Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ola Bilińska – Berjozkele (2014)

Ola Bilińska

Ola Bilińska - vocals, various instruments
Raphael Rogiński - electric guitar
Kacper Szroeder - trumpet, flugelhorn
Mikołaj Trzaska - bass clarinet
Michał Moniuszko - double bass



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut solo album by Polish vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/composer Ola Bilińska, who also leads the group Babadag, which released a debut album in 2012. On this album she is accompanied by bassist Michał Moniuszko, trumpeter Kacper Szroeder and two veterans of the Polish Jewish revival: clarinetist Mikołaj Trzaska and guitarist Raphael Rogiński. The album presents ten renewed and rearranged Yiddish lullabies, which were created by Jewish poets and composers or are of unknown traditional Jewish origins.

Bilińska presents a fresh and unconventional approach to this material, which usually is treated in a very traditional way. She delivers these songs in the Yiddish language, as originally created, but her clearly non-Yiddish accent, the strong and clear timbre of her voice and the ambient instrumental arrangements take these songs to a completely new platform, which is fresh and surprisingly invigorated. The overall effect of this approach gives a new life to these songs, transforming them, as if in a time machine, a century or so forward in time. Of course the Yiddish language is not exactly thriving today, but an effort is made to preserve its cultural treasures, which are vast indeed, and this project is one of such noteworthy efforts.

This album is just one of the many manifestations of the renaissance of the Jewish culture in Poland, which is enjoying an immense popularity. Since Bilińska managed to create a valid contemporary interpretation of these songs, which have been a part of the pre-WWII Jewish reality, which is sadly no longer with us, she deserves our appreciation and gratitude, both for her talent and her courage to undertake such difficult task. This is definitely worth investigation!

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