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The Lost World of African-American Cantors 1915-1953
Sunday, March 14, 2021 - 10:00am

Event Details

Join us for a talk by Henry Sapoznik, award winning record and radio producer, author, ethnomusicologist in the fields of Yiddish and American popular and traditional culture.

The history of Black-Jewish cultural interaction primarily focuses on how Jews adopted and adapted Black vernacular music -- ragtime, jazz, swing, R&B and blues, etc. --as performers, promoters, managers, club owners and record labels. However, what has never before been explored were the African-Americans who performed Yiddish and cantorial music in and for the Jewish community, in theaters on record, radio and in concert between the World Wars. The talk wil lhonor the memory of now forgotten Black cantors - Mendele der Shvartzer Khazn, Reb Dovid Kalistrita, Abraham Ben Benjamin Franklin, Thomas LaRue Jones and Goldye di Shvartze Khaznte the first - and only -- Black woman cantor. The talk will feature dozens of historic graphics and translations of period Yiddish newspaper previews, ads and reviews and the playing of the one known 1923 Yiddish and Hebrew recording of Thomas Jones LaRue.

Suggested donation: $5-10 TIG members; $10-18 non-members

Henry Sapoznik is a native Yiddish speaker and child of Holocaust survivors who helped jump-start the klezmer "revival" founding "Kapelye" in 1979 and "The Youngers of Zion" with Cookie Segelstein and Mark Rubin. Sapoznik was the founding director of the YIVO Sound Archives 1982-1995 and through it founded and ran "KlezKamp: The Yiddish Folk Arts Program" in 1985 for its 30 year life. He co-authored "The Compleat Klezmer" and "The Klezmer Plus Folio" with Pete Sokolow with whom he ran "Klezmer Plus" with Sid Beckerman and Howie Lees (1982-1993)

Sapoznik, a five-time Grammy nominated producer won the 2002 Peabody award for his 13-part NPR series "The Yiddish Radio Project." The collection of which was acquired by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress in 2011 and was also the final on-air host (1990-1995) of the long-running Yiddish radio show "The Forward Hour" on radio station WEVD.

Sapoznik's 2015 reissue of the earliest known Yiddish sound recordings, "Attractive Hebrews: The Lambert Yiddish Cylinders 1901-1905" won the coveted Certificate of Merit from The Association for Recorded Sound Collections with the original recordings named to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry of important sound recordings.

Sapoznik's recent box set "Protobilly: The Minstrel and Tin Pan Alley Roots of Country Music 1892-2017" documenting the influence of blackface minstrelsy on country, jazz and blues. Sapoznik is currently co-producing a new reissue box set for Smithsonian-Folkways (2021) and working on a book on the "shvartze khazonim."