Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians: Batsheva (Capek). Folksinger (Yiddish, Ladino, Hebrew, English), Musician

 

BATSHEVA Lead Photo 002

Batsheva


Music Online

Welcome to our weekly Sunday music section called

“Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians.”

By David Eisenstadt

November 21, 2021: What does Batsheva Capek have in common with David Buchbinder, Dave Cohen, Marc Jordan, Colin Linden, Fred Molin, Eddie Schwartz and Amy Sky?

All are notable Canadian Jewish musicians who have made a significant segment of their careers in Nashville, Tennessee.

Folksinger, songwriter and broadcaster Batsheva Capek is another Toronto-born and raised Jewish performer who has found success in Nashville. 

Her Polish-born mother and first generation Lithuanian-Canadian father lived with her grandparents, who spoke Yiddish at home. From age six to 21, she studied piano and cello at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She was “encouraged by film-maker/author Jack Kuper and Joso Spralja (of Malka & Joso fame) to become a professional artist.”

She plays acoustic guitar and sings in Ladino, Yiddish, Hebrew and English, and is also a comedy writer.  She has “performed with many of the leading Yiddish and Sephardic artists of our time in festivals and concerts in Israel, the United States, England, and across Canada.”

BATSHEVA El Dio Alto Batsheva Capek 002

El Dio Alto Batsheva Capek

Click HERE to watch this video


Using only her first name, Batsheva sees herself “as a cross between Theodore Bikel and Tom Lehrer from a distinctly feminine voice.”

She told me, “I have always been connected to my heritage and faith. Singing and writing Jewish music has been my life’s work.  I have been a Jewish folksinger since I was 17 years old and taught myself to play the guitar.”

Over the years, she was embraced by Toronto’s Jewish community and was involved with various Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) committees. Batsheva wrote and sung for many of their programs from the 1970s to the 1990s.  “In 1977, she “won the National Competition for Holocaust Literature sponsored by the CJC.”  That year, they recorded her Song of Remembrance, a mainstay “still sung at Holocaust remembrance ceremonies across Canada, and installed in the official archives of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel.”

In 1977 Batsheva moved to Israel.  She sang for the Israel Broadcast Authority program Shevet Achim and had a regular gig singing at the Jerusalem Plaza, a Canadian Pacific Hotel.

In 1984, she won the Kum Kum North American Jewish song writing competition for “another song I wrote about Soviet Jewry, titled Smaller Crowds.”  In 1992, she was the first Canadian to be signed by the Golden Land theatrical Agency in New York.

Batsheva recorded her first full length album I, Batsheva, Singer, with guitarist Rob Piltch and oboist Lesley Young.  Billboard Magazine Canada’s Larry Leblanc wrote, “This beautiful record was made for all the right reasons with heart and soul.”

She met her future husband, John Capek, the composer, producer and musician in 1995. They were married in 2000.  Music performed at their ceremony was played by Dan Hill, Marc Jordan and Amy Sky, with klezmer musicians Martin van de Ven and Alex Luminsky. The couple moved to Nashville in 2010.

Batsheva is featured in what is recognized as the first book on feminist Jewish song writing and liturgy published in 2016, A Season of Singing – Creating the Feminist Jewish Music in the United States by Dr. Sarah Ross. Two of her tunes are referenced: Damn Little Yiddish Folksongs and Yiftach’s Daughter.

A highlight of her repertoire includes a ballet based on three of her Yiddish translations (done in the late 1980s) of Leonard Cohen, arranged by John Capek.  The world premiere of Cohen happened in November 2019 at Kent State University’s School of Theatre and Dance. The choreographer Jeffrey Marc Rockland wrote, “With themes of love, desire, isolation, worship and loss, Cohen is a ballet that celebrates the poetic genius of Leonard Cohen and it is my hope that their work will serve as an artistic prayer for peace and understanding across cultural, religious, racial and sexual differences.” 

Cohen’s publisher, SONY/ATV authorized Batsheva to prepare the Yiddish translation for Dance Me To The End of Love.  It was reported that Cohen was consulted for Batsheva’s Hebrew translation of Hallelujah.  Both tunes are the only two authorized versions of his songs in Hebrew and Yiddish.

