Simja Dujov
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Simja Dujov

Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina | Established. Jan 01, 2009

Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Established on Jan, 2009
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"El cuartetero de la música judía"

Dice que no falla. “La típica es la del taxista que te está por putear, ve el bigote y se empieza a reír, es como una barrera. El otro día una chica me decía que los bigotes eran como ser un poco minita, en esto de que saben como conseguir algunas cosas si quieren. Y los bigotes son un poco eso. Decís algo, se ríen y ya entrás con buena onda”, cuenta Simja Dujov. También habla de la Ciudad, de la música, del baile, la alegría y el mundo, pero hay que empezar por algo y, bueno, ahí está.

La historia tiene más de diez años y una novia que al volver de un viaje por Machu Picchu le pidió que se afeite (atentos que el caso podría servir para validar el axioma del saber popular que habla de las mujeres que podrían casarse con el Che Guevara y luego convencerlo –o no– de que mejor sin barba). “Después me separé y salió esto”, resume, y aparecen los bigotes de los retratos de Velázquez, como el del Conde Francisco de Benavente, o personajes como Alfredo Palacios.

Con poquito “mantenimiento” a la mañana alcanza para que se sostengan así, prolijos, enrollados y en perfecta simetría. Y hasta le generaron un contrato con una marca de ropa de Nueva York cuyo logo es... un bigote. “Estaba tocando con mi banda, al dueño le gustó la música y cuando vio mis bigotes dijo ‘hay que hacer algo con esto’. Hicimos un videoclip y una campaña para juntar fondos para un hospital de Israel (You Tube: Simja Dujov + Don’t Try) y ahora estoy diseñando una línea de ropa”, cuenta. La música, el baile, la alegría y el mundo, sí, ahí vamos.

Simja es cordobés y está instalado en Buenos Aires desde 2008. “Hacía música klezmer y laburaba en casamientos, tocaba el clarinete en un shil (templo)”, retrocede. Todo prolijo, como corresponde. “Bueno, más o menos, porque iba con este mismo look”, sigue. Empezó a escuchar grupos que mezclaban este género tradicional de los judíos de Europa del Este con música balcánica y estaba la cumbia y el cuarteto, y todo fue conformando el estilo que plasmó en su primer disco solista, Santificarás la fiesta (más detalles en Facebook).

“Buenos Aires es bastante cosmopolita, si sos curioso encontrás todo, en un sentido amplio. Y siempre te cruzás con un interlocutor que conoce lo mismo o está interesado en conocerlo”, dice. ¿Qué más sobre la Ciudad? “Es muy autorreferencial, como en Nueva York, donde cada dos frases todos dicen ‘ah, porque estamos en Nueva York’. En Buenos Aires hay un poco de eso, se trata del orgullo lindo de ser porteño. Con todo un imaginario que va mucho más allá del tango. Subís al bondi y el colectivero tiene una virgen, una estampita, el capitoné. Es su micromundo, lo que para él es Buenos Aires”, avanza.

Colecciona juguetes que encuentra tirados por la calle. “Me gustan esos detalles, tengo la mirada siempre buscando cosas divertidas. A partir de la ‘basura’ y de cosas que encontrás podés reconstruir historias”, expone. De acá o de los países que recorre cada vez que sale de gira para tocar y, cuando se puede, combinar con trabajo social con jóvenes en situación de riesgo.

Durante tres años fue DJ residente de La Bomba de Tiempo. “Ahí aprendí mucho de la idiosincrasia del porteño que, como cualquier persona en el mundo, espera cierta cosa y da cierta cosa. De chico tocaba en casamientos y en los casamientos están todos o con ganas de bailar, o borrachos, o las dos cosas juntas. Vos hacés así (marca dos golpes rítmicos con el pie) y están todos bailando. En Córdoba pasa lo mismo, en Chile, en Brasil, en Sudáfrica, la gente baila al toque. En Buenos Aires al principio hay como una desconfianza: ok, vamos a ver qué tiene esta persona para darme y después veo si yo le doy. El porteño está chequeando, quiere saber con quién está jugando”, avanza.

