The Semer Label Reloaded project was created by Alan Bern for the Berlin Jewish Museum and premiered there to a standing ovation on July 12, 2012.
Featuring Grammy-winning vocalist Lorin Sklamberg, Dan Kahn and other international stars of Yiddish music, the project is a masterful and moving contemporary re-interpretation of music recorded between 1933 and 1938 on the almost forgotten, Berlin-based Semer label.
For many of us, it is impossible to listen to these recordings without an underlying sense of tragedy. What happened to the voices, the hands and fingers, the souls that made these sounds? But when we listen more closely, inviting the disembodied voices to travel through time and pop out of speakers or headphones into our rooms and stand in front of us, we meet people in the middle of life, not death. They sing about love, jealousy, war, justice, the Torah, settling Palestine, socialism, Zionism, dancing girls, affairs, player pianos. They sing in Yiddish, Hebrew, German, Polish, Russian. They sing popular songs, folk songs, art songs, cantorial music. They fight, laugh, boast, seduce, cry, threaten, provoke, scorn, inspire.
The Semer label found a place for all of this. Unlike the narrow dogmatism that often tragically infects contemporary Jewish cultural politics, the Semer label was unafraid to display the contradictions of Jewish cultural identity even in the perilous climate of Berlin of the 1930s, including especially a major role for Yiddish music in German Jewish life.
Alan Bern (director, piano, accordion)
Benjy Fox-Rosen (bass)
Daniel Kahn (voice, accordion)
Mark Kovnatskiy (violin)
Frank London (trumpet)
Sasha Lurje (voice)
Fabian Schnedler (voice)
Lorin Sklamberg (voice)
Jacobus Thiele (percussion)