An Interview with Tanja Solnik:
Bonnie Grice: Tell me about A Legacy Of Lullabies.
Tanja Solnik: It was something I had wanted to do for years and years. I had always wanted to record Jewish music...which I have sung since I was a very young child. Since I was six - professionally - before that, even.
Bonnie: Since you were six? Professionally?
Tanja: Yes, I got my union card when I was eight. So this was a new horizon for me and yet it was revisiting where Id come from. It was a wonderful experience to do it. I worked with old friends of mine that are wonderful, the most tasteful of musicians. We have kind of the same musical aesthetic, as it were.
Bonnie: Did you sit down with all of them, and just know that it was happening...that aesthetic?
Tanja: Oh yes, Ive worked with Gary Nesteruk, the keyboard player, for years and years. He is one of the most beautiful players that Ive ever heard. He has such sensitivity.
Bonnie: And Jim Hershman?
Tanja: Oh yes, hes a beautiful player. Weve played every kind of music together you can imagine.
Bonnie: Tell us about Zing Faygeleh Zing, the first song were going to hear.
Tanja: It was a song that I had always loved since I was a child and I sang with Mickey Katz. I had the opportunity from the time I was eight, until I was about eleven, to sing all around the country with him. He would put on these reviews with names like Kiss Me Katz and Hello Solly. There was a wonderful singer named Hale Porter who sang this song, Zing Faygeleh Zing, and I used to stand back stage every night to listen. Finally, years later, I called him up and asked him for the lyrics.
Bonnie: And so, it means?
Tanja: Sing little bird, sing...
SONG PLAYS: Zing Faygeleh Zing
Bonnie: So sweet, zing faygeleh, zing... You were just telling me about someones little girl, who now says the word faygeleh and her parents dont speak a word of Yiddish. Is that partly what you want to do with this?
Tanja: I really did want to try, in my own way, to introduce a new audience to Jewish music. To Yiddish music, particularly. When I was growing up singing it, I think a lot of people were kind of embarrassed by the shmaltzyness of it. Now, I think people are beginning to rediscover their roots -- and to be proud.
Bonnie: And, to have fun with it.
Tanja: Yes, and to go forward. Thats what Im trying to do. Im trying to present this music in a way that has a modern sensibility, and yet is both traditional and authentic. I feel very strongly about my heritage.
Bonnie: You know, I have to say too, that not being Jewish, I came to this loving it and wanting to share this with a potential family that I might have. Its so touching on so many levels.
Tanja: Well, I think music is universal, and I think you can get the feeling, the warmth and the motherly love from any music, if its done with heart. We all tried to do that.
Bonnie: And theres a lot of tenderness.
Tanja: Theres a lot of tenderness in the songs. They are beautiful.
Bonnie: There seems to be a groundswell of Ladino recordings.
Tanja: There really is. Ladinos kind of been rediscovered.
Bonnie: Lets listen to the traditional Durme, Durme. Well get to the Bosnian version later, which is a favorite of mine, and I know of our listeners. But this one is Sleep my pretty little girl, without worry or pain, follow your dreams with all your heart.
SONG PLAYS: Durme, Durme
Bonnie: This is just dynamite. Youve gotten letters?
Tanja: We really enjoy reading the mail. So many people write that they havent heard these songs since they were children, and that they couldnt remember all the lyrics, and they were thrilled to finally hear them again. Thats so touching.
Bonnie: Are most of these songs old?
Tanja: Most of them are very old. The Ladino ones are older than the Yiddish ones. The Yiddish songs would be a hundred to a hundred and fifty years old. Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen is actually from a play, from Shulamis, around the turn of the century, but the song was taken from a much older folk song, almost word for word.
Bonnie: Ive seen that one recorded a lot, Raisins and Almonds.
Tanja: Thats a very well known one.
SONG PLAYS: Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen
Bonnie: Thats lovely. So, you wanted to do a nice cross-section. How did you choose?
Tanja: I went through music books. Some I could only find as recordings. It was really a lot of fun to choose which verses I was going to sing. Because most are folk songs, they have so many different versions, and lots of different sets of lyrics.
Bonnie: In fact, werent you getting letters from people saying "Well, I heard it this way."
Tanja: Ive gotten several letters like that. "My Grandmother sang it..."
Bonnie: And the response?
Tanja: I knew that this album would probably appeal to senior citizens, and of course to families that were raising children, but I didnt really expect people in the middle -- the baby boomers -- to really like it. And there has been an unexpected audience in that area.
Bonnie: Why do you suppose that is?
Tanja: I just think that people respond to something in the music.
Bonnie: Were visiting today with Tanja Solnik. Her album From Generation To Generation A Legacy Of Lullabies is what we are featuring today, as well as a preview of something thats coming out soon. Stay with us..
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