En pose, con el trago en la mano, mirada para un lado, para el otro: el tema es llevarlos de la mano. “Hay algo del DJ, que es lo más emocionante, creo, y es que estás al servicio de la alegría. Parece un cliché, pero no. Vos no sos la estrella, sos el encargado de que esta persona la pase bien hoy, que esta otra baile con tal, que este bese a tal por primera vez. Es utópico, pero es lo que pasa”, describe.

Alegría, sí, el significado del nombre artístico en hebreo que combinó con la versión original en ruso de su apellido (su nombre real es Gabriel Dujovne). “Obviamente disfruto de este proceso de trabajar de la alegría. Porque soy músico, pero eso no te dice nada, podés hacer música que sea un bajón. Mi artista favorito es Leonard Cohen, pero mi música es otra coas, es para bailar. Y si bien dice cosas, a veces camufladas y otras no, la primera reacción es: bailemos”. Y eso es algo que, parece, tampoco falla. - Clarin, Argentina (main press and broadcast in Argentina)


"Simja Dujov s’est désapé pour chauffer les Transats"

C’est à l’occasion de Transat en Ville que nous nous sommes retrouvées place de la mairie devant ce groupe argentin.

Composé de trois bonshommes ce soir-là, Simja Dujov se revendique comme étant le « jewish Manu Chao ». On voulait vérifier.

Avec chacun son transat, on voit bien la scène : un grand gaillard au clavier, à la console et parfois à l’accordéon, un petit mec souriant à la batterie, un accordéoniste et un chanteur-guitariste charismatique.

Quand Dali rencontre Rammstein
Selon le programme, nous sommes face à du « klezmer-latino-gipsy ». Le spectacle commence, et on reste perplexe : qu’est-ce qu’on fait tous assis devant une musique aussi dansante et enjouée ?

Installées au milieu des transats, nous n’osons pas trop nous lever pour danser mais frétillons à l’idée de pouvoir remuer sur cette musique à la Shantel, mêlant ska, groove balkanique… et bonne humeur.

Le chanteur pose sa voix grave sur un fond électro. Tandis qu’il ondule son corps devant nous avec une virilité dansante de Latino, je me surprends à penser que sa façon de chanter est parfois similaire à celle du chanteur de Rammstein.

Sa moustache à la Dali, son béret et ses dreadlocks lui donnent d’emblée un air sympathique. C’est enjoué et souriant qu’il s’adresse au public, s’excusant de son français approximatif.

Au départ habillé d’une veste folklorique, d’une chemise tendance et d’un jean près du corps avec des sortes de santiags, l’homme se déshabille au fur et à mesure des chansons.

Les transats sont maintenant entourés de badauds qui se sont approchés et dansent en rythme.

Le chanteur tente désespérément de faire lever les gens des premiers rangs, qui sont comme bloqués. Ce doit être horrible de jouer une telle musique devant cette assemblée qui ressemble à une réunion télé en maison de retraite.

Mais le groupe ne lâche pas. Et, à la dernière chanson, le public se lève timidement sur les lattes de bois de la terrasse. Enfin, nous nous retrouvons à tous sauter en rythme ! - Rennes 1720, France


"Simja Dujov: The Man, the Mystery, the Mustache"

