Jewish people have had a major influence on the Winnipeg music scene, from big bands to rock and roll, and historians gathered at Temple Shaloam to take a look back for Jewish Heritage Month.
Stan Carbone of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada says these figures shaped a century of local music.
“Today we are dedicating the program to the contributions Jews have made to the music industry in Winnipeg most specifically jazz, rock, and folk music,” Carbone said.
“This is one of the areas in which Jews were given the opportunity to join the mainstream of Canadian society because there were a lot of professions and activities that were closed to them.”
And many of the names are familiar to these historians who actually knew some of them personally, however many go by different names now.
“Musicians in a lot of cases had to change their names in order to get work in non-Jewish bands,” says Owen Clark, music historian.
Clark says he thinks it’s good for young musicians to know what the Jewish artists did and how they laid the groundwork.
“I think it’s important to know what went on in our city, especially for young musicians who are trying to make a living at doing this in this age of technology,” Clark said.
There was plenty of work to be had at the jazz clubs and dance halls including the legendary Club Morocco which stood on Portage Avenue until it was destroyed by fire last year.
And while that part of history is now lost, its influence is still felt by Winnipeg musicians today.
“I worked with so many of the Jewish musicians and so many of them were mentors to me and as you grow you mentor others, so it’s a long-term thing. Historical knowledge and musical knowledge is constantly passed down to the next generation,” said Clark.
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And with stats suggesting hate crimes and antisemitism are on the rise, Carbone says it’s more important than ever to ensure this history is preserved and shared.
“Education is really the best way — the most important vehicle when it comes to combating antisemitism. To make people realize that this community has been here from day one.”
— with files from Global’s Katherine Dornian
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