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Musician Lenka Lichtenberg to bring multi-lingual spirituality to Cedar Rapids


Lenka, mid-performance -- photo via Lenka
The artist, mid-performance — photo via Lenka Lichtenberg

Lenka Lichtenberg

Czech Slovak Protective Society — Wednesday, Nov. 4 & Thursday Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

Lenka Lichtenberg sings in English, Czech, French and Yiddish (she is a Cantor). Her songs have roots in Eastern European, Arabic, Spanish and Indian traditions among many others. She will be performing with her band at the Czech Slovak Protective Society (CSPS) in Cedar Rapids for back to back shows November 4 and 5. Lichtenberg took some time to speak with Little Village about her history with music and upcoming shows.

I almost referred to your art as “World Music,” in this write-up. Please forgive me, it seems like an imperfect term, more a product of the recording industry and less about the music. The industry seems cares about genres more than musicians’ particular style.

I am not thrilled about that term either! Some refer to our music as “Global Roots” which isn’t perfect but I prefer it. I come from Toronto which is truly a global city and our band draws from many of that, the city, and their own backgrounds. Our guitarist is from Brazil so there are definitely those latin rhythms, but there is also the sounds of northern India there, and Arabic music. So global roots kind of works, but we like to think of our music as something new, not just a mishmash. But who cares for titles? Although if you can come up with a better term for our music than any of these you’ll be my hero!

Listening to your work, one cannot help but pick up some jazz vibes as well. I was at a reading where the author said, “the sentences should have the mood as their master. The mood is everything,” or something like that. But that stuck with me listening to you, it was all about the mood.

Absolutely. And I agree, the jazz is there too. During our live shows we tend toward the extemporaneous, the experimental, so yes the mood is very important. For me making music is very much about freedom so maybe that is why jazz speaks to me. The title of our album, Fray, is a Yiddish word that means free.

You’re playing two shows in Cedar Rapids, both at the Czech Slovak Protective Society.

The first night will feature music from our album Songs for the Breathing Wall. It is a project that is very important to me. The songs were inspired by the old synagogues of the Czech Republic and Moravia, those spaces had a story in them that I felt needed to be told. The pieces I recorded in those spaces were inspired by Hebrew liturgical works and I’ll be sharing those songs alongside projected images from the actual temples. The second night will be more of our “Global Roots” work, presented as a journey of sorts. Both nights should be a lot of fun.

You have recorded songs in half a dozen languages. How does the language effect the art?

I feel that each language, each tongue, holds the key. A song becomes something new in another language. A translations is never just a translation, simple as that. If I am singing in Hebrew, I feel that Hebrew is the key to the story and not just the sound of the Hebrew. Each language I feel has its own little spirit, its own little soul.

Lenka Lichtenberg and her band will be sharing two nights of music at CSPS on Wednesday Nov. 4 and Thursday Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $17 in advance, $21 at the door.


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