Shtetl 2 Stream, a journey of Yiddish Songs from the old world to the new

Date of live stream show: Sunday August 9 at 5pm

Duration: 45 – 50 minutes


Featuring: Caely-Jo Levy (vocals), Robin Cohen (keyboard), Matthew Reid (clarinet), Petrus de Beer (violin)

Tickets: R50/R100/R200

Direct booking link: https://www.howler.co.za/events/shtetl-2-stream-6f06

*The show link will be available for a week after live stream ends on August 9 at about 5.50pm. People who have bought a ticket can watch live and/or any time in the week after the live stream. Tickets will be for sale for the entire period August 9-14, 2020. At time of going to publication, it has not been finalised if this show will go out as a live show- streamed from studio or if it will go out as a live stream pre-recording. Either way, the method of live stream applies as it is about watching in the designated time frame at Sunday August 9 at 5pm. After the live stream is over, the link is available for viewing.

Lockdown interview: Caely-Jo Levy

Multi-talented Caely-Jo Levy is a veteran of musical theatre in South Africa. In recent years, she has been part of the revival of Yiddish music – bringing a hipster and youthful interpretation through her collaboration with musicians like Mathew Reid. She talks to TheCapeRobyn about Shtetl 2 Stream.

TheCapeRobyn: You were featured on the Le Chayim [Jewish Report] and another Jewish Report show but this is your first full-on lockdown streaming show, performing with a band?

Caely-Jo Levy: This will be my first full show in lockdown. It’s all very new and very scary and possibly the biggest stage I’ve ever played on. I’m excited to be playing with Robin and Matthew again and very excited to have Petrus De Beer join for the first time.

TheCapeRobyn: The show will go out as a live stream on Sunday and then it will be available as a recording – as video-on-demand – with the link live for a week?

Caely-Jo Levy: Correct, you will be able to watch any time for the week following the August 9. We will be streaming at Soundcast studio. Both Soundcast and Howler have been amazing to work with. I am concerned about technical difficulties so we are toying with the idea of pre-recording the day before.

TheCapeRobyn: Will the comments bar be enabled? People love saying “howzit from Sydney” etc.

Caely-Jo Levy: We will open the chat about 30 minutes before the show and 30 minutes after to say howzit to everyone. At this stage, we won’t be interactive during the show.

TheCapeRobyn:  Can you give us an idea of songs that you will be performing – signature Yiddish songs? Surprises?

Caely-Jo Levy: Signature Yiddish songs that I’ll be singing- the famous lullaby Rozinkes Mit Mandlin [Raisins and Almonds], the famous ghetto anthem Mir Lebn Eybik, as well as a haunting song from the ghetto, songs about the immigrant experience and of course a few surprises.

TheCapeRobyn: Will there be chat between songs?

Caely-Jo Levy: I will definitely be linking the songs with a brief history and explanation 

TheCapeRobyn: The song Bei Mir Bist du Schön (To Me You Are Beautiful) seems to be popping up, sung by other artists. The 1937 song – also referred to as Bei Mir Bist du Sheyn -heralded in the era of Yiddish swing and has been covered by great artists like The Andrew Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland. Will it be part of your show on Sunday?

Caely-Jo Levy:  It sure will…but in a very different format assembled by Matthew Reid. 

TheCapeRobyn: You participated at many Yiddish Song Festivals at the Baxter but when did you formalise it as a group, Yid Dish and is this show going out under the banner of Yid Dish?

Caely-Jo Levy:  I started the band Yid Dish in 2016 and the last gig we did, we had the privilege of Matthew joining us. The show on Sunday is going out, under the header of Shtetl 2 Stream – not under the Yid Dish banner. Yid Dish is not an official band. It is a collective which has got together. This show is Shtetl 2 Stream.

During lockdown I’ve collaborated with other musicians. I did a version of Bei Mir Bist du Sheyn with Jason Reolan on keys and Lee Thomson on trumpet for the Jewish Report fund raiser, Waiting InThe Wings. It  was so much fun and refreshing to collaborate on the Yiddish music with new musicians.  I am stoked that on Sunday, I will get to explore a new collaboration with Petrus De Beer. I am grateful that Robin, Matthew and Piet were available and willing for Shtetl 2 Stream as I respect them all so much as musicians.

TheCapeRobyn: You sang with Shane Barker – a leading proponent of Yiddish music- was that 2016?

Caely-Jo Levy:  I sang with him in 2016 and 2019. He was also one of my teachers in New York.

TheCapeRobyn: What led you down the path of this hipster, fresh, contemporary take on Yiddish music and where do you see it going? Plans to make an album?

Caely-Jo Levy: Ha-ha I’ve never seen myself as a hipster…just really old school.  My journey began in 2009 when I was invited to sing in the Yiddish Song Festival. I was 27 and desperate for some sense of identity. When I heard the songs, I realised, this is my heritage, these are the songs of my ancestors, this is my language and since then I have been immersing myself in the music, language and history of the Ashkenazi Jew. I was also disappointed that there was nobody my generation  in the audience and that drove me to take it seriously as we cannot let such a heritage be forgotten in South Africa.


TheCapeRobyn: What is the next step in the Yiddish music journey?

Caely-Jo Levy:  Well, during lockdown I had the honour of collaborating with Elvis Sibeko on a song he produced, I Can’t breathe. Elvis and I had discussed my Yiddish journey in the past and when he started his project he called me and said, ‘I want you to sing in Yiddish as it’s also a language that knows persecution.’ It was such a privilege not only to be a part of the collaboration and marry Xhosa and Yiddish together for the first time but also because, here was a non-Jewish friend who listened to me and who appreciates what I’m doing and that moves and inspires me more than anything.  I want the journey and the stories to reach everyone. That’s the goal I guess.