Isabel Frey: Revolutionary Yiddish Music
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: How is Isabel Frey’s music received in her home country of Austria, and what kind of people make up most of her fan base there?
Isabel Frey is a Yiddish singer and social justice activist based in Vienna. She specializes in Yiddish revolutionary and resistance songs and reviving the tradition of left-wing Jewish activism by connecting it to contemporary political issues.
Her debut album «Millenial Bundist» was released in September 2020. In addition to her artistic work she is also a PhD candidate at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna I in ethnomusicology, working in Yiddish song and Jewish diasporic identity.
Isabel believes in the power of music to promote social change. Many of the songs she sings were written for political protest and explicitly address themes such as poverty, class struggle, patriarchy, state repression, racism and fascism. Ale Vayber Megn Shtimen (All Women Can Vote) is a song from the Yiddish theater about the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. It was written by Rubin Doctor (1880-1940) as a parody of the suffragette movement, and then re-appropriated as a feminist song by Yiddish singers Clara Gold (1888-1946) and now by Isabel Frey. (Click on the link to listen to it with subtitles.)
Sometimes she translates songs or rewrites historical protest songs to adapt them to contemporary social movements. In our interview she speaks about how she adapted the 19th century anti-Tsarist song Daloy Politzey to contemporary times.