Buskers’ Ballroom, 2009
This is our latest album embracing the richness of musical styles found throughout Eastern Europe and beyond. Read our 5-star Songlines review here.
First of all, don’t be put off by the cheesy cover. She’koyokh are Britain’s best klezmer and Balkan music band. They storm in with ‘Russian Shers’, a classic klezmer tune first recorded by the Romanian-born Abe Schwartz in 1917. It’s a great opener, showing off the considerable instrumental skills of this nine-piece band – notably the high-pitched C-clarinet of Susi Evans, the violin of Meg Hamilton and the mandolin of Ben Samuels. There are several other classic klezmer tunes here, from the likes of Naftule Brandwein and others, but She’koyokh transform them and butt them up against Romanian, Bulgarian or Turkish tunes – all these styles are within their repertoire. Several of them have had masterclass sessions with great Gypsy instrumentalists in Eastern Europe and Turkey.
She’koyokh is a Yiddish expression meaning something like ‘good on yer.’ They released Sandanski’s Chicken, their first CD, in 2008 and won best ensemble prize that year at the first International Jewish Music Competition in Amsterdam. The band save one of their secret weapons until the fifth track, on which singer Çiğdem Aslan sings ‘Üsküdar’, a song that has itself also migrated throughout the Balkans. Aslan is a Turkish-born, Kurdish singer now resident in London and she sings with a clear, natural ease in several languages. The Turkish Gypsy song ‘Rampi Rampi’ is particularly likeable – loud and cheeky, with a searing clarinet solo and heavy 7/8 percussion. And it’s nothing you’d ever hear from any other klezmer group. This is a brilliant CD from an exhilarating party band.
Simon Broughton, Songlines.
Sandanski’s Chicken, 2005
Our first studio album which includes an eclectic mix of instrumental klezmer, Balkan and Turkish folk music and a comic song by the late, great Jim Marcovitch. Read the fROOTS review here.
She’Koyokh have been stars of the UK klezmer scene for some time and are celebrated for their live performances. This is their first CD and on it they perform dances and songs from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, plus one original song, with their usual exuberance and virtuosity.
One of the most interesting aspects of the band is the fact that it is based in London and that for many if not most of the members the traditions they perform are learned rather than inherited. This allows us to see how star players such as Meg Hamilton (violin), Susi Evans (clarinet) and Robin Harris (trombone) attend to the business of interpreting and acquiring highly evolved and nuanced traditions outside their own. Hamilton and Evans are top quality classical musicians and Harris is one of the best jazz trombonists in the country, so this is a fascinating process, true crossover.
The Balkan sound is reproduced and the solos always first class, but we also have the sense that there is something brewing under the surface. A particularly interesting moment is the brief introduction to track four, where guitarist Matt Bacon and Evans together perform a short introduction that derives from, but is not dependent upon, the original template; with a little nerve this could justifiably have been many times its length.
I have heard some of the projects of band members pursuing this path of exploration outside She’Koyokh and can confirm that those involving Meg Hamilton in particular are excellent; we will certainly be hearing a lot more of these musicians. This is a fine dance album, high-spirited, and with a promise of much more.
Chris Williams, fROOTS.
Both albums have been subsequently released by ARC with different covers and are available on itunes, Amazon and from www.arcmusic.co.uk