Two men, two languages, some books, microphones. A fiddle, a guitar, an accordion, and, of course, some beautifully crafted banduras and flutes. Two musical traditions from an old world, Yiddish and Ukrainian.

Two musicians exploring the what-might-have-beens of these musical cultures left in fragments in the aftermath of the twentieth century totalitarian psychosis. Michael Alpert and Julian Kytasty are gatherers – at times wool-gathering – and on their long way they collected many pieces they now bring together in this recording.

The album “Night Songs from a Neighboring Village” discloses the inherited worlds of two artists who grew up as sons of immigrants from today Ukranian territories to the US. It opens up worlds of memory, tradition and loss, the constant, gnawing imagining of lands and people left behind.

More than that, these worlds are brought together by the two artists. Thus, one can imagine alternate homelands, alternate histories – an alternate Ukraine, a different twentieth century – if you listen to the conversation of these two musical traditions, intertwining. This creates space for shared joys, pains and passions, stories and tales: shared history and imagined shared present. It evokes a sense of coming home, but to a land we have never seen, that may not exist beyond where the music can conjure it.

At times almost psychedelic, at times contemplative, Alpert and Kytasty's music triggers thoughts about the conflicts of present-day Ukraine. The Night Songs remind us that the new demons that have lured present-day Ukraine on to war, terror and fear are the old ones in fact. May this inspiring music overcome borders, mental and cultural ones, front lines – those to neighboring villages.


1. Adam and Eve (Alpert, Kytasty/trad.) 4:06
2. Bay Mayn Mames Shtibele (trad., arr Alpert/trad.) 0:44
3. Buhai (trad., arr Alpert, Kytasty/trad.) 3:14
4. A Shpay In Yam (Alpert) 5:20

5. Two Brothers (trad., Kytasty) 4:28
6. Nukh Havdule (trad., arr Alpert, Kytasty) 3:27
7. Wedding of the Birds (trad., arr Alpert, Kytasty) 2:02
8. S'iz Gekimen / U Susida (trad., arr Alpert, Kytasty/trad.) 2:02

9. Chernobyl (trad., arr Alpert, Kytasty/Alpert) 5:06
10. Rekrutska (trad., arr Alpert, Kytasty/trad.) 4:10

11. Night Songs (trad., Kytasty/Herts Rifkin, Kytasty, Alpert) 3:44
12. Loy Seyvoyshi / Many Years Waltz (trad., arr Alpert, Kytasty) 2:03

13. Home Brew (trad., arr Alpert, Kytasty/trad.) 2:35

Total Time: 43:01

Michael Alpert: voice, violin, guitar, accordion
Julian Kytasty: voice, banduras, sopilka (wooden flute)

Produced by Daniel Kahn

Artwork by Benny Ferdman
Recorded by Ian Gorman at Heart Center Studios, Big Rapids, Michigan and at Earthwork Harvest Gathering, Bernard Farm, Lake City, Michigan in September 2011

Edited an mixed by Ian Gorman at La Luna Studios, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 2013

Mastering by Ingo Krauss at Candy-Bomber Studio, Berlin, 2014

Release date: November 1st, 2014



John Pheby, Folk Roots, 11/2014
Intensely yet modestly aware of their milieu, indebted to Adrienne Cooper and all their forebears, this is the essential emigrant sound of stillness, longing and the inevitable and elegiac danger in traditional Yiddish song: “Now all are laughing at her… because for her beloved boy, shackles are being forged… And the girl was left standing by the gate, washing her face with tears.”

These songs are from a central Europe barely known and rarely penetrated (aside from high-profile cyclical invasions). The fascinating mediæval Kyiv troubadour rarity, Buhai, is delivered with such fidelity to the archaic and arcane source that it’s strangely comforting with all its rustic scrapings and barren magic. Other songs have been transplanted into a new global context of itinerant fluidity that mirrors the lives of the original balladeers and musicians for hire. So we have a collection of mainly Yiddish music, from mainly Ukraine, filtered through New York, Canada, Berlin, Poland, Russia and elsewhere. Influences and connections are quietly murmured, in a banduras-led collaboration of intimate sympathy, bittersweet history and luminous playing.

Ukraine is revealed as both beauty and scorched earth. The album is a speculative and defiant exercise into what might have been had the totalitarianism and pogroms not been quite so successful. It’s a resurgent sound track to a better world that never was, an imaginative reconstruction of 20th Century fragments through academic inspection of the earliest recordings and consultation with surviving musicians. These are the sounds of everything that has been left behind, a necessary trick of the memory, a myth.

The whole is an uncomfortable examination of national ideas that are more usually siezed upon by the nationalist or the expansionist. In Night Songs, the apparently contradictory distances between Jews and non-Jews is examined, as a song of welcome drifts benignly from balcony to balcony. Meanwhile, “Today, on our ancestors’ graves, a new Angel of Death is dancing,” despairs a song about an old Hasidic dynasty town known for its attachment to concepts of the earthly and the feminine, as well as images of light and fire, Chernobyl. Despairing accordeon and uneasy sopilka play the sound of humanity, dancing alone, but dancing nonetheless.

Ari Davidow, http://www.klezmershack.com, December 01, 2014

Folklorist, singer, dancer Michael Alpert has been sharing a stage with Julian Kytasty for many years. One sings in Yiddish. The other in Ukrainian. Together they weave together two folk cultures in a beautiful acoustic set, Night songs from a neighboring village. Appropriately timed, given Ukraine's prominence in recent news, this one will leave you feeling all sweet inside—except for "Homebrew," which will encourage you to eschew the store-bought stuff and drink local. I remember the tune as Irish, but what do I know. What a great way to celebrate 20 amazing years of music from Oriente records.

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