BATSHEVA Ashkenaz Leonard Cohen Tribute 002

Ashkenaz Leonard Cohen Tribute BATSHEVA “Dance Me to the End of Love” Yiddish

Click HERE to watch this video


Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Batsheva has kept busy performing zoom concerts for international audiences.  She has also “been doing lots of song writing for a future record.”  Tours to Australia, the UK and the US are in the planning stages, with, she said, her “hope to launch that new record in Toronto.”

Music notes

Credits:  Batsheva Capek/YouTube; Facebook.


A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in the Category section.

Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contact David Eisenstadt at cjnonline@protonmail.com

David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com the Canadian Partner of IPREX Global Communication and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.

Reader’s Comments

-What a wonderful article! Thank you so much. I am delighted to be part of your beautifully written  series. I fully understand the  contribution that you are making by writing about the Jewish music culture in Canada. You are to be commended. It is an invaluable record. Bravo to you and your partner for your efforts. I will post this on Facebook and also send out to my friends, colleagues and fans around the world. I hope you will stay in touch. Thank you again for this wonderful piece. I wish you and yours a very Happy Chanukah. Zay gezint un shtark. – BC, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

-Nice to read your piece on Batsheva; we go way back and worked together here and there over the years. – BK, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

-It is beautifully written and gives a real sense of the person. Really nice of her to send such a supportive note. – FSK, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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Book of the Week: The Tunnel by A.B. Yehoshua. “A New York Times Editors’ Choice.”

The Tunnel

The Tunnel Yehoshua 003

by A.B. Yehoshua

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 

Reviewed by Ralph Wintrob


June 22, 2021: A.B. Yehoshua, now well into his 80’s, is a master storyteller, with a dozen novels to his credit, along with three collections of short stories and four plays. In them, he has polished the art of raising the ordinary to the extraordinary, giving people we can relate to universal significance, and always with a gentle hand. A native Jerusalemite, Yehoshua has had a stellar writing career. He won the Israel Prize for Literature in 1994 and has been a Professor of Hebrew Literature at Haifa University for decades.

His latest novel, The Tunnel, is no exception. The theme is Seniors’ worst fear, memory loss, and its implications, within the family circle, and beyond. For the protagonist, 72-year-old, now retired, road engineer Zvi Luria, it manifests itself in forgetting his home address, nearby streets, when he’s out and about on his own, becomes critical when he brings another child home from school in place of his beloved grandson, can’t remember old colleagues and their spouses at a retirement party, or what to say about the honouree, when asked.

Through it, all Yehoshua never wavers from a delicacy of tone, and the spousal bond, as he tells it, remains strong and reciprocal, though anxious. It proves itself when Zvi turns caregiver when his physician wife comes down with Covid-like symptoms, from one of her patients.

Meanwhile, the story develops, in tandem to the personal, when Dina, Zvi’s wife, urges the young engineer, Asael, who has taken over Zvi’s office and duties on his retirement, to take Zvi on as an unpaid consultant, to keep his mind alert.

The project involves the construction of a diversion road, and a tunnel, under a tel in the Negev for strategic purposes. But as Zvi is made aware on his first visit to the tel with Asael, there’s a dilemma complicating the plans. The tel is home to a Palestinian family who are fugitives from the law. To move them is to doom them. The dilemma comes to a powerful and tension-filled climax when Zvi undertakes a perilous junket to the tel on his own at night first driving, then by taxi, to work out a compromise. It’s a wild ride for him and for the reader, considering Zvi’s uncertain grasp of things.

Yehoshua obviously loves Zvi and always shows the positive side of his conflicted life. It’s this gentle approach, and sympathetic tone, that makes this book a winner. Despite his golden years, Yehoshua’s awesome skill is undiminished. It’s especially satisfying to see how he can weave together a personal and national crisis and never let one sink the other. They are perfectly balanced.

Credits: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

***

A complete list of Ralph Wintrob’s book reviews can be viewed under Book of the Week in the Category section.

Do you have comments or questions about this book review? Ralph can be reached at cjnonline@protonmail.com


Ralph Wintrob is a former journalist, teacher-librarian

Ralph wintrob 010


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