Yuri Gorzy’s War Diaries (27): The cuckoo calls for battle – Culture

April 27 2022

“What’s your typical day like, Mr. Jorzy?” an American journalist asks me via zoom. I will think about it. My days over the past two months have been fast-forward like movies.

I often find it difficult in the evening to remember everything that happened during the day. Take yesterday for example: No matter how bad my sleep is, I get up very early, around five. I often have headaches and can’t get up right away, I stay in bed and read the news.

Ukrainian music sounds like therapy

You have subscribed to many Ukrainian Telegram channels. What Ukrainians post there is often harsh, brutal and the opposite of what “professional” news looks like. But it is relentlessly real. You may not want to see it, but you must – understand what is going on and what awaits us other Europeans if this war does not end as soon as possible, with the victory of Ukraine. This motivates!

Yesterday I woke up after only four hours of sleep, the night before I read on Panda Platforma. I read from my book on Jewish music and also from my new texts about the war, and then hung up. Lately I’ve noticed intensely how good Ukrainian music is to listen. Even though it was a Monday, a few people danced. Felt like a treat, not to mention a ‘disco’.

I woke up early because there was so much to do. I am currently working on two projects, a solo concert and a grouping of Jewish artists against Russian aggression in Ukraine. In this case I am the coordinator and at the same time the record company.

I collect pieces, listen to them, experiment with arrangement and send contracts to participants. Although the contracts are symbolic because the artists don’t get anything. All profits are donated. More and more music is being sent to me.

People I don’t know write to me too. An email arrives from Anthony Coleman in New York during the night. 25 years ago I saved up so I could buy his CDs, and today he texts me: “Hi. Just asking: What are the rules for Jewish collecting?”

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My concert is supposed to be part of the Marathon stream. For weeks my friends in Kharkiv have been playing regularly and streaming their concerts from the vault online. They collect donations for everything that is needed in Kharkiv. On the 7th of May Berlin will participate.

My fellow musicians called me, and I’m going to put the program together. Unfortunately, I have to perform elsewhere that day myself, but it doesn’t really matter whether I participate or not, what matters is how much money we can raise for my town through this campaign. In normal life I try to avoid the organizational stuff, but this time I like to take care of the flow and all the technical stuff.

In the afternoon, I make my way to Kesselhaus – the Amsterdam Klezmer Band plays there, and I call the DJ after the concert. The show has been postponed twice, and luckily it could happen after all…but of course there’s also a bitter aftertaste. It’s hard not to think about Ukraine today, and thinking about Ukraine often makes you want to get out.

Alec Kopet, who sings with men and plays percussion, is originally from Odessa. He moved to Australia in 1979, his native language is Russian. At one point he sang with the band an old Ukrainian folk song: “The Cuckoo”. The song was back in its repertoire for a few weeks.

With just a few words added, Alec was able to turn a harmless satirical piece with lyrics that might have been written 100 years ago into a resistance anthem. It begins as an apocalyptic funeral procession turns into a battle song… which makes a perfect statement about the current state of Europe.

Read more parts of the diary here:

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