Songs and tales by a European Jew.
The Norwegian Jewish artist Bente Kahan presents the program HOME with European songs and stories. The frame of the concert is Bente Kahan’s personal story, with a family-tree dating back to 13th Century Spain, going through Europe and ending in Norway. Her story includes famous Jewish scholars and rabbis such as rabbi Loew from Prague, the creator of the legend of the Golem, as well as a variety of Jewish characters with different backgrounds, languages and fates. Through Bente Kahan’s family, one hears the general story of the European Jews. The songs will be sung in Yiddish, Ladino, Hebrew, as well as languages where her family has lived; – songs which have absorbed much of this continents folk-lore and traditions, and are themselves encounters between the Jewish and non-Jewish Europe.
HOME was commissioned by the Bergen Cultural City 2000 and the Norwegian Council of Cultural Affairs, Attacca_00, and it premiered in Trondheim March 2000 with the Swedish Klezmer Band „Sabbath Hela Veckan”. Since then, there have been numerous guest appearances with HOME in theatres and concert halls in Scandinavia, Germany, Poland, Great Britain and the Netherlands, either with the above mentioned Swedish Klezmer Band, with Dariusz Swinoga, Miroslaw Kuzniak, Mirolsaw „Carlos” Kaczmarczyk and Javid Afsari Rad, with „Di Gojim” in the Netherlands or alone with the guitar.
Summer 2000, Bente Kahan recorded the CD „HOME” released on Plane records, Germany.
The CD is also released by Tylkomuzyka in Poland in 2003.
In December 2004, Bente made a version of the concert including projected pictures of the individuals who figure in HOME.
The concert will be shown this spring at the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin (March 3 and 4), at Fürth International Yiddish Festival (March 11) at Centraltheatret in Oslo (April 9), The Opera House in Berlin (May 5) and at the Współczesny Teatr in Wroclaw, Poland, (May 18).
Extract from reviews:
„…beautiful, intelligent…a magnificent artist…”
Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland, March 18, 2002
„It is impossible to present the fate of the Jews since the destruction of the Temple more convincingly.”
General Anzeiger, Germany, 2001
„There cannot be many on this earth that can create equally powerful concerts as Bente Kahan.”
Nordlys, Norway, 2000
„..this performer’s fascinating interpretation leaves her audience with goose bumps all over….”
Badische Zeitung, Germany, 2000
„Despair and merryment, tears and laughter, profound pain and uninhibited joy of life is the range found in Bente Kahan’s concert, HOME.”
Wesdeutsche Rundschau, Germany, 2000
„Jewish Songs from Lament to Pop”
Everwhere a foreigner; nowhere at home. It is impossible to present the fate of the Jews since the destruction of the Temple more convincingly. . . But the Diaspora gave shape to a new Jewish culture, as Bente Kahan proved at Beethovenhaus. With a supple, expressively deep voice, (Bente Kahan) united in her new program HOME (the story of Europe’s Jews): for every flight a new home, for every expulsion finding a new country became a necessity.
More than anything, Bente Kahan knows how to tell a story, in this half of Europe’s history. . Rooted in the Golden Age of Andalusia, expelled to the far-flung lands of Eastern Europe, only to end up in Auschwitz. In sensitive, careful arrangements we hear the songs of the countries and their culture. . .reaching the darkest hour in Jewish history, she does not berate, but simply sings Ilse Weber’s „Letter to My Son.” The truth lies in the unsaid. A part of the truth is also the joyous, relaxing parties of the rural Jews in Eastern Europe. Here we hear the pop songs of the Twenties, the fun song „Yas”, performed by Bente Kahan with a technique that can only be described as vocal acrobatics.
General Anzeiger, 10 November 2001.
„The Fabulous Bente Kahan”
. . .It was nearly unbelievable. Bente Kahan presents Jewish-European culture and history through drama and music. . . .Indeed, the history is dramatic and the music is unique, but was served in Tromsř last night exceeds the norm! As a musical experience this (concert) was on a par with what we have heard previously, for example, from such performers as Miriam Makeba and Betty Carter and the like. But Bente Kahan has a story to tell that is compelling. . .crossing all over Europe, we were served a number of surprises. . . learned that songs we knew as (Norwegian) were in fact Jewish. Trondheim’s anthem was an example. . . Bente had much to relate, and is a master of the art of storytelling. She had a wide range on which to play, both vocally and in emotional expression. Her voice was ble to do just about anything she wanted it to do. The one scale used in klezmer music is heavily lade with pathos is unique for the incredibly short distance between tears and laughter. Her her audience clapped to the rhythm of music, sang, cried and laughed along. I have yet to experience anything comparable to her charismatic stage presence. And even if the band accompanying her was composed of mainly Swedish names (a band known as „Sabbath Hela Veckan”), the music was full of gusto, and as joyful or sad as Bente herself. Musically they were a strong combination. There cannot be manyt on this earth that can create equally powerful concerts as Bente Kahan.
