“Teiku,” traditional Ukrainian-Jewish songs and discussions

Venue: Cook Recital Hall, Music Building, Free


Guest artists present their collective project titled “Teiku” (unanswered question) through performance and discussions of ancestral songs from Ukrainian-Jewish communities. Songs offer a unique combination of traditional melody with improvisation.

  • Jonathan Taylor – drums/compositions
  • Josh Harlow – piano/compositions
  • John Lindberg and Will McEvoy – double basses
  • Peter Formanek – saxophone and clarinet

This event is free and open to the public.

Jonathan Taylor and Josh Harlow were both raised Jewish, claiming ancestors from the Ukraine, in the villages of Bershnitz and Monasterishtche. While the Ukrainian-Jewish communities in these villages have long since disappeared, victims of pogroms and the Holocaust, some traditions remain amongst the diaspora. Strikingly, both grew up with a set of songs, intended to be sung on Passover, that are traced back to their respective ancestral villages and are, so far as they know, completely unique to their families. Upon discovering this amazing coincidence, they started a new project “Teiku,” to document, perform, and breathe new life into these beautiful old melodies. The performance sets these melodies in a creative music context, balancing carefully-set parameters and free improvisation.

The excitement of improvisation lies in its uncertainty and potential for infinite possibilities, and the name itself refers to the collective feeling of discovery that improvising musicians know well: creating cohesive textural environments in real time that are felt so viscerally but cannot be expressed with words. They aim to situate traditional cultural melodies and traditional spirituality in a forward-looking context, in order to blend conscious cultivated practice with a larger collective cultural unconscious. In addition to playing their instrumental compositions, the performance involves them talking a bit: about the project and their approach, about their family histories, and more.

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