Backround on "Brotherhood of Brass"
by Frank London
Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars, the
(Part 1) Pre-history: Babel
The world is united. One people - nation - language. In an effort to regain the sanctity of the Garden of Eden, a plan is devised to ascend to the heavens and return to God. Sacred Builders design a tower using the sefirot Kabalah tree as a diagram - for the tower is the Tree of Life -to be supported by three pillars. Unbeknownst to them, a reactionary cabal with less-than-holy intentions plot to use the tower to challenge God! God destroys the tower and divides the people of the world into separate nations with different languages. The "Builders" (or masons) are forced to go underground. Their knowledge of both the technique and sacred purpose of building construction is kept secret and eventually preserved both by trans-national orders and secret sacred cults (Masons, Shriners, etc.) and religious orders (Sufis, Kabalists, Knights Templar.) These secret cults and societies (Masons, Templars, Rosicrucians, Illuminati, ad infinitum) were created to preserve the secrets of antiquity. Three major religions grew out of this ancient world. These three groups are represented in the esoteric histories by the Three Pillars. Each group retained a part of the secret mysteries.
God's purpose in separating humanity into different religio - linguistic nations was to keep people from communicating the secret mysteries to each other and challenging God's holy provenance. But music, the universal language, allows communication across national and linguistic lines, and this was utilized by the Builders. Clues to the mathematical structure of sacred building were encoded into musical rhythms. The proportions of the Golden Mean become the 3:2 rhythms underlying all sacred cult musics from freylekhs and coceks to ciftitelli and clave. Over the years, different groups of builders attempted to use their knowledge to rectify the planet and built holy temples and pyramids in an attempts to give God a home on earth; to recreate the tower-tree. They all ultimately failed or were destroyed because of the disunity, enmity, and lack of trust and communication between peoples and nations.
(Part 2) Egypt
Then began millennia of diasporic wanderings. Arabs, Gypsies and Jews -- each keepers of different parts of the sacred mysteries -- meet in the so-called Mid or Middle East. How they got there is enigmatic. It is written that "describing the early history of the Romanies (commonly called Gypsies) is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle when some of the pieces are missing and parts of another puzzle have been put into the box. Their ancestors began to leave India from the sixth century onwards. Some left voluntarily in order to serve the rich courts of the Persian and later Arab dynasties in the Middle East. Others were brought as forced labourers. It is generally accepted that they did emigrate from Northern India, then crossed into the Middle East and later came to Europe. " Clues are everywhere. 'Nomen ist omen' (the name is a sign): the word Gypsy comes from the word Egypt.
Jewish presence in Egypt is better documented. As it is stated in Isaiah:
"And it shall come to pass in that day/That a great horn shall be
Just as the three groups were preparing to unify their knowledge as equals and pursue their sacred task, the corrupt, paranoid and despotic leadership, influenced by the old cabal, chooses rabid ethnic nationalism over harmonious multi-culturalism and creates such hostile conditions that the groups must leave.
(Part 3) Spain
The three meet again in Spain. The Sephardim - Spanish Jews (Spharad means Spain, in Hebrew) - are mentioned as inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula during the Visigothic kingdom of Spain (466-711 CE) Most likely, they reached Spain from everywhere around the Mediterranean rim and the north rim of Africa. In the Moorish invasion of the eighth century, Islamic tribes from northern Africa drove the Visigoths from Spain. Resident Jews and Gypsies were allowed to stay and other Jews from Africa were even encouraged to come, to fill needs for artisans and for other occupations. In the ensuing 500 years of Moorish occupation (711-1212), the Sephardim had a prosperous life. This era is known as the "Golden Age," when the Spanish Jews, Arabs and Roma succeeded at more than just survival; they became philosophers, musicians, physicians, diplomats, polyglots, scientists, etc. It is here that the great Rabbi Luria and the Kabalists begin their explorations of the sacred mysteries. Great Moorish Moslem works of art and philosophy are created. The confluence of the Three Families in the open society of the time leads once more to the possibility of understanding and revealing the great mysteries.
But descendants of the ancient dark cabal still have their power and influence. In the eleventh century the Moors were troubled by nests of Christian Spaniards organized in small kingdoms, principalities and dukedoms encouraged by the Vatican to take power and to drive away the Moors. Little by little the Moors were defeated - the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 was a major Moorish defeat, pushing them back into Africa through the Strait of Gibraltar. Although the Moors did retain some territory in Spain until 1492, the Christians now controlled most of the peninsula and expelled - kicked out - the Moors, Arabs, Jews and Romanies. As early as 1482 the Holy Roman Empire's parliament passed laws to banish the Romanies from its territory. Spain introduced similar legislation ten years later and other countries soon followed. Jews were forced to submit and convert or, at best, were expulsed. The punishment for remaining was often death. Columbus, a crypto-Jew, leaves for the "new world." Jews, Gypsies and Moors are now scattered throughout the lands, often as stateless non-citizens surviving wherever they are allowed. Romanies who crossed into Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries included farm workers, blacksmiths and mercenary soldiers, as well as musicians, fortune tellers and entertainers. These were dark times.
