EVENTS Florence, Waiting for Balagan Cafè

balaganBy Simone Somekh*

The second edition of Balagan Café, a Jewish culture festival taking place in front of the majestic synagogue of Florence, is set to start on June 12th.

The project, designed by musician and klezmer expert Enrico Fink, aims to open the Jewish community to the vibrant cultural life of Florence. With a busy schedule that is going to entertain the audience for the entire summer with live concerts, aperitifs, and stands selling traditional Jewish food and kosher wines, the festival will try to top the unique and unprecedented magic that was created with last year’s premiere edition and that attracted a total of 800 people to the several events that were organized.

The line-up, of course, includes Balagan Café Orkestar, a group of young musicians from the local Jewish community that managed, in just two years of life, to catch the attention of many within the cultural scene of Tuscany. The project was started by Eugenio Bacchini, a klezmer lover, with the support of Enrico Fink. Just as the long-lasting Jewish tradition, klezmer makes no exception: years pass, and more and more people start rediscovering it, by reviving the magic of such engaging, instinctive music. Klezmer is filled with energy, improvisation, and spontaneity. It embraces the good and the bad of life, without leaving anything behind – sometimes it is joyful, enthusiastic and wild, other times it is laid, gloomy, even mournful. It is not by chance that at the Balagan Cafè festival a cocktail named “Balagan Bittersweet” is served.

“Whoever plays classical music knows that the method and the approach are strictly composed; instead, in our klezmer group there is also room for improvisation” explained Tamar Levi, 15, a talented cellist among the musicians who brought life to Bacchini’s project.
“We keep the essential of the melody, and then shape it to our own vision” she added.
Starting June 12th, every Thursday the festival will add a new chapter to the rich cultural life of Florence with several special guests – such as musician Shel Shapiro and actress Stefania Sandrelli – and a common thread: the concepts of dialogue and encounter. Some of the events not to be missed are a night dedicated to the centenary of the birth of Hungarian dramatist Georg Tabori (July 31st) and a dance workshop held by an international company (TBA).

“The most important thing” said Enrico Fink, director of the festival and vice-president of the Jewish community of Florence, “is that the Community, through this festival, is promoting a reflection on the meaning of ‘citizenship’”. By engaging the young Jews in Florence, the local population, and the tourists, Balagan Café is expected to be a feast of Jewish culture with music, food, workshops, and talks, with the goal of creating a long-lasting dialogue not only between different people and identities, but also within the Jewish community itself.

*Simone Somekh is a student at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Follow Simone on Twitter: @simonsays101