It may sound like a contradiction, but Golem is a punk-folk-rock klezmer band with a reverence for tradition.
“Somehow we make it work,” said the group’s leader, Annette Ezekiel Kogan. “We appeal to all ages.”
On the band’s website, golemrocks.com, is a quote from The Jewish Week: “This is not your father’s klezmer band, unless of course your father was Sid Vicious.”
Golem will be the featured band at the 35th annual Workmen’s Circle Yiddish Concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23, in the Evans Amphitheater at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights.
Based in New York, Golem performs Yiddish folk and theater music with Balkan, Slavic and Gypsy influences.
“They’re world-class performers,” said Shawn Fink, co-chairman of the Workmen’s Circle Yiddish Concert committee. “They have played throughout the United States and Europe and offer a unique twist on the concert.”
Kogan, who sings and plays accordion, said Golem has performed two or three times at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights and also has played at a few weddings in Cleveland.
“We’re looking forward to playing at Cain Park,” she said. “It seems like an incredible venue. We’re always thrilled to play for people who are interested in Yiddish.”
Kogan founded Golem in 2001. She said her main musical influence was “old-school Yiddish music” from 2nd Avenue Theatre, an early Yiddish theater in New York.
“The rest of the band has a range of influences, from avant-garde jazz to classical to punk rock,” she said. “We started out playing new versions of traditional music, but in the last few years, we’re mainly playing original songs.”
Half of the six-member band is Jewish, Kogan said, including herself. Aaron Diskin, with whom Kogan shares lead vocals, and violinist Jeremy Brown are the other Jewish members. Diskin, who plays tambourine, attended high school with Kogan in Lexington, Mass.
Curtis Hasselbring, who plays trombone, is originally from Ashland. Other band members are bass player Taylor Bergen-Chrisman and drummer Tim Monaghan.
“With half us being Jewish, it gives us an interesting combination of voices, which creates our unique sound,” Kogan said. “We sing in Yiddish, English and Russian and one song in French.”
Golem has released two albums on Jdub Records, an independent Jewish label, titled “Fresh Off Boat” and “Citizen Boris.” Both CDs will be available for purchase at the concert.
“Jdub closed last year, so we’re on our own now,” Kogan said. “We’re in the process of recording a new album, which we will self-release later this year.”
One can expect a combination of well-known Yiddish songs and originals at the Cain Park concert, Kogan said.
“It sounds like it will be a mixed-age group, so my main goal is to appeal to everyone and to show how much we love Yiddish in everything we do,” she said. “We haven’t been to Cleveland in a few years, and we’re really excited to be coming back.”
Admission is free, and no tickets are required. For information, call 216-381-4515.