(LINLITHGO, N.Y.) – “Rockin’ the Shtetl,” a multimedia presentation by Seth Rogovoy, based on a novel-in-progress of the same title exploring the affinities between 19th-century Eastern European Yiddish songwriters and musicians and 20th century American Jewish folk-rock poets and protest singers, will have a work-in-progress showing at CR10 Arts on Sunday, August 23, at 4pm. Joining Rogovoy for the performance will be multimedia artist and musician Ryder Cooley.
The presentation dramatizes the historical figure of Elyokum Zunser, the first pop star of the Pale of Settlement, using narrative, video, and music. A little-known and unsung hero, Zunser started out working as a mid-19th-century wedding poet or emcee, only to take that traditional folk form and become a pioneer of original Yiddish protest songs in the late 1800s.
Elyokum Zunser became the most popular Jewish folksinger of his time, shocking and winning over audiences by building a new kind of protest music atop a foundation of folk tradition. And by working with a band of klezmer musicians, he became the closest thing the Old World had to a rock star and the voice of a generation. If this sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it is.
He decided to raise the level of the … entertainer to the dignity of a singer about his people, their life and struggles … With a deep affection and regard for his suffering people, he sang of his times, pointed up the evils, satirized the guilty, stressed the good. – Folk historian Ruth Rubin
This event is curated by Francine Hunter McGivern, founder and director of CR10 Arts Contemporary Arts Project Space, located at 283 County Route 10 in Linlithgo, N.Y., just 10 minutes south of Hudson, N.Y. There is a suggested donation of $10 for the event; books, CDs, and artwork will be available for purchase.
(Please note: This presentation is entirely different from one with the same name that Seth Rogovoy has given in the past about the history and evolution of klezmer music. That presentation will henceforth be knows as “The Essential Klezmer” to more accurately reflect its content and to distinguish the two.)
Seth Rogovoy is the author of two works of nonfiction, “The Essential Klezmer” (Algonquin, 2000) and “Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet” (Scribner, 2009). Best known as a cultural critic, freelance writer (Forward, Chronogram, The ARTery, etc.), editor/publisher of “The Rogovoy Report,” WAMC radio commentator, and artistic director of the annual YIDSTOCK Festival of New Yiddish Music at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., Rogovoy is also a musician and record producer, currently working with Ryder Cooley & Dust Bowl Faeries on their debut album. He lives in Hudson, N.Y.
“In some bizarre way,” says Rogovoy, “‘Rockin’ the Shtetl’ connects the accidental dots that exist between ‘The Essential Klezmer’ and ‘Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet.’”
Ryder Cooley is an interdisciplinary artist, musician, songwriter, aerialist, and performer. Cooley co-hosts the weekly Club Helsinki Hudson open-mic night, and leads the all-female gothic-folk ensemble Dust Bowl Faeries, which will record its debut album next month under the direction of Seth Rogovoy. Cooley lives in Hudson, N.Y.