Maybe it was only a matter of time before Socalled, the frizzy-haired, klezmer hip-hop hipster, tried to sidestep his ever-expanding identity as a “Jewish artist.” The arbiters of Jewish cultural identity go to great lengths to rope in the eclectic and the original, and a klezmer hip-hopper is a no-brainer. But no one wants to be pigeonholed.
Jewish and African-American cultures have met on musical ground on many occasions — just think of Cab Calloway’s forays into Yiddish, Nina Simone’s covers of Hebrew folksongs, or most recently, the collaboration of Fred Wesley, David Krakauer and Socalled as Abraham Inc.
In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish music releases of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.
It’s hard to articulate what makes Canadian artist SoCalled special. To say, as I did in a recent article, that he blends klezmer with hip hop, hardly does him justice. To add that he plays the accordion and performs magic tricks makes him sound like something of a sideshow. None of this conveys the way in which he is able to take the contributions of virtuoso musicians in a dozen different genres and meld them into something uniquely his own. Fortunately, thanks to Montreal director Garry Beitel, there is a now a film that better conveys what SoCalled is all about.