Conversation with headlining band of Washington Jewish Music Festival — Golem

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By Michele Amira, staff writer, @nicejewishswag

As a part of the 2015 Washington Jewish Music Festival—the Gypsy, Yiddish, klezmer, funk, fusion band Golem will grace Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on May 14. I talked with the founder of Golem, Annette Ezekiel Kogan, about everything from the dance club vibe of their upcoming set at Sixth & I performance to favorite hair products for “curly Jewish hair” to Golem’s following in Mexico. Kogan is a warm and vibrant musician who has a mission to keep Jewish music alive. Here’s what she had to say:

Michele: What inspired the name Golem?
Annette: Well, a golem is a monster. But he was formed out of clay by rabbis to protect the Jews of Prague. So, he is this kind of monster figure made out of clay. Obviously, he used his powers for good and protects the Jews. For us, we are a band that is not treating Jewish music as just a part of history. Instead, we are mixing it up. We’re kind of crazy like the golem! That’s the story.

M: What made you first want to fuse together Yiddish, klezmer, Gypsy, modern punk and modern soul music?
A: Well, I’m Jewish, and my mother’s side is Ashkenazi. I wanted to do something musically that was mine and close to my culture.

M: What do you feel the importance is of keeping Jewish music alive for the younger generations of Jews?
A: The generation before mine, Jewish music was alive. It was there for my parents who immigrated. So, it was there for me, too. I think Jewish culture is so important, as we get away from our ancestral homes. You said it was your grandparents who were Yiddish speakers. But, I’m sure for most people your age, it was their great grandparents who spoke Yiddish and came over. It is for this reason that we have to keep in touch with our tradition and make sure to transmit it to the future. It’s even more important during this period in the world. Golem is all about dancing and having fun, while you’re reconnecting with your own history.

M: Who are some of your music inspirations?
A: The great players of klezmer music and Yiddish pop music. But we also have so many influences from classical, avant-garde and jazz to punk, rock and hip-hop.

M: I noticed that you’re also a fellow curly-hair girl. Curly hair to curly hair girl: What are your favorite hair products?
A: Ha, ha! That’s great! I love that you asked me this question. I love hair products! In terms of Jewish curly hair, I’ve been researching what products are good for our hair for a while. I have it down to my favorite—Miss Jessie’s Soft Pillow Curls. I mix it with Tress Effects Styling Gel, which I believe is for African American hair. I also love Quidad. But, nothing works as well as the pillow curls.

M: If you could have falafel and tahini with any Jewish figure in history, who would it be and why?
A: I would like to have falafel with Golda Meir because she was a really tough Jewish woman. Of course, I’m not in her league. But I’m small, tough and Jewish, too, and would just love to hear her talk!

M: How does the Jewish community in Ukraine react to your music when Golem travels there?
A: The remaining Jewish community loves it. We also have a big following in Mexico. We’re actually on a Mexican label and when we go there, they know all our lyrics in Yiddish. They just memorize them from our albums.

M: What do you want the lasting effect of Golem to be on the music world and the Jewish world?
A: I want klezmer music to stay current… Not something from a museum, which is why we compose
original music. We want to keep the music going.

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