BEFORE the Holocaust, Cluj, Transylvania’s unofficial capital, was 13 per cent Jewish — about the same percentage of Jews as are in New York City today.
“Jews in Transylvania were historically Hungarian speakers, so you wouldn’t necessarily be walking down the street and hear Yiddish, but the city had a Jewish presence and it was part of the culture,” said violinist and composer Zoë Aqua.
Those sort of connections — across eastern European cultures and between Jewish communities then and now — have inspired Aqua’s first solo album of original compositions.
In Vald Arayn (Into the Forest), which was released this month, reflects Aqua’s immersion in Transylvanian folk music in Cluj, Romania, where she is living until next spring on a Fulbright research grant.
In particular, she is studying the way musical folk traditions are passed from generation to generation.
Aqua was a founding member of Tsibele, a five-person band led by women, queer and non-binary musicians, and released the album In Droysn iz Finster in 2017.
The next year, as part of the klezmer duo Farnahkt with accordionist Mattias Kaufmann, she released the album Ultraviolet.
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