Klezmer, funk and hip hop unite against racism and intolerance in Trump’s America
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A decade after their acclaimed album Tweet Tweet, Abraham Inc. return with Together We Stand, using their eclectic mix of klezmer, funk and hip hop to show that different religions, ages, sexes and races get along. David Krakauer, Fred Wesley and Socalled talk to RFI about how the U.S. president’s “Muslim” ban got them back in the studio making great music.
“The band is kind of crazy mix of just about anybody you can imagine,” says Socalled, a Canadian beatmaker who’s been working with Krakauer on reinventing klezmer for over a decade.
“Men, women, black, white, brown, Latino, Africans … we have basically Jewish culture and Yiddish culture meeting African American culture. And on the song Together We Stand we invited an Arabic percussionist Mohammed Raky, so there’s Arabic percussion.”
The title track was written by Fred Wesley, master funk trombonist and James Brown's former musical director.
"Together WE stand is also the peoples of the world," Wesley says, “all races and all nationalities and all religions of the world standing together in the name of peace.
"If we all could stand together, could listen to each other we would find out we have more in common than we have differences.”
“I’m a black man and you’re a white farmer, let me just tell you what I go through and you tell me what you go through.. and it’ll be the same thing you know,” he continues, in reference to some of the hate speech that's come out of the woodwork since Trump's election in 2016.
Lullaby for Charlottesville
Socalled wrote the song Lullaby for Charlottesville in tribute to Heather Hever, killed at a white supremacist rally in 2017.
“It’s an ode to the memory of Heather Hayer, the young woman who was murdered by someone from the white supremacist movement that Donald Trump said “there’s good people on both sides”. It sort of paints a story in music of voices coming together to pay homage to that tragic moment in American history.”
The Hippies were right, weren't they?
Krakauer wrote the song The Hippies Were Right. Though he was only a teenager at the time of Woodstock, he “marched against the war in Vietnam" and hung out in East Village, an old Jewish quarter of NY popular with hippies. He was inspired by the fact they believed they could change things.
“They were protesting the Vietnam war, they were talking about defending the environment, about love among people and I thought this makes sense.
"Politically they didn’t have muscle or power. It was sad that the actual pure message of the hippies, about living life, embracing life, got perverted and smashed and commodified.”
Trying to convince through music
“What Trump did was take the sheet off of people that were kind of racist and people that were anti-Semitic, anti-peace, people that were pro-corporate America,” says Wesley.
"Trump exposed all of these people because they all came out of the closet. And these are the people we have to convince.”
While there's a fair amount of political commentary on the album, the band aims to convince by example not by preaching or banging the table.
The instrumental track B Flat à la Socalled is a fine example of the way they find harmony in their very different musical cultures.
“This album is pretty polemical and a bit of a pulpit cry, but hopefully it’s also musically an example,” Socalled says.
“If you see on stage a bunch of people, different religions, ages, sexes, just loving each other and creating beauty that brings people together, that’s the mission of Abraham Incorporated.”
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Together we stand is out on Autre Distribution
Abraham Inc. official website