Interview With an Accordion-Playing Golem

Golem’s Annette Ezekiel Kogan.

As apart of the 2015 Washington Jewish Music Festival, the Gypsy, Yiddish, klezmer, funk, fusion band, Golem, will grace Sixth and I Historic Synagogue on May 14th. I talked with the founder of Golem, Annette Ezekiel Kogan, to kibbitz about everything from the dance club vibe of their upcoming set at Sixth and I performance to Golem’s following in Mexico. Annette is a haymish (Yiddish for “warm/cozy”) and vibrant musician who has a mission to keep Jewish music going.

What inspired the name Golem?

Well, a golem is a monster. But, he was formed out of clay by rabbis to protect the Jews of Prague. So, he is this kind of monster figure made out of clay. Obviously, he used his powers for good and protects the Jews. For us, we are a band that is not treating Jewish music as just a part of history. Instead, we are mixing it up. We’re kind of crazy like the golem! That’s the story.

What made you first want to fuse together Yiddish, klezmer, Gypsy, punk, and modern soul music?

Well, I’m Jewish and my mother’s side is Ashkenazi. I wanted to do something musically that was mine and close to my culture.

What do you feel the importance is of keeping Jewish music alive for the younger generations of Jews?

The generation before mine, Jewish music was alive. It was there for my parents who immigrated. So it was there for me, too. I think Jewish culture is so important, as we get away from our ancestral homes. You said it was your grandparents who were Yiddish speakers, but I’m sure for most people your age, it was their great-grandparents who spoke Yiddish and came over. It is for this reason that we have to keep in touch with our tradition and make sure to transmit it to the future. It’s even more important during this period in the world. Golem is all about dancing and having fun, while reconnecting with your own history.

Who are some of your musical inspirations?

The great players of klezmer music and Yiddish pop music. But, we also have so many influences from classical, avant-garde, and jazz to punk, rock, and hip-hop.

I noticed that you’re also a fellow curly hair girl. Curly hair to curly hair girl, what are your favorite hair products?

Ha, ha! That’s great! I love that you asked me this question. I love hair products! In term of Jewish curly hair, I’ve been researching what products are good for our hair for a while. I have it down to my favorite—Miss Jessie’s Soft Pillow Curls. I mix it with Tress Effects Styling Gel, which I believe is for African-American hair. I also love Ouidad. But, nothing works as well as the pillow curls.

If you could have falafel and tahini with any Jewish figure in history, who would it be and why?

I would like to have falafel with Golda Meir because she was a really tough Jewish woman. Of course, I’m not in her league. But, I’m small, tough, and Jewish too and would just love to hear her talk!

How does the Jewish community in Ukraine react to your music when Golem travels there?

The remaining Jewish community loves it. We also have a big following in Mexico. We’re actually on a Mexican label and when we go there, they know all our lyrics in Yiddish. They just memorize them from our albums.

What do you want the lasting effect of Golem to be on the music world and the Jewish world?

I want klezmer music stay current… Not something from a museum, which is why we compose original music. We want to keep the music going.

Michele Amira is a student at the University of Maryland.

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