On today’s show I speak with Aurelia Shrenker and Eva Primack, amazing singers and ex-UCLA enthnomusicology students who have relocated to New York and together form the singing duet “Æ.” They do a wonderful and unprecedented mix of songs from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, mixed and mashed with ballads from the American South. A & E sing together in a capella arrangements and also accompany themselves on accordion and panduri, a 3-string lute from the Republic of Georgia. Because of their wonderful voices, good approach and depth of knowledge, it works really well.
Tamar Korn, the singer with the Cangelosi Cards told me I had to come down to Barbes, a club in Brooklyn to hear Æ, so I went not knowing at all what to expect. They were great! I caught up with them a few days later to record this interview before they left for a West Coast tour.
More info on the band bellow (from their press release):
Æ (Aurelia Lucy Shrenker and Eva Salina Primack) has been performing as a duo for a year. Aurelia and Eva have performed together in Europe, New York, and California and are finishing up their debut CD! The two women bring together a deep knowledge of different vocal traditions, and create something new and daring with each song they sing together. They have chosen the name Æ (the joined a and e, officially pronounced “ash”) because it represents something of a dual nature–not singular, not plural, but exactly two. They primarily perform a cappella but enjoy accompanying themselves on mountain dulcimer, accordion, and Georgian panduri. In addition to their upcoming CD, Æ recently contributed to the soundtrack of “The Great Soviet Eclipse”, the newest film produced under the auspices of the Museum of Jurassic Technology and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Information(www.mjt.org). Æ’s work is rooted in folk culture and never falls short of being visceral and provocative–in their music, the exuberance of youth and the reverence of ancient tradition coincide.
A native of Santa Cruz, California, Eva Salina Primack has been
studying, performing, and teaching Balkan music for most of her life.
She has traveled and performed internationally, worked with many
well-known Balkan and American musicians, and lives in Brooklyn. In
addition to her work with Æ, Eva has recently been working with Slavic
Soul Party! (www.slavicsoulparty.com), the Italian balkan/jazz project
Opa Cupa (www.myspace.com/opacupa), Which Way
East(www.myspace.com/whichwayeast), Seido Salifoski’s Romski Boji, and
Kadife. Past collaborations and projects include Edessa
(www.edessamusic.com), Tzvetanka Varimezova, and KITKA
(www.kitka.org).With a foundation in classical voice, Aurelia Shrenker has sung
traditional music from around the world since she
was thirteen. Originally from Massachusetts, Aurelia has traveled
extensively, touring Europe and the United States with Vermont-based
Northern Harmony (www.northernharmony.pair.com). She currently performs
as a soloist and with Æ. Aurelia has studied Georgian music for eight years
and has visited the Republic several times as a musician, volunteer, and tour-guide. A
former student of ethnomusicology at UCLA, Aurelia currently lives in
Brooklyn and studies arts, education, and social justice at NYU.
From the CityLore website:
Ethel Raim has spent the better part of her lifetime tuning American ears to the tremendous beauty of traditional music and ensuring that communities value and support their own cultural legacy. Her love of Balkan music brought her together with Martin Koenig to found the Balkan Arts Center in l966 — which was renamed Ethnic Folk Arts Center in the ‘80s, and later the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. Years of fostering and presenting the music and dance of numerous communities throughout the New York area makes the Center one of nation’s great proponents of what Alan Lomax calls Cultural Equity, the right of every community or ethnic group to express and sustain its distinctive cultural heritage. Visit their website at www.ctmd.org.