(Part 4) Next stop: Istanbul
Simultaneously, another center of polyglot culture was thriving in the east. In the ninth century the center of Byzantine liturgical music shifted to Constantinople from Syria and Palestine. The conquest of Istanbul in the fifteenth century made the city a center of attraction for the musicians active in the elite Islamic cities of the Middle East, and the reorganized Istanbul undertook this role. Along side the Turks, the Ottoman Jews, Armenians and Romanies subsequently established their musical centers in Istanbul, too.
is here that brass bands make their first appearance. Giyaseddin Mes'ud,
the Seljuk sultan in Konya, had sent to Osman Gazi, the founder of the
Ottoman Empire, a tug, a horsetail standard and a drum, as the symbols
(Part 5) East Europe
By the sixteenth century Gypsies and Jews have established communities throughout Eastern and Central Europe (Jews in towns and villages, the Gypsies more nomadic). Over the course of the ensuing centuries, there is abundant interaction with both Western Europe and with the Ottomans in the east (and indirectly with the world of the Middle East and Northern Africa.) The Oriental influence on Eastern European culture, commonly viewed as a style or trend, is but the superficial appearance of the esoteric intercourse of information between the Three.
Under the banner of mutual aid and welfare, Jewish musicians' guilds are formed in order to preserve and communicate the sacred mysteries. However, this transition from sacred to professional musician has an unexpected side effect. A schism occurs between the guilds (and later the secret societies) and the religious cults. The latter retain the esoteric mysteries and the former maintain all the practical skills while focusing on their secular role as mutual aid societies. The guilds maintain the means and methods while the cults understand the deeper purpose. It has become our duty to reconnect the two. But first, let us explore guild development.
(Part 6) Prague
Jewish musicians occupied a special place in seventeenth and eighteenth century Prague. A professional organisation of klezmorim existed in the city. Prague was among the places where such an organisation was founded, along with the Polish and Russian cities of Lublin, Lvov, Rzeszov, Leszno and Kepno. This was possible in part because of the relatively large cultural freedom the Bohemian Jews enjoyed. The following funeral record is enlightening: "Friday, 22 Sivan 5428 (1668). Here rests the 'Mannaflasche'. the musician Abraham, son of the grey Hirsch Rubia: he was also a member of the musicians guild, that always appears in the synagogue at the beginning of the Sabbath." Abraham was a member of an Orchesterverein, a guild of Jewish musicians that was founded in the sixteenth century (the foundation year of the Prague guild is said to be 1558.) This is relatively early compared to the first craftmen's guilds that developed only in the beginning of the seventeenth century. These musicians, usually itinerant, earned a living less in military bands but by playing at private events like bar mitzvahs and especially weddings, and (semi-) religious feasts like Purim and Chanuka. Being professional musicians they also played outside their own communities at peasant weddings, in taverns, on marketplaces and even at dinners of the local nobility and big farmers.
There existe d a coalition between the Orchesterverein (musicians' guild) and the Balaguleverein (society of wagon owners), who had their own beer club (strangely, in the same place as the Poale-Zionists [Workers of Zion]). There they discussed local politics, which was a serious factor for the candidates in the mayoral and imperial parliamentary elections. The main activity of these society members consisted of the drinking of beer at low prices, because as a closed establishment, it was free of the very high excise taxes (beer tax) and not subject to the constraints of the barrel head duty. The brass band gained these drinking privelages by aiding the drivers. Woe to the local politician who had not gained the goodwill of this club. With an election defeat, the losing candidate would literally and figuratively be whistled out with drums and trumpets, as he was given a "serenade" in front of his house by a band of musicians.
The Jewish musicians of Prague could also be found elsewhere in the German lands. They were for example present in Dresden in 1695 to enliven the carnaval. And a comparison of the signers of the guild regulations of 1695 and a list of Jewish musicians that visited Leipzig makes it clear that they were also present at the Leipzig annual fairs at the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century. Also interesting is the fact that groups of Bohemian musicians in the eighteenth and 19th century were well known as competitors to their Northern and Middle German colleagues, which even led to the nickname 'die Prager' [the ones from Prague]. Although it is unclear whether this relates to Christian or Jewish musicians it is not unlikely that Jews were among them: after all they were well known in the German lands and they had a good reputation.
