Friday, July 23, 2010

Hungary -- Bankito festival coming up

My latest article for JTA looks at Budapest's progressive Jewish music scene, as a sort of preview to this year's Bankito Jewish culture festival, held near Budapest August 5-8.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to get to Bankito -- I'm going to southern Italy with my father and brother to attend a conference on the art work that my mother carried out in a small Calabrian village in the 1970s and 1980s.

But the Bankito line-up looks good -- and fun.

Jewish fusion music key to Budapest’s ‘Jewstock’ festival

By Ruth Ellen Gruber · July 22, 2010
BUDAPEST (JTA) -- Flora Polnauer, 28, tilts back her head, half closes her eyes and hums a few bars of a song by her hip-hop/funk/reggae band HaGesher. The song is "Lecha Dodi," the Shabbat evening prayer -- sounded over a Yiddishized version of the Beatles song "Girl." It's just one of the many unconventional songs of the band, whose vocalists rap their own lyrics in Hebrew, Hungarian and English.
"It's modern Jewish music because it's influenced by Jewish things, but it's not the replaying of old Jewish songs," says Daniel Kardos, 34, a composer and guitarist who plays with Hagesher and several other bands. "I pick up many things and mix them."
Hagesher is one of about half a dozen bands in this city of European Jewish cool blending jazz, hip hop, rap and reggae with Israeli pop and traditional Jewish folk tunes and liturgy to form an eclectic urban sound.
"It's a big mix of contemporary Jewish musical identity," said vocalist Adam Schoenberger, the son of a rabbi. "All of us find Jewish culture very important. Hagesher is a platform for us to articulate musically our different musical interpretation of Jewish cultural heritage."
As the program director of the popular Siraly club, whose dimly lit basement stage is a regular venue for Hagesher and other groups, Schoenberger, 30, is a leader in Budapest's Jewish youth scene. He is also one of the organizers of Bankito, sometimes referred to as "Jewstock" -- a youth-oriented Jewish culture festival Aug. 5-8 on the shore of Bank Lake, north of Budapest.
Bankito includes concerts, exhibitions, performances, workshops, seminars and lectures, a poetry slam, sports events, movies, and Jewish and interfaith religious observances. A number of events at this year's festival will highlight Roma, or Gypsy culture, and focus also on social and civic issues such as the rights of the Roma and other ethnic minorities.
Music is a highlight of Bankito. Hagesher, the Daniel Kardos Quartet and other Jewish bands such as Nigun and Triton Electric Oktopus will perform. "We're at a fascinating moment in Jewish music: It's hip again," said Michigan's Jack Zaientz, who authors the Teruah Jewish music blog. "There's an amazing gang of musicians who are young, smart, urban and Jewish, and making their Jewish identities a core part of their music and stage identities."

Read full story at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this information ... I enjoy reading ur blog and know a bit more about jewish culture :)