«Imagine: it’s the late 1950s in London’s East End, and there’s an adventurous Jewish dance band who mix klezmer and Yiddish songs with the new musical influences that have been drifting in from the docks. From the US there’s R&B and early rock’n’roll, and from the Caribbean there are ska and Cuban styles. That’s the cheerful conceit behind Yiddish Twist Orchestra, a band of eight impressive musicians including twanging guitarist Ben Mandelson, who has played with Billy Bragg and Les Triaboliques, and singer Natty Bo from Ska Cubano. They start out with the cheerful singalong Mazl, a song about good luck and making a buck, and continue in the same style, with a Yiddish twist song (of course) and Beigels, which mixes calypso with stories from Whitechapel. Enormous fun.»
Yiddish Twist Orchestra are a band with a mission, and their own quirky mythology. Their aim, they say, is to revive the forgotten music of 50s London, a time when klezmer and other Jewish styles interacted with West Indian and Latin dance music, early rock'n'roll, and the Twist (or der shvitz, as they insist it was known before it was taken up by the Americans). Their "lost hero" is Willy Bergman, a "deranged bandleader" who brought all these influences together in the East End, but was forever changing his name and has never been tracked down. It's an entertaining tale that could make a great musical, and has allowed a classy group of musicians to develop a fusion style that was ideally suited to the Klezmer in the Park free festival.
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