Toronto’s Beyond the Pale brings its Balkan-Klezmer fusion to San Diego

| February 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

Beyond the Pale (BTP), Toronto’s award-winning acoustic-roots ensemble known for its unique take on klezmer, Balkan and Romanian music is bringing its string and reed-powered sound to the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, CA on Saturday, February 29, as a part of its West Coast tour.

The occasion has prompted BTP co-founder and mandolin player Eric Stein to reflect on the band’s longevity, and how klezmer (east European Jewish instrumental folk music) has evolved over the band’s lifespan. “When Beyond the Pale started in 1998, the klezmer music scene was still something of an obscure, countercultural insurgency, existing on the fringes of both the Jewish community and the broader music world. In the last couple of decades, that’s all changed. The music has blown up in myriad directions, and klezmer seems to be everywhere these days.”

Stein, noting the band’s many past appearances at jazz, folk, classical and world music festivals and venues, he is quick to disclaim the klezmer label as “perhaps misleading and certainly insufficient” to convey the diversity of the band’s influences and the eclecticism of their sound.

“We borrow freely from many musical styles and we are unorthodox in our approach. Our overriding goal is to sound distinctly like ourselves, and in that respect I think our music has especially explicit similarities with progressive bluegrass and what some call ‘New Acoustic Music’.”

Citing such influences as David Grisman and Béla Fleck, Stein further sketches the conceptual parallel he sees between BTP’s European-based acoustic fusion and the Americana-based sounds of those iconoclastic innovators. Says Stein, “the spirit behind the music is similar. Acoustic instrumentation and a foundation in traditional influences serve as common points of departure, in their cases as in ours, but after that, anything goes!”    

While they may be unlikely to pass a klezmer traditionalist’s purity test, only the most jaded observer could fail to appreciate the group’s unique artistry and distinct collective voice. Their unifying resonance comes across perhaps most clearly in the group’s palpable shared energy on stage.

“In our live shows, audiences respond as much to our interpersonal dynamic as to the music itself,” asserts Stein. “We don’t do any shtick, we just play, but there is a visceral and authentic energy between us that’s infectious for audiences. They can practically see sparks flying.”

That joyful connection has kept the quintet developing and exploring for over two decades, an impressively long run for any band, much less a group of progressive acousticians anchored in decidedly niche styles. They’ve won wide critical acclaim, captured three prestigious Canadian Folk Music Awards, and have brought their music to such far-flung locales as Poland, Australia, and Brazil. They’ve recently begun work on their fifth studio album, and the upcoming tour will include recording sessions in Los Angeles, joined by special guests.

In Beyond the Pale’s live shows, audiences respond as much to their interpersonal dynamic as to the music itself. Photo provided by Avital Zemer.

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Entertainment, Events, Local News, Music, National News

About the Author ()

General articles by the Presidio Sentinel and Associated Partners.