The Holocaust set to music

CD OF THE WEEK:Rus Nerwich: Beyond the Walls

Beyond the Walls (Bowline) sets out to document musically the horrors of the Holocaust and the ability of the human race to survive and triumph against all odds. The melodies are taken from music created in Holocaust camps and the album tries to pay homage to survivors, as well as the creativity of musicians under awful conditions. In this, it succeeds admirably.

The jazz arrangements are uncluttered, the music is exceptional and the saxophone-playing is mellow and not overstated. Nerwich is a talented musician whose low-key jazz is good music to wind down to after a long and trying day — despite its dark origin.

Elements of Eastern European music weave through the tapestry of the CD, right from its haunting opening notes.

Track five, Shtiler, Shtiler (Hush, Hush), is overlaid with a spoken narrative by a Holocaust survivor and the music was written by a young boy for a ghetto music competition, to earn extra food rations. The antithesis of a children’s bedtime story, the pain and suffering that emanate from the speakers are chilling.

The album, Nerwich’s second, is a brave undertaking in a commercially driven world and won’t appeal to a mainstream audience but should find a home with jazz lovers who will eagerly scour the CD racks for more of his music. While it’s a bit too melancholy for my tastes, it is a welcome addition to my collection, if only as a reminder that those who pay no heed to history are doomed to repeat it.

Belle & Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress (Rough Trade)

A folk-pop offering — produced by Trevor Horn of Frankie Goes to Hollywood fame (a world apart from this Glaswegian act) — that certainly brings to mind Badly Drawn Boy in a sober frame of mind. The songs are comfortable conversations touching on everyday life and love, from the titular waitress with “the weight of the world over you” to “Anthony, bullied at school” on Lord Anthony. Its easy, often carefree feel brings a familiarity to the album that makes it oddly appealing, if a bit drab in places. — Riaan Wolmarans

Lemar: Dedicated (Sony)

Lemar should be the next big thing in R&B. This 25-year-old British singer has rocked the charts with the popular, fast-paced Dance with U, but it is when he sings the more relaxed love ballads Another Day and What about Love that his velvety voice comes through and puts him right up there with R&B’s best vocalists. Dedicated is his debut album but it should lead to greater things for this singer, who has only been on the international music circuit for about a year after appearing on the London R&B scene for a few years. His big break came in 2003 when he performed with Lionel Ritchie and George Benson — quite a feat for someone whose first recording contract was cancelled before he could even record a song. — Rapule Tabane

Various: Truth 2.0 (Sheer)

Midrand nightclub Truth, ensconced in the old snake park, is an established weekend option in Gauteng, with plenty of guest and resident DJs keeping it hard and funky. This double album, mixed by the Truth DJs (including some of their own tracks, such as those by Deepgroove and Speedy) has the same upbeat feel to it, even though the first disc tends to be slightly listless. But disc two abounds with energy and will certainly bring any old party to life. — RW

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