Chava Alberstein

Motsei Chag, End of the Holiday

Rounder 11661-3231-2

Originally published in fRoots.

Perhaps best known outside Israel for her 2001 collaboration with the Klezmatics, The Well, Chava Alberstein has a special place in modern Jewish music. Resolutely unfashionable, she was one of the first Israeli singers to attempt to reclaim Yiddish song culture from a national ideology that deemed it inappropriate after the war for a new society seeking to escape from its tragic past. At home Chava is known for poignant lyrics that eschew the trend for hedonist pop in favour of stripped down acoustic ballads examining Israeli society in all its complexity, warts n all. In these particularly troubling times, this outspoken troubadour from the Joan Baez tradition is especially valued by the left who, with a few notable exceptions, have remained scandalously silent in recent years. The title of this latest album, her 54th, is typically forthright, filled with songs whose deep sense of social conscience puts attitudes and assumptions under an unforgiving magnifying glass. Vera from Bucharest and Shadow are delicate vignettes about attitudes towards the many immigrants on the edge of society whose motivations are economic rather than ideological; others songs weave together tales of prostitutes and beach culture with religious iconography and political ideology. As an artist closely associated with Yitzhak Rabin who has refuses to perform in Israel these days, the songs are motivated by mixed emotions: anger tempered with love, battered idealism with frustration. This is her first collaboration with her husband, the poet, filmmaker and lyricist Nadav Levitan, and the arrangements are uncluttered, leaving her distinctive voice and guitar to bring full weight to her subject matter. An Israeli legend at her uneasy listening best.

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