Born in 1971 in the shetl of Vancouver Canada, Geoff Berner, The Whisky Rabbi, first learnt to play the piano. No need to elaborate on his alias but when somebody asked him at a party why he didn’t play the accordion, he promptly turned into a virtuoso on that pliable instrument. His mission has been «I want to make original Klezmermusic – blasted, dirty, political. As an Eastern European jew I felt it was my duty to revitalize the music.» He’s spectacularly succeeded but did that by first seriously studying with the best Klezmers in Romania. Their music is fundamentally folkdance music played with piano, accordion, violin and viola (or bratsch) at weddings and other celebrations by the Ashkenazi Jews. Little did they know far away in Canada and true to his early years, Geoff Berner would have the chuzpza and the whisky to add some wild country and insane punk to his personal remix of the genre. Folks, it takes balls to go nuts.
For one reason or another or many, the Rabbi was deported to Norway in 2000 . There he discovered the Kaizer Orchestra and penned the song «We all Gotta Be a Prostitute Sometimes» which was covered by a surprising numbers of artist. Back in Canada at the Winnipeg Folk Festival he linked the corporate sponsor, VW, to Nazi Germany. Always politically engaged, he ran against Gordon Campell, later Prime Minister, for the Rhinoceros Party and proposed «to offer cocaine and whores» to potential backers. So why would anybody call the call Rabbi meshuggena?! Doesn’t he make perfect sense?
With him on the island tonight will be his sixth and latest album, the highly promising «Canadiana Grotesquica». (Buy the book, get a free download.) So come on down by the river tonight, chill and splash some whisky on your burnout.
Geoff Berner, The Whisky Rabbi, live tonight at el Lokal (Serving music and alcohol for over 30 years).