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Wonderstruck

Known for Middle Eastern, African, and Hasidic motifs in her music, Basya Schechter adds a new note on her latest album—Yiddish poetry

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Basya Schechter, 2010. (Jason Gardner)

Several years ago a fan of the multi-instrumentalist Basya Schechter approached her with a copy of a book of Yiddish poems. The verses were by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who arrived in the United States from Europe in 1940, when he was 33 years old. Heschel was born in Poland and gained renown for his theological works and for his role as a Civil Rights activist. He was far less known for his poetry, written when he was in his early 20s, about intimate relationships—both with God and with people. Schechter’s fan asked her to set Heschel’s poems to music. It took some time for Schechter, who was raised in the Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park and who heads the band Pharaoh’s Daughter, to take up that challenge. Yet take it up she did, and the result—a melodic mix of Middle Eastern, African, and lesser-known Hasidic influences—can be heard on Songs of Wonder, a new album out from Tzadik.

Basya Schechter invites Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry into her home in downtown Manhattan to talk about the connections between Heschel’s little-known poetry and his later works, and about her own journey from yeshiva girl to widely acclaimed singer-songwriter. [Running time: 24:06.] 

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How cool! Pharaoh’s Daughter is doing a concert in Denver this Sunday and tickets are still available at http://www.mizelmuseum.org

Loved this one so much! I had no idea that Heschel wrote poetry… Just one more book to add to my ever-growing list, and one more album. I love the way Schechter has interpreted and styled this poetry, from what I’ve heard here.

a beautifully done interview and the music is even more beautiful. unfortunately i do not understand yiddush

Daniel says:

lovely, thank you.

Beautiful interview. She has a wonderful voice and the juxtaposition between the Yiddish and music is great.

Basya and Tablet need to make it clearer where to get her music – can’t find a way to buy the CD yet.

Sara Ivry says:

@Marc, thanks for the note. You can buy the cd either on Tzadik.com or on Amazon, just search for Songs of Wonder and/or for Basya Schechter’s name.

I love this engaging discussion/interview. I love the spirit and artistry of Basya Schechter, who combines particularity with a holistic love of humankind and the diversity it embodies. I kept of photo announcing her Pharaoh’s Daughter concert at the annual Workmen’s Circle Yiddish Concert. Every time I see it, I am reminded of her generous spirit and the good that humans can achieve, that ideals can have physical manifestations. Sara Ivry asks the kind of pertinent nuanced questions I would have wanted to ask and shows an appropriate appreciation. Thanks for the added insight into Heschel.

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Wonderstruck

Known for Middle Eastern, African, and Hasidic motifs in her music, Basya Schechter adds a new note on her latest album—Yiddish poetry

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