You have a new album coming out this month called rememory, tell us about the origins of this project–how did it come to be?
In 2014 I premiered my solo play Amnesia, an autobiographical exploration of identity and immigration. Theatrically, music is a central voice; I perform the play with a live band and collaborated on the score with Lila Sklar, an extraordinarily talented composer, violinist and vocalist. As we toured Amnesia around the country, people kept coming up to us after the show asking, “Where can I get this music?” To answer that question, Lila and I formed a new band, Waystation, and began recording our debut album rememory, a song circle of hip hop klezmer remixes moving towards immigration justice.
Why hip hop klezmer?
This is the music I’ve always wanted to make. I grew up in Oakland, California during the Golden Age of Hip Hop. When I started writing poetry and freestyling, my aesthetic was deeply informed by hip hop culture. Klezmer is the traditional music of Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe. Think violin, clarinet, accordion and hauntingly beautiful bittersweet minor chords. It’s the music my people partied to. As a new articulation of hip hop klezmer, rememory combines the melodies of my ancestors with the rhythm of my city.
Were there any experiences you had at ODC while you were a BKF Fellow (with BKF Mentor Brenda Way) that inspired this project?
One of the aspects that I love about ODC is how the choreography embodies different dance vocabularies in visually compelling and visceral ways. You can see classic ballet technique, modern dance forms and quotidian movements all seamlessly crafted in the work in a way that simultaneously honors the lineage and pushes it forward. Similarly, in the lyrics of rememory I incorporate a variety of vocabularies including Yiddish and Hebrew phrases, academic language, Bay Area slang and a bit of my own. It’s about code switching, hybridity and authenticity. During my fellowship at ODC, I wrote some of the album while ODC and Brenda provided a steady stream of inspiration.
Where and when can we get the album?
We are going to release rememory online on Friday, November 10th on iTunes, CDBaby, and Bandcamp. We’re also doing a small run of CDs and Vinyl which will be available at our live shows.
Where can we listen to a preview?
You can the single Genealogy on Soundcloud.
Anything else you want to tell us?
Though this is of course an album of music, every song has so many stories. One of my favorites is a song named Lyubcha, which is the name of the small village in Belarus where my great-great-grandfather, Himann Kivelevich, was born and raised. My brother and I traveled to Lyubcha a few years ago, the first time anyone in my family had been back in over 125 years. The town was once a thriving Jewish community but no Jews have lived there since the Holocaust. In a place where Klezmer musicians used to fill people’s homes, the streets and the town square with music, now there is silence. rememory is about looking back and moving forward, remembering who we are and where we come from, celebrating our resilience.
What’s next for Ariel?
I am super excited to share this music with our community and the world. We will be performing at our album release party at Awaken Cafe in downtown Oakland on Friday, December 1st at 8pm. I am looking forward to touring with the band, making a few music videos, using the project to advocate for the arts and immigration justice.