Featured Violin Purses
These Violettes were created by Becky Chaffee in collaboration with stories written by the composer/band leader of Klezmer-jazz, Paul Brody.
Roman Rolli - Gypsy Violinist in Paris. How I got here:
I got to Paris in a very strange way. As you know, the French, although they can be quite mistrusting of southerners, they adore the gypsy, at least when he has an instrument in his hand. They all have the music of Django and Stephane Grappelli in their heads. The Germans are even more into the gypsy then the French. In Germany you have the love of exotic cultures plus the guilt of WWII going for you. I swear, I could tour Germany and make a mint with barely playing a note!
Anyway, I was invited to play in Paris. In Romania, my thing is to make mess of the music. I don't play traditional. I do what the French say, L'experiment. But when someone pays your way to fly across Europe, they are buying something. Most of the time they want to buy the picture book gypsy who walks off the plane with colorful clothes, smells funny, and is ready to play romantic music for the first blond who walks his way.
Well, I got called for one of these jobs. It was quite a rich bunch of Parisians. I swear, if they had a barn in back of their house, they would have put me, the gypsy, there to sleep. They take me to the venue and there is a big sign saying something about Music for Tolerance. And the other musicians were a little Algerian, a little black, a little jewish. So I was ready to play some standard Roma music and then I thought about the 'tolerance.' How tolerant would they be if I didn't act like a gypsy?
So I take out my i phone and hook it up to a speaker and I have this special mic system, very high tech. I play my violin and the sound goes in my i phone and I loop some things, that is, I record myself on my i phone many times and play it back through the big speaker boxes. So I put the violin down, and do like the DJ with my i phone!
I am playing my recorded violin through my i phone on stage, then I do a beat like in the music of Prince together with my violin sounds. I look at the audience. Let me tell you, they did not want to see the gypsy with the i phone. But maybe I am the one that's racist, maybe I just read that into it. It is the multi-cultural chicken and egg question here. I stop for a second to change a setting and tell the audience in English that I am an i gypsy, well, an i-gyptian!
They look at me like I am the crazy man. I really think that Django would have loved the i phone too! Many people leave. Especially after I do the Prince beat. But there is one guy who was a promoter. He was there because his wife dragged along. He didn't even want to be there because he hates folk music and world music stuff. He likes experimental music and electronics.
So I am playing music that almost no one wants to hear, and the one guy who didn't even want to be there ends up really liking it and gets me more concerts. And it's because of him that I live in France. What a mixed-up world!
by Paul Brody
Jane Allen, Klezmer Violinist-In and Out of Russia
Being wide eyed and and easygoing with the world is ok if you don't go too far from home. But once you cross borders into countries where people have different customs and laws than you are used too, then you have to watch out. I learned this when I went to Russia.
Some friends and I practiced Klezmer music together for a few years. I mean, just for fun. It just so happened that my boyfriend, our accordionist; and my neighbor, the flutiest, who just finished her degree in art history, and I had the same three weeks off of work in the summer. We saw an exhibit of Chagall's paintings and were really inspired. So, since we played jewish music and loved art, we decided to go on a kind of Chagall pilgrimage.
We retraced the main cities where Chagall lived. First we flew to Paris, then went to Berlin; and then we flew to Finland and got on a train to St. Petersburg. We were so excited! The atmosphere on the train going to Russia was like in one of those old movies. While we went across the border of Russia a group of people started to sing russian songs. I knew some of the songs and was not shy about joining in on violin. At first quietly, then louder. The atmosphere in the train wagon just kind of lit up and I had the feeling that the music carried us through Russia, and not the train! After not enough days in St. Petersburg it was time to head home. On the way home, on the same rout that we came, there were no singers and there was no party; just train engineers and border guards controlling who was leaving the country. Of course with an American passport one is very flexible in this world.
But my violin wasn't! The Russian police literally took my violin away from me. Well, I had the choice of staying in Russia with my violin! But they said that without official papers, I couldn't take my violin out of the country. It belonged to Russia.
I don't know if you realize what that is like. If you play an instrument all your life, that instrument is like a part of your body. So I had to fill out some forms and I could barely see because I was so upset. My allergies were kicking in! I went into Russia drunk with nostalgic music in my head, and I left Russia sober, and with the reality of mess-up politics and border problems. It took months for me to get my violin back. I had to have proof that I did not buy it in Russia. That's my violin story!
By Paul Brody
We hope you enjoyed the presentation of the violin bags with the stories.If you have any requests for more, we would enjoy the project.