Oct 01, 2015
Daniel Kahn asked me to meet him at a hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in June, when he was in town for Kulturfest. An elderly friend of his, the actor Sol Frieder, was dying, and Kahn was spending as much time as possible at his bedside. When I arrived, Kahn and I found a gurney to sit on, and we talked about his approach to Yiddish and Yiddish music.
Kahn fronts Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird, which might be described as a transnational punk rock band that experiments in Jewish and non-Jewish modes. Think lots of accordion, lots of hard beats, and lots of languages. (You’ll hear some examples throughout the interview.) Kahn also dabbles in a number of other bands, some more Yiddish than others. Most recently he’s been spending time with The Brothers Nazaroff (which also includes Psoy Korolenko).
In this interview with Kahn, I asked about his musical influences, how all of those languages interact with each other in his songs, and what it means to “tradapt” a song across languages and time.
Note: Kahn mentions Theodor Bikel several times while thinking about his influences and mentors; this interview was recorded just weeks before Bikel’s passing.
Alternative Futures of the Past: An Interview with Daniel Kahn