Although fancily self-described as a Jewish Argentine citizen of the world, Simja Dujov is really just a struggling musician living in Buenos Aires, trying to make it big. As bandleader of the electro klezmer/Balkan reggaeton amalgamation Simja Dujov & the Strudel Klezmer Band, he is pushing the limits of contemporary Latin Jewish music. As a DJ for the beloved La Bomba del Tiempo, he is making Monday nights in Buenos Aires worth going out on despite having just recovered from the weekend. As a mustachioed urban cowboy, he is pioneering the frontier of respectable facial hair. Over coffee in Palermo Soho we discussed his multicultural identity, what it’s like to make it as a musician in Buenos Aires, and his dreams of opening a Jewish deli.
Tell me a little about growing up Jewish in Argentina
In Argentina, you understand that you live in a non-Jewish country on a non-Jewish continent. My family hasn’t been religious for two or three generations, but they continue practicing traditional values. So I grew up feeling sort of Jewish, but I got deep into it when I was 18 or 19 in my own way, through writing music.
“Electro” isn’t something you often hear before “klezmer.” When did you combine these two very different genres?
I was in a regular Balkan-style klezmer big-band in my hometown of Córdoba. We were playing very traditional music, and for me it was an interesting musical process because I was using it as a way to understand my family and my roots. However, after six years of that I realized I didn’t feel sincere when I was onstage. I was playing nice music, and people liked it and they danced… but it wasn’t me. And I realized that I had to go deep inside me and not my family history, and so I left Argentina for New York and started composing. I’d left my hometown behind, I’d left that story behind, and it was time to really start thinking about myself and what I have to say. When I started composing, the result was a mixture of klezmer style, Middle Eastern style, Balkan style, but also a Latin American beat. Because I was by myself and not with my band, I started using electronic mediums to compose. If I wanted to record I would just go to the studio and work with the electronics.
What do you miss most about Buenos Aires when you’re on tour?
I love this city. Even though people are attached to their traditions, I love it because it’s full of life. Every day, ever hour, it never stops. And what I like the most is the chaos because it’s a chaos I understand. I love New York and I love Tel Aviv, but everything’s so…understandable. Tel Aviv has it’s own charm, its own chaos, but I was born here and I understand this chaos.
What do you miss the least?
The same thing- the chaos! Also when I’m outside Argentina on tour I’m working, but I’m really on vacation. Everything’s new, even if I’ve already been in that city, and every second is a gift. I try to live my life this way in Buenos Aires, but my phone’s always ringing and I’m always feeling like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. But when I’m on tour, I always feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing… even if I’m not doing anything!
Also, Buenos Aires is more attached to traditions than New York or Tel Aviv. People inside the Jewish community here in Argentina are afraid of change– they fear assimilation. I think there’s a deep feeling of identity that they are scared will get lost. It sounds a little corny, but I think the biggest fight we have is against our own prejudices, our own limits. My music is Jewish because I’m Jewish and I’m making it, but I don’t think it’s a Jewish product. I don’t want that, I just want to show what I’m doing and share it.
You’re known as the “Jewish Manu Chao.” How do you feel about this nickname?
Well it’s a mechanism of the press, which is fine. I love Manu Chao and think he’s very intelligent. He synthesizes so many different ideas, but in the end has a really simple sound but with complex content. So if they tell me I’m the “Jewish Manu Chao” then that’s amazing. But sometimes I have to disagree with it because Manu Chao is known and marketed as being multicultural, so if you say the “Jewish” Manu Chao then it’s like a contradiction. But it works for publicity.
You’re currently working on an album, what are some of the overarching themes?
Nick Cave once said, “I write about what everybody writes about: love, God and death.” I write about other things, but in the end it’s really these three. I write about my way of understanding God, which isn’t really through religion. Also my way of understanding how people express their religion. I’m rediscovering and interpreting the contradictions in my life, being a Jewish, Argentine citizen of the world.
I also just wrote a song about the economic crisis. I love Leonard Cohen, and recently on his last tour in London before he singing one of his songs he mentioned the crisis and how it’s affecting him and our collective future. So even Leonard Cohen, who has lived through a lot, is discovering what a crisis is. Most Americans, even the New York Times is discovering what a crisis is because they weren’t alive during The Great Depression. Here in Argentina we have a crisis once every ten years, a big crisis, with little ones in between. So for me it’s curious to see how the developed world is handling their fear of crisis. Don’t get me wrong, we’re also afraid because we don’t like crisis, but we know how to handle it. I’m 27-years-old and I’ve already passed through many crises. And I do think there’s something very wrong with that, but I have a good life here. So I wrote a song called “Buenos Aires,” that’s a presentation about how it’s not so difficult to live in a place that has a crisis every ten years.
People in Buenos Aires seem to be interested in just a few genres of music: tango, electrónica, rock nacional and jazz. Is it hard to find an audience in the city?
It’s very difficult for an Argentine musician to have a record label contract, and it’s extremely difficult to have a tour here. For me it’s much easier to travel to Belgium, Spain or wherever, than in Argentina. It’s not about the music, though. If people hear good music, they’ll like it, they’ll dance. The problem is the people who organize the events [in Argentina] before they have these prejudices in their minds. For example, there was a klezmer festival here, and two years ago I played with a traditional klezmer band, but this year I decided I want to play with my own band. But the festival organizer, he says, “people here don’t want to listen to new music. The audience is not prepared.” I thought he was underestimating them, so I played my music, which is really different, and they liked it. They really liked it. Not only people from the audience but the other musicians too, and the organizer was like, “this shouldn’t have happened.” So…that’s a problem.
How does Argentine Jewish culture contrast with what you’ve seen in New York and Tel Aviv? The food for instance is obviously pretty different…
I was going to open a deli here! With pastrami and pickles, but it was too expensive to rent a place. But the contrast between Jewish life abroad and Buenos Aires, well it depends where you walk in this city. The city can be very Jewish depending on where you go. If you go to the theater, you’ll find Jewish people acting and writing, if you go to people’s houses you’ll find Jewish books. It depends on the little world inside Buenos Aires in which you live. But the main difference that I’ve felt is that in New York and Tel Aviv, Jewish people have created their own Jewish life. You can call it assimilation, you can call it whatever you want, but they grew up listening to hip-hop and they also go to Jewish events. And now that they’re 30 or 40 they’ve created something new, a combination of the religious and secular. But in Buenos Aires, people grow up listening to rock and hip-hop or whatever, and now that they’re adults, when they think about Jewish life they automatically think of traditions. They associate Jewish life with old things and old boring traditions. Or, they go Orthodox. In Buenos Aires there is a small opportunity to build your own Jewish life, but it isn’t so developed yet. I think we can have a Buenos Aires Jewish life without being so conservative.
Be honest, how long does it take you to get your facial hair ready in the morning?
25 minutes. No, just kidding. A minute and a half, so half a song. - Landing Pad BA


