled comedy about a gay Austrian fashion reporter named Bruno.


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