(Part 7) Iasi
The names of Jewish musicians listed in the 1845 census is already quite large. We learn that in Botosani there were four fiddlers, four clarinetists, four bassists, five trumpeters, and three "badchunim," of whom the oldest was "Shaia ben Boroch". In that year there were eight Jewish musicians in Falticeni. In those towns where there was no guild of Jewish musicians, these musicians were paid by a patron, as in Focsani in 1844.
The growth of the guilds parallels the development of capitalism. However, the road to capitalism was not as smooth as had been expected. Jews were blamed and often expelled or killed. In towns with no Jews to act as scapegoats the population turned to the Romanies as the reason for their real or imagined troubles. The following records illustrate the guilds' role in both mutual aid as well as movement of money:
1: 105 State Archives in Iasi, Moldavian Department of State, Tr.
Record 2: in the Iasi Jewish Community archives, a receipt addressed to "Maria, wife of Georghe Paun" to accept ten 'galbeni' in money from "Leah, wife of Mendel", that is, 370 lei sent by Mendel from Istanbul. The money was sent through the oldest of the Jewish Musicians Guilds, and the receipt is dated May 9, 1856. From this archive source we can learn of the comradeship between "David the fiddler, Ilie Trimbacierul, and Itsik the clarinetist" alongside "Iordach, Stoian, and Ion Pui" among others, that they pledged on June 12, 1857 "that we will all share in our earnings... and we will all pay from our earnings to repair any damage to our instruments."
We see in these extracts the role of the guilds in mutual aid, their function as monetary agents, and evidence of their extensive travels, from Germany in the west to Istanbul in the east. However, nowhere do we find any record of their esoteric purpose. By the late nineteenth century, this was wholely the domain of the religious cults. The schism was complete. The musicians' guild served purely the day-to-day interests of its members without understanding the secrets they posessed. The mysteries were almost entirely the domain of the religious sects and orders, but their own hermetic tendencies combined with the struggles of religious groups for dominance over each other precluded their working together. Only some of the trans-nationl societies (i.e. the Masons) maintained the knowledge of the ancient mysteries, although these groups became for all intents and purposes 'fraternal organizations' or aid groups much like the guilds but without the division by occupation.
It would seem that all was lost, that the possibility of the musicians' gaining awareness of their hidden knowledge, realizing the necesity of exchanging information amongst the brass bands of the Three Nations, understanding the implications of their activities, passing it on to the builders who would understand the sacred task was nil. But fate had other plans.
The Masons and other more covert secret societies like the Illuminati always accepted members of all races, ethnicities, religions - of all the nations. Often stateless, Jews, Gypsies, Moors have wandered, rarely accepted. They were never allowed national citizenship for long. and have been hated, expelled. persecuted and murdered. But these societies accept all members. There was a nineteenth century Prussian Masonic Order that was kicked out of the international organization when they banned Jews from their order. The most enlightened of brass players realized that the guilds or musicians' unions could barely help with mundane needs in times of distress let alone with their sacred tasks. Seeking to decipher the Knights Templar's use of strange 'majic trumpets' in battle, they joined the secret societies and began to combine their musical knowledge with the mystical. They learned link between volume and intensity. The loudest trumpeters advanced the furthest. Sousa was a 32nd degree mason who used brass bands in every gazebo of America as a secret network. Louis Armstrong was a mason, as was Lester Bowie. Mostly their work was esoteric and universal, except when it was necesary to get involved with current local politics (such as the Masonic overthrow of the Mexican monarchy and the ensuing Mexican Banda phenomenon.)
And now, here we are: our purpose is to reestablish the ancient pathways of communication, broken down by centuries of political/ religious/ national struggles and animosity. For the Tower of Babel, supported by three pillars, was the Builders' secret. Although linguistic and national differentiation (Babel) made communication nearly impossible, music - the universal language - holds the key. The three nations of Jew, Gypsy and Egyptian can be reunited. Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars, Boban Markovic's Serbian Gypsy Orkestar and Cairo's Hasaballa Brass Band have begun the process. The code-rhythms, transmitted by the sound of the mighty trumpets ('trompetengeschmetter') and drums ('mit Pauken und rompeten'), will unlock the mysteries. The esoteric puzzle can be solved and the 'temple' can be rebuilt bringing on a time of peace on the earth. It is time to invoke the Seven Creative Spirits (a.k.a. the Elohim), and celebrate Rosh HaShana, also called the Feast of the Trumpets and have the great party that we've all been waiting for.
If not now, when?
c and p Frank London, 2002