Beyond the Pale
[Editor's Note: We are delighted to welcome Mark LeVine, Tikkun's longest serving contributing editor, to Tikkun Daily. Mark wears at least two hats and another one apart from musician is political prof and Middle East expert. His latest post at tikkun.org is "No Hope for Haiti" Without Justice."]
If the end of 2009 is any indication, 2010 is going to be a difficult year. Whether it’s the economy, foreign policy or just political and cultural pulse of America more broadly, a host of problems confronts our society from the political leadership to the average citizen that hardly anyone knows how or even wants to deal with honestly.
We need inspiration, and few things inspire people to action better than music. For my money, one of the best albums to get your year going in a positive way has to be Postcards, the latest release of the internationally acclaimed Klezmer/world music ensemble, Beyond the Pale.
Based in Toronto, Beyond the Pale’s sound is a paradox — acoustic yet explosive, grounded in Klezmer yet swimming in Balkan and bluegrass elements, with forays into everything from reggae to funk. With its blend of innovative original compositions with classics of the world music repertoire that group is surely one of the most accomplished ensembles on the world music scene today.
It’s not surprising that Beyond the Pale hails from Toronto. The city has a strong Jewish presence, which has been joined in recent decades by a major influx of immigrants from around the world, making Toronto one of the most cosmopolitan and culturally diverse in the world. Eric Stein, the multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, bass, cimbalom, guitar) founder of Beyond the Pale and a leading figure in Toronto’s Jewish music scene, explains that the city and the Jewish music scene there lend themselves to opening up to other cultures, which is reflected in the group’s name. “‘Beyond the Pale’ obviously refers to the Pale of Settlement, but that’s the start, not the end of the musical journey we’re on.” Indeed, while Klezmer is the foundation for the music, the majority of the band is not Jewish, but instead hails from a diverse background, particularly the former Yugoslavia.
“Toronto has been an amazing place to develop our music. It’s one of the only places where a band of such eclectic makeup could come together and do what it does because of all the different musical traditions and the freedom and openness that our cultural environment in Toronto facilitates.”