King Django

King Django's Roots & Culture

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Ska/klezmer fusion? Covers of "Night Boat to Cairo" and "Do Nothing" sung in Yiddish? An eerie, churning reggae instrumental punctuated by brief arguments in favor of a Saturday sabbath? It must be a joke, right? Well, no. In fact, Jeff "King Django" Baker (better known as the leader of the legendary New York ska bands Skinnerbox and the Stubborn All Stars) is dead serious with this project, which brings together his family's Jewish culture with the Jamaican musical heritage he's adopted, and works far better than one could possibly hope. Along with the bluebeat trombone and one-drop drums you hear Andy Statman's keening clarinet and old-world mandolin; along with a skanked-up traditional standard like "Heveinu Shalom Aleichem" you get Yiddish adaptations of old Specials and Madness songs. Among the original numbers are an extremely affecting portrait of an old woman, desolate in the wake of her husband's death ("A Single Thread"), and the chilling "Slaughter," a reggae memorial to those who died in the Holocaust. It's not all seriousness -- there's also a great instrumental entitled "Ska Mitzvah" -- but the overall tenor of this project is deeply sober and explicitly spiritual. One gets the feeling that there was some emotional anguish involved in its creation, and consequently there is a depth to this music that sets it apart from almost anything else you'll ever hear in the ska realm. This is a uniquely wonderful album.

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