Meet the Jewish Monkeys. They are an unlikely Klezmer Burlesque trio, originally from Europe and now residing in Israel. Gal Zaidner was born in Belgium and currently works as a shrink. Ronni Boiko is a veterinarian. Jossi Reich aka Joe Fleisch, the founding monkey and financier is an entrepreneur and co-owner of the German label Essay-Recordings (well worth a look for some far out Jewy music awesomeness btw). Together they are the Jew Monkeys and after somewhat of a hiatus, they have just released a new video called Black But Sweet – a yiddish inflected cover of a 1930’s era song by Caribbean American crooner Wilmoth Houdini. Houdini was a prolific recorder and performer. His 1939 composition “He Had It Coming” was a hit for Louis Jordan and Ella Fitzgerald under the new title “Stone Cold Dead in the Market”. The song stayed on the top of the R&B charts for five weeks, and reached no. 7 on the pop charts. But I digress.
This track has all kinds of music geek street cred and the Jewish Monkeys do a good (great even) job blending a traditional calypso tune with a klezmer sound. And then there’s that crazed yiddish bit. I don’t know what that’s all about except to say that it works and I am enthralled. Ashkenazic shtetlach yiddin are so exotic, no? There is a clue however in the press release they sent me:
By inserting the language of his parents into different styles of contemporary pop music, where Yiddish is so uncommon since it has been nearly wiped out amongst the secular, and has generally remained alive among religious Jews, Joe Fleischâ€™s message goes: â€œThis is how Jewish pop-music would have sounded today, had the Holocaust never happened.â€
See that? See the Jewy angle? Also, in Judaism, singing the praises of African women has a long history. Moses married a sistah (I can say that because as a Morrocan, I have deep roots in Africa) and King Solomon’s epic love poem, the Song of Songs, was reportedly a tribute to the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba, so there you have it, now enjoy the video clip!