Ulf Sverresvold. Nordlys. 6 March 00
„About Death and Life, Joy and Sadness”
The Yiddish singer Bente Kahan is regarded as the big voice and symbol of present day Yiddish song. (In her new concert „HOME”, she) does not only sing the songs, she relives them on stage, ties them to history and with stories from the lives of her own family – which is synonymous with the suffering of the Jewish people. . . Bente Kahan’s incredible ability to transform and modulate her voice acts as a catalyst. . . for her journey into the past. . .and is repeatedly woven into art . . .for which her band (Dariusz Swinoga, Miroslaw Kuzniak, Miroslaw „Carlos” Kazcmarzcyk and Javid Afsari Rad) supplies and exquisitely colorful background for the images she creates. . . .No wonder that athis performer’s fascinating interpretation leaves her audience with goose bumps all over. . . In a unique manner, she conveys the feeling of how death and life, joy and sadness in the Yiddish song are integrally related to one another.”
Badische Zeitung, November 00.
„A Standing Ovation for Bente Kahan’s Yiddish Songs: The ‚White Blues’ Moved the Audience”
In a fully sold out house, the Norwegian Jewish actor was given a standing ovation that reflected respect, recognition and admiration. There was no one in the theatre whom Bente Kahan’s songs did not move deeply. Despair and merriment, tears and laughter, profound pain and uninhibited joy of life is the range found in Bente Kahan’s concert „HOME.”
Westdeutsche Rundschau, 11 September 00.
„Between Laughter and Tears”
. . . Throughout (Bente Kahan) walks a very narrow line between laughter and tears, touches us and is herself moved. She sings with great passion. Lamenting, accusing, in movement and laughter, „hooing” and sobbing. Infinitely beautiful.
Siegener Zeitung, November 00.
„A Powerfully Expressive Performance to Remember”
. . .(Bente Kahan) knew how to entertain the audience, while at the same time reminding them of such a dark chapter of history as the persecution of the Jews. Full of emotion and variety, she told anecdotes and related the profoundly moving fates of members of her own family. And with what a voice was the much acclaimed singer able to convey the stories. Sparks flew quickly to the audience. Her emotional songs made it possible for everyone to relate to the material. . .It was not easy to miss how much fun Bente Kahan and her band had performing (the concert). . . Bente Kahan’s program, HOME, is an extraordinarily successful contribution to dealing with Jewish history. The audience was profoundly impressed.
Westfallenpost, November 00.
„Struck to the Core of the Heart”
Simply, with only guitar and voice, the Norwegian Jewish actor and musician, Bente Kahan, enchanted the audience for just under one hour at Gjřvikhall yesterday morning. On the other hand, Bente was serving some pretty tough fare that morning, consisting of pogroms and gas chambers. Gripping tales about Kahan’s own family, several of whom were sent to Auschwitz, never to return. But also on the menu were frisky ballads that had depth and charm. Bente Kahan performed (songs) close to her heart, accompanying herself on the guitar with elegance and skill and, not in the least, with a voice laden with emotion. And though most of the lyrics were in Yiddish, mixed with Russian, Polish, Hebrew and Hungarian texts, we whose mother tongue is our (Norwegian) Toten dialect, hung on her every word. Kahan related in broad strokes the contents of the songs before performing them, the rest we understood given the mood she created in the auditorium. Kahan’s presentation was powerful and unpretentious, and many more than those present during the morning recital would have enjoyed it immensely. Kahan took along on on musical, cultural and ancestral journey where the impressions she left will not be erased in the near future. We listened to Jewish hits from the 1930s, ballads about East European market women who sold bagels and the gripping tale of Kahan’s Aunt Rosa, who fled from her home at the age of 16 in order to avoid an arranged marriage. During the Second World War she became a leader of the underground movement in Vienna.”
Oppland Arbeiderblad, 7 June 00.