The Black, Gay, Jewish Shtetl Virtuoso


What do you get when a black, Jewish, gay Yiddish and classical singer gets together with a virtuosic klezmer ensemble that plays old country music from the Ottoman Empire? And then throws in some artsy Bay Area animation?

You get Convergence, of course. (What would you call it?)

Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell originally conceived of the project as a way to explore the embodiment of Jewish and African American music, text, and experience. In his own words, “Convergence combines diverse strains of traditional Jewish and African-American music directly at points of spiritual, melodic and textual convergence.”

But what does that actually sound like? Imagine hybrids of old standards like “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” about being a long ways from home, and Abraham Reisen’s “Der Gemore Nign,” (“Are you homesick for your father, mother, sister, and brother, and without them, are you like a ship without a rudder?”).

These aren’t Glee-style mash-ups, but are astutely arranged to explore the exile, spirituality, hope, and redemption in both traditions—with Carpathian folk flute, of course.

Watch “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child”:

Hear Russell sing “Der Gemore Nign”:

Listen to an example of “Convergence”:

See Glee-style mash-ups:

Watch Russell perform and discuss his work:

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