During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mainstream media aggressively impressed upon Americans how much better Germany was ''handling'' things. In Germany, a full lockdown has been extended until Jan. 31, 2021.
If you live in an infection hotspot, it’s forbidden to travel more than 9.3 miles, even for the day. Only one person not in the household may visit. Nonessential businesses are closed, but logistics seem to have fared better than ours.
Germany has been the epicenter of keeping Central and Eastern European culture alive, including that of Roma, Sinti and Jewish folks. These are traditions that stretch back at least 1,200 years. The preservation of their music is a fragile endeavor indeed, following World War II.
Two men, Karsten Troyke and Daniel Weltlinger, are extraordinary musicians keeping this folk music — and themselves — alive, under difficult conditions. They share here their different perspectives.
Karsten Troyke, born Karsten Bertolt Sellhorn in East Berlin, GDR, is widely regarded as Europe’s best interpreter of Yiddish song. His father, a manager for jazz musicians, started presenting a ''Jewish evening'' in the 1960s including records of Yiddish songs in the old and nearly extinct Polish dialect.
After the Berlin Wall fell, he worked in a Berlin theater doing musicals in Yiddish, participated in radio plays, worked as a voiceover and dubbing artist, and recorded several German and Yiddish albums.
Berlin-based violinist Daniel Weltlinger was born in Sydney, Australia, of French-Austro-Hungarian-Israeli heritage. He’s world-renowned for Gypsy-Swing, Jazz, Yiddish-Klezmer and experimental/free-improvised music.
Weltlinger regularly collaborates with German-Sinti guitarist and composer Lulo Reinhardt, Karsten Troyke, singer-actress Sharon Brauner and Berlin-based Turkish-Classical ensemble Olivinn. He’s part of two Australian-based contemporary music projects: ''Zohar’s Nigun'' and ''The Asthmatix,'' fusing Jewish music within the contemporary frameworks of jazz and electronica/hip-hop.
The artists were interviewed through email.
When did your government begin COVID shutdown measures? What were they?
KT: From March 9, 2020, it became dangerous — according to the media. Step by step, the events stopped. On March 22, the first shutdown started.
DW: The government began the COVID shutdown measures in mid-March of last year. Throughout the entire time, they have never been too extreme here in Berlin compared to what I have seen taking place in many other parts of Germany, Europe and the rest of the world. Even now, we have similar rules in place as of Jan. 10, 2021, as we had at the beginning of the pandemic crisis. We were allowed to freely go out and buy food, go for walks, meet family members or friends (up to one household was allowed to visit another), pharmacies were open, etc.
We have had to wear masks on public transport, on certain busy streets and when going shopping throughout the entire time, but I don't have a big problem with this. Religious worship services at the beginning of the pandemic were not allowed purely out of safety concerns, but they have most certainly been allowed for almost the entire time and even now with the high infection rates we are experiencing they are allowed, though subject to distance and hygiene rules.
Did anything like food or household supplies become scarce?
KT: No, actually not. Some weeks (ago) there was the ''big story'' about the toilet paper. And, yes, there was less, but not for long.
DW: I never experienced food or household supplies being scarce, not once.
What performances were you able to do? Did that change?
KT: I lost all the real concerts and started making some streamings and was invited for stage recordings without audience as well. When it became warmer, some open-air concerts could take place. I’ll never forget the concert in Warsaw, Poland, in August: the audience open-air, but with big distances and masks.
DW: This side of things has, of course, been really hard. At the beginning of the pandemic, there were no performances allowed whatsoever, aside from some livestream performances here and there. I chose to stay put at home basically from mid-March until the beginning of June. I did have a few offers of work outside of my house, but because I wanted to stay safe, I chose to just stay put. I did do a few video collaborations from home, as well as some remote recording work.
From June till the end of October, I ended up doing a number of shows across Germany. The audience numbers were restricted, but they were great gigs. Even at the end of November and the beginning of December last year, when things started to get bad again, I was able to do livestream performances. I am not a fan of livestream performances personally, (but) I have to say (they) were really proper shows in nice venues with good musicians, friends of mine.
Tamar Alexia Fleishman was the youngest girl violinist to solo with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Having traveled the world, Tamar shares flavors, history, arts and insightful interviews with fascinating folks from all walks of life. She’s held her own on TV with celebrities like Bill Maher, Greta Van Susteren, Dr. Phil and Peter Frampton. Tamar has a B.A. in Political Science from Goucher College and a J.D. from the University of Baltimore. She is a practicing member of the Maryland Bar and a Kentucky Colonel. Read Tamar Alexia Fleishman's Reports — More Here.
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