Musician Joshua Horowitz Helped Spark a Resurgence in Traditional Eastern European Jewish Dance Music
In the mid-1980s, Joshua Horowitz was part of an avant garde composers’ group while finishing his graduate studies at the Academy of Music in Graz, Austria, when an uptick in anti-Semitism during the Waldheim years* sparked his interest in traditional Jewish folk music.
At the time there were about 20 to 40 songs in the standard klezmer repertoire, and Horowitz felt the genre had to be broader than that.
Compelled to “reinstate music where it had been destroyed,” he traveled to more than 15 Eastern European countries to unearth traditional music. It wasn’t an easy task. Folk music wasn’t documented in the same way that music of the upper class — like classical music was.
His travels took him to open-air markets, weddings, and other places that people traditionally gathered. Along the way he realized that the Jews and the Romani were the carriers of Eastern European folk music from the 1800s and 1900s. Finding recordings of klezmer music from the late 1800s helped expand his understanding of the music and also revealed that it sounded different than contemporary klezmer — something he realized was related to the different instruments of that time as well as the Ottoman influence he could hear in those recordings.
Inspired, Horowitz founded the award-winning, traditional klezmer ensemble Budowitz and was a founding member of Veretski Pass, which plays music with origins in the Ottoman Empire. He has also toured and recorded extensively in other genres.
He’ll be sharing some of his music, his journey to revive traditional Jewish folk music and a more recent project that combines the diverse strains of traditional Ashkenazi Jewish and African American music at Limmud Seattle on Jan.14, 2018 at the Shoreline Conference Center. You can register now ... and in the meantime, hear a snippet of Joshua playing with renowned klezmer fiddler, Veretski Pass collaborator (and wife) Cookie Segelstein.
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(* Kurt Waldheim was a politician and diplomat who was elected president of Austria in 1986 even as revelations that he hid the truth about his military service during WWII came to light during his campaign.)