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Tzimmes - News & Reviews
Review of Sweet and Hot in Canadian Jewish News
    A tzimmes is that glorious concoction of carrots, honey, prunes, sometimes raisins, meat, pineapple or potatoes. A tzimmes can also refer, to really mix metaphors, to making a mountain out of a molehill. There is now a new definition of the word - a dynamite new singing group called (what else?) Tzimmes.
    Group spokesman Moshe Denburg said they chose the name because they are a mizxture ethnically, Canadian (Denburg and Yiddish-speaking lead singer Myrna Rabinowitz), Israeli (Jerusalem-born Yona Bar-Sever), and Mexican (accordionist Julian Siegel). As well, their music is a blend of Sephardi, Ashkenazi, traditional, Klezmer and contemporary, with a dollop of Yiddish, folk and folk-rock thrown in for good measure.
    Various configurations of Tzimmes have been around since 1986, in Victoria, BC. In 1991, Denburg and Siegel, two original members, joined Bar-Sever and Rabinowitz to reconstitute the group. They have performed on radio, in concerts, at the 1992 Vancouver Walk for Israel and have appeared with the noted folk singer Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.
    And now they have taken the big step - they have recorded Sweet and Hot, a collection of both original and adapted music, which appears on tape and CD. And what a collection.
    A reviewer is supposed to find things to criticize in a production: the choice of music, the arrangements, the background - something. Sweet and Hot makes that job very difficult.
    The tunes are by turns touching, funny, exciting, nostalgic. Melodies are beautiful, the background music, with its strong Middle Eastern emphasis, is superb, the presentation is delightful. The selections are a genuine "tzimmes". Ladino love songs, sung to a Spanish-sounding musical accompaniment have a naturalness and genuine pathos.
    Vechitetu gives the prophecy of Isaiah, "And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares" dramatically and forcefully - this is no seeking after peace from weakness. The more meditative conclusion suggests a desire for rest after the turbulence of constant war. I especially likes Denburg's version of the traveller's prayer ("May the Lord watch over your going out and coming in..."). It is an emotional and moving plea for heavenly protection that came close to bringing me to tears.
    The Yiddish heritage is not ignored in Sweet and Hot. Who can't relate to the words of Yossel Yossel, a love song from the Yiddish theatre, "Ikh fil ikh shtarb avek/Nokh mayn Yossln, my darling my dear" (loosely, I feel like I am dying because of Yossel, my darling, my dear) and the song sung by so many grandmothers to their infant grandchildren Rozhinkes mit Mandlen. They even present the traditional cowboy ballad Home on the Range in perfect Yiddish - did you know how to say buffalo in Yiddish? (It's bufloksn by the way).
    A lilting melodic version of Adon Olam and a folk-rock plea for peace in the Middle East Matai Tagia Eit Lashalom (When Will the Time of Peace Arrive) conclude the tape on an upbeat, innerly spiritual way.
    Sweet and Hot is a fine example of the whole range of Jewish music as well as of the talents of the musicians, who throughout show skill, versatility and a genuine feeling for the material. It is highly recommended.

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