"Music of the Mind, A ‘Happy Soul’ in Argentina Blends Sounds of the World"

Hailing from the land of Tango in Buenos Aires, Simja Dujov writes music that resembles almost anything other than that classic genre. Known as “the Jewish Manu Chao,” he has a sound that is ironic and humorous rather than wistful and melancholy, rhythmic and driving as opposed to nonpercussive. Dujov’s music is uniquely of its time and place, avoiding the character of Tango, which longs for a Europe of the past. A fusion of Cumbia (a Colombian urban dance music) and reggaeton, with traces of hip hop and klezmer, Dujov’s heady brew could be possible only in South America. The artist is currently at work on his latest album, set for release in September, and his back story is almost as interesting as the music itself.

Dujov (his full name is pronounced Sim-cha Du-chov) was born Gabriel Dujovne in Córdoba, Argentina, the nation’s second-largest city, with almost 2 million inhabitants and about 15,000 Jews. Dujov, 26, is the grandson of one of many Ukrainian Jews who put down roots in the agricultural settlements of the country’s Entre Rios region as part of Baron Maurice de Hirsch’s renewal project that competed with Zionist immigration. Dujov took the stage name Simja Dujov because it means “happy soul” in Hebrew and Russian, respectively.

When he was 18, at the encouragement of his music professor, Dujov joined Córdoba’s Yiddish choir, Halevai, and that was the beginning of his career as a performer. Discovering Argentine klezmer legend Marcello MoguIlevsky, though, is what really inspired him. After hearing MoguIlevsky play live, Dujov wandered the streets, wondering, “How can they live without listening to this?”

