NEW YORK'S ENTERTAINMENT & ART                     By Ann Braithwaite                                                                                           


The GREAT Jewlia Eisenberg and Charming Hostess will celebrate the release of their terrific new Tzadik CD "Sarajevo Blues" in concert on Wednesday, March 30th as part of the Tzadik series at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Working with text by Bosnian poet Sem Mehmedinovic, Sarajevo Blues explores day to day life under siege, slipping between humor and horror. Some songs speak explicitly of war, and others of the joys of long underwear, café culture, and underground sexuality.  Along the way, the music touches on nationalism, genocide, freedom, and the life of an artist in a time of constraint. The critics wrote:

"Eisenberg's songs are hilarious and touching-they run the gamut from hard-edged and powerful to sweet and soulful." - New Yorker. "Charming Hostess unleashes music brilliantly conceived and performed. The sound of these powerful voices coming together is truly uplifting and even implicitly political." - San Francisco Bay Guardian. "Eisenberg sets lyrics about politics, jealousy and pizza to a world of styles, from klezmer to pygmy-style counterpoint, humanizing a great thinker while having plenty of fun." - New York Times. Vocal rebels Jewlia Eisenberg and Charming Hostess celebrate the release of their revelatory new CD Sarajevo Blues (Tzadik) with performances: Thursday, March 3, Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck @ Prince, 10 p.m. $8, Berkeley, CA. Friday, March 11, Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk at HemlockSan Francisco, CA, Saturday, March 12, Capital Garage, 5431 H. Street, Sacramento, CA. Sunday, March 13,  Raven Theater, 115 North Street Healdsburg, CA. Monday, March 14, The Knitting Factory, 7021 Hollywood Blvd. 9:30 pm, $7  Hollywood, CA. Tuesday, March 15, Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. $8, 9 p.m. Tucson, AZ. Wednesday, March 30, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl. Battery Pk Cty,  NY, NY with Pharoah's Daugher; part of Tzadik Music Festival. Sarajevo Blues draws on Bosnian poetry to tell a story of love and resistance, the nature of evil, and laughter by any means necessary.  A tour de force of vocal brains and brawn, Sarajevo Blues updates the sexy, soulful sounds of 60s girl groups with the adventurous energy of the avant-garde and the rhythmic propulsion of hip-hop beatbox.  Self-described as a "Nerdy-Sexy-Commie-Girlie band," Bosnian National Radio has taken to calling Charming Hostess, "The Sarajevo Supremes." 



Composer/singer Eisenberg explains: "Charming Hostess pushes vocal boundaries to tell complex stories in a visceral way. We use every aspect of the human body to get sound: Voices and vocal percussion, hand claps and heart beats, sex-breath and silence.  I love writing for voices, because they provide the entire palette of the human experience." "When you describe Sarajevo Blues it sounds heavy, but the poems contain the ups and downs of everyday life - sometimes, ironically, within the same moment.  There's emotional intensity hand-in-hand with dark humor, erotic action playing off politics, fear mixed with glee.  It's an exciting challenge to express feelings in dialogue," Eisenberg notes.

The song "Death is a Job" rises to that challenge, juxtaposing doo-wop jauntiness and choreography with what it feels like to confront a war photographer waiting for a worthwhile shot.  "War" is actually a love song, about a birthday celebration with a single coffee bean, surrounded by flies in a bombed-out apartment.  "Grbavica" sings of the shelling of Sarajevo from the graveyards above the city, from the perspective of a child picking violets from the same cemetery. As for why she chose to set the journalistic poetry of Sarajevo Blues, Eisenberg says: "I wanted to explore three questions: Is an understanding of historical parallels useful for changing the present and future?  Is it possible, or even desirable, to create emotional connections to brutal events that most Americans will never experience? Can creating connections make change?"  San Francisco's art-diva sweethearts, the ladies of Charming Hostess sing with a pan-Diaspora sensibility, inspired by doo-wop, Pygmy counterpoint, Torah chanting, Balkan harmony and Sufi melody.  Concerts sometimes feel like intimate revivals -- people laugh, cry and witness, even faint. Perhaps it is the music's empathy that explains the diverse crowds, peppered with refugees from around the world. They come for the snappy, soulful sound that celebrates survival and joy in dark times. The story of the Sarajevo Supremes begins in Brooklyn.  Eisenberg grew up in a Black and Jewish commune in East New York, where her large set of parents were labor and community organizers.   Her upbringing continues to inform her work today, as she comments: "My folks exposed me to what they called 'people's music' from around the world, especially from African and Jewish sources.  It was a musical culture -- I was expected to lead songs on picket lines, demonstrations, and meetings, to teach and preach. 

Continues: NEXT

Back ] Home ] Next ]