For a short while in the late 50s, London was home to the shvitz, the dirtiest, funkiest dancing it had ever known. It was calypso, mambo, twist, skiffle, klezmer: a one-off collision of roots and cultures that spawned London’s first truly homegrown dance craze.
When years later it crossed the Atlantic as ‘The Twist’ its origins were forgotten, and remained so, with the exception of a select few who recognise Willy Bergman, its deranged founder and greatest bandleader, as the lost hero of the sex n drugs British music revolution.
The Yiddish Twist Orchestra, under the guidance of trumpeter Lemez Lovas, pays homage to the genius of Bergman, the anonymous beatnik funkateer who got the slums – and salons – on both sides of the water dancing to that pounding London beat.
Yesterday, I was in sunny Victoria Park at the Paradise Gardens Festival and, among other things, enjoyed the Yiddish Twist Orchestra.
The Orchestra were commissioned in 2008 by the JCC, whose website says:
For one night only be transported back to 1945, as the all-star Yiddish Twist Orchestra grace the stage of Bush Hall. Throw on your glad rags and don’t forget your dance-cards for this astonishing evening of rumba, twist and rationed doughnuts in a glorious, crumbling Edwardian dance hall.
The Yiddish Twist Orchestra is a completely new commission by the JCC. It features the acclaimed musicians Ben Mandelson (guitars), Merlin Shepherd (saxes), Guy Schalom (drums), Polina Shepherd (organ), Paul Tkachenko (basses), Robin Harris (trombone), Lemez Lovas (Oi-Va-Voi), site-specific theatre company Friends of Gagarin and the wonderful visual tricks of imagician Miki Shaw. A studio recording, to be funded independently, will follow after the debut performance.
More here, including sounds.
“It is always the seam on your trousers that attracts the most dirt,” said Alf Wax, the great Whitechapel tailor, and back in 1950s London the same was undoubtedly true for music.
It was the seam of the big band and rock’n’roll eras that attracted musicians who produced what sounds now like the dirtiest, most deliriously danceable music of all – that delirious mix of classic Yiddish songs, West Indian Calypso and English beat rhythms that they called ‘der shvitz’….
The Yiddish Twist Orchestra, an allstar band under the guidance of trumpeter Lemez Lovas (Oi Va Voi) and twang guitarist Erno Nimusz (The Name Feathers), pays homage to the genius and paranoia of Bergman, the anonymous beatnik funkateer who got the slums – and salons – on both sides of the water dancing to that pounding Yiddish beat.
Look at some photos here.