A Hackney park lands a place on the musical map

AS AN esoteric title, Welcome to Butterfield Green N16 is hard to beat. Outside Hackney, that is, because residents of the borough will recognise the postcode.

And many Londoners will recognise the CD’s style of music, klezmer, the East European genre that sets the surliest foot tapping. The album has been made by the London Klezmer Quartet, but why Butterfield Green?

Ilana Cravitz, fiddler in the quartet, told Loving Dalston: “Butterfield Green is the local green space that inspired my lively dance tune, which forms the title track of our new album.

“We linked it to a traditional Hasidic melody that might yet be recognised by the black-hatted and bewigged residents of Stamford Hill – if it hasn’t been displaced in their listening repertoires by tunes expropriated from Eurovision.

“We’ve managed to embrace some of the band’s other musical interests and influences as well: there’s a nod to baroque music in a Brandenburg-esque canon; and a Gypsy call sets up the second tune.

Butterfield Green: N16 haven
Butterfield Green: a Hackney N16 haven

“We’d like to think that the album reflects some of the international Jewish and musical experience — wandering, cross-cultural influences, joy and sorrow — seen in microcosm in Hackney, with its constant turnover of new immigrants, as well as those, like me, returning to their most recent family roots.”

Cravitz said that many of her family were born in Hackney. Her great-grandparents migrated from Poland, and opened a grocery in Lauriston Road near Victoria Park.

She added: “My surviving great-aunts and my mother recall my great-grandmother demonstrating Yiddish dance steps in the kitchen – as I do now at klezmer keilidhs.” (Keilidhs? Scots should look away.)

Oddly enough, none of  the London Klezmer Quartet speaks Yiddish. This is the Germanic language that in the Jewish area of Hackney, the north of the borough, can be heard in the street, spoken by men dressed in stockings and hats, sometimes fur-lined, even in hot weather, and their wig-wearing wives.

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures suggest that the borough’s Jewish population has more than doubled since 2001 and that more than one in every 100 person in Hackney speaks Yiddish as a first language. 

Statistics, schmatistics: the ONS found that Yiddish was spoken at Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, in no homes. This is unlikely because Gateshead is where the ultra-Orthodox Haredi opened their first English synagogue.

* Famous young Yiddish-speakers: singers Jessie Ware, Harry Styles

* The photograph at top is a publicity picture supplied by the band. Emboldened underscored words in Loving Dalston articles usually indicate a hyperlink that will open a separate window with further information. If a link no longer works, it is probably because the site’s owner has failed to maintain it.

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