The convergence of global and local forces has been at the heart of the Ashkenaz Festival since its inception. The festival emerged during the second wave of an international movement popularly known as the Klezmer/Yiddish Revival, which had begun in earnest in the mid-70s. Initially the esoteric domain of a small handful of committed researchers, musicians and artists in only a few farflung locales, such as New York, Winnipeg, San Francisco and Berlin, by the mid-90s the Revival was reaching larger audiences, attracting new converts and popping up in various manifestations in more and more communities around the world, including Amsterdam, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal, and of course Toronto.
The debut of the Ashkenaz Festival in 1995 was a significant milestone in the life of the movement, and from its very first edition Ashkenaz put Toronto on the map as a key centre in the international Klezmer/Yiddish Revival. By partnering with Harbourfront Centre and reaching a broad multicultural audience, Ashkenaz’s visionary founders placed the work of the Klezmer/Yiddish revivalists in its largest and most public context yet. And with the broadening over the years of the festival’s artistic mandate, Ashkenaz has both reflected and encouraged the extension of the Klezmer/Yiddish Revival into other forms of contemporary Jewish and non-Jewish music/art, creating numerous new subgenres.
The 15th anniversary Ashkenaz Festival is a significant milestone, during which the position of the festival at the convergence of so many local and global forces will be amply displayed. Ashkenaz 2010 will share the beauty and richness of Toronto’s renowned multicultural spirit with artists and audiences both from around the world and from around the corner. Ashkenaz 2010 will, as always, bring into focus the cultural vibrancy and interconnectedness of Jewish and non-Jewish communities at home and abroad. In short, through Ashkenaz an international cultural insurgency has dug deep roots in Toronto, and Toronto had made itself into a key influence in shaping the character and evolution of contemporary Jewish music and art.