In 2005, Dujov formed the Klezmer Strudel Band in Córdoba, the first klezmer ensemble in Argentina outside of Buenos Aires. The group earned a regular gig at the city’s Jewish community house and received press coverage and invitations throughout the region. Yet, Dujov quickly grew tired of the traditional klezmer scene. “Playing at weddings was not fun; they treat you as part of the help,” he said. “Klezmer in Argentina is musically more non-Jewish. I don’t feel represented or a part of it.” In fact, most of the 10 or so klezmer bands based in Buenos Aires are largely made up of non-Jews who function commercially for Jewish events. Dujov’s brother, Alejandro, an adviser to the American Jewish Committee, explained the phenomenon by adding: “It’s positive in that it’s Jewish music beyond the ghetto. On the other hand, it’s a sign that many Jews are not interested in klezmer.”
Dujov, whose klezmer band had performed in meticulously re-created prewar shtetl-like garments, aspired to expand his musical horizons. Not wanting to fall into a commercial or academic trap, Dujov connected with the YOK Project, a Jewish not-for-profit organization based in Buenos Aires that professes to reach “the non-institutionalized Jew outside of the Jewish bubble.” For a while, YOK championed Dujov’s work, and he played in a number of street fairs under the project’s auspices. But he said, “They were not transgressive enough for me. Jewish musical interaction in Latin America is minimal; the Jewish community chooses security over life.”
Dujov focused his attentions on writing music for theater productions and on his job as a radio DJ, while working to create a new sound. He recorded two albums based on Latin music: “Em Outras Palavras,” released in Brazil in 2006, and “Del Lado Equivocado,” released in Argentina last year. He turned to various Latin influences and rhythms that have gained popularity in Argentina in recent years.
Dujov originally gravitated toward Cumbia and reggaeton that were reinterpreted through European electronic formats. In his global blend of klezmer, ska and reggae, along with traces of Leonard Cohen and New York Gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello, Dujov does not merely show points of contact — he actually mixes everything together, with seemingly effortless flair. Beyond the stage, Dujov lives his fusion. His dreadlocks attest to linkages between Rastafarianism and Zionism. He’s a conceptualist but not an instrumentalist, and his eight-member band includes electronic and acoustic instruments, such as the tuba and accordion.
Dujov will tour Europe this summer, and he expects to book shows this fall in New York City, once his forthcoming album is finished. He is currently in talks with the manager of Matisyahu and with JDub Records to secure American distribution for his music.
“I am always discovering who I am, and I feel comfortable serving as a bridge between styles and audiences,” Dujov said. Still perfecting his new sound, Dujov uses music as an extension of his therapy. “If you don’t do psychoanalysis here, you’re crazy,” he said. His self-designed motto, which is included in one of his most popular songs, “To Stay or To Go,” reads like spiritual advice for those living in the modern world:
a alegria no es un mandato (happiness is not a commandment)
a tristeza no es un castigo (sadness is not a punishment).
- The Forward, NYC


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

Simja Dujov is a composer, singer and instrument player of gypsy, cumbia, surf, punk, klezmer and world music mixed with new styles and strong latin flavour. His music has travelled through the world as he has been invited to perform in festivals in the US, Canada, France, Brazil, South Africa, Chile, Mexico, Germany, Belgium, and Spain among others.

Including festivals as SXSW, Au Foin de la Rue, Ashkenaz, Chauffer Dans la Noirceur, Les Pieds dans la Vase, Abracadagrasses, Oppi Koppi.

This Band drives the audience crazy in their famous parties
http://youtu.be/jimtJBxFSAc

He played with Gogol Bordello, Coco Rosie, Balkan Beat Box, Archive
Here is one of their tours in France
http://youtu.be/DiuUumkeqkU


Contemporary Argentina history is a roller coaster of financial booms and busts and gripping political soap operas. But through all the highs and lows, one thing has remained constant: Buenos Aires graceful elegance, cutting edge art tendency, party people and its riotous night life.

Simja Dujov is the synthesis of these intense elements in a fully danceable live show.

Simja is a world moustach champ, and the face of NYC's fashion brand new campaign, SPENGLISH 
http://youtu.be/fdLz9gS7tUM

He has developed as musical producer and curator of culture festivals and has actively participated in movie, theater and radio productions.

Simja has been invited to present inspirational talks based on music, judaism and new forms of identity at Limmud South Africa (Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban)

In his hometown of Buenos Aires, he is the host DJ with the ultimate sensation band, La Bomba de Tiempo.

He also developes social activities as musical workshops in Argentina, Canada and South Africa.

Simja Dujov band members:

Simja Dujov (vocals, accordion, electric guitar)

Paloma Schachmann (clarinet)

Nele Paelinck (violin, vocals)

Ignacio Martinez (drums, samples)


What press said:

Lush mix of cumbia and cuarteto with gypsy rythms

Rolling Stone, Argentina

 

Latin soul with klezmer roots: Meet the Jewish Manu Chao.

Haaretz, Israel

 

A happy soul in Argentina blends sounds of the world.

Forward - The Jewish Daily, United States

 

A real character in the Buenos Aires night genre blender, from mindedness to genre

Clarin, Argentina



Band Members