What does Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti, also known as Freedom Square, sound like? There’s of course plenty of chanting, talking, and arguing. And thanks Kiev’s Pushkin Klezmer Band, there’s also traditional Jewish music.
Ukrainian Jews, like their leaders are divided over the political crisis. But band leader Dmitry “Mitya” Gerasimov is not just another voice in the mix. The klezmer clarinetist has had a notable presence on the Maidan since November, when protests began. He recently urged Jews in the West not to assume that the protesters are anti-Semites or on the far right. Refuting the idea that “the people standing at the Maidan are neo-Nazis, Russophobes and Judeophobes,” Gerasimov also believes that Jewish music on the Maidan is “an excellent inoculation against anti-Semitism.”
The band’s musicians, who hail from Russia and Moldova as well as Ukraine, have been playing together since 2008, performing in Kiev and across Europe. Though generally considered a thing of the past, the Pushkin Klezemer Band is demonstrating that Ukrainian klezmer is as 21st-century as annexing Crimea.