[by Ken Hunt, London] Noëmi Waysfeld & Blik’s Kalyma is an anthology of songs driven by enforced exile. Kalyma‘s springboard was a vinyl LP of songs derived from prisoners in the Siberian gulags in her parents’ record collection. Dina Vierny, the muse and model of the sculptor Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), whom he appointed executor of his estate, became a wealthy art dealer and patron of the arts. Those latter roles granted her access to the Soviet Union.
Ergo the album Chants des prisonniers sibériens d’aujourd’hui (‘Songs of Siberian Prisoners of Today’) eventually released in 1975 on Pathé Marconi in France.
Noëmi Waysfeld & Blik’s interpretations of those Yiddish- and Russian-language songs formed the core of her performances in the festival’s church venue – and, the next day, in the open air on the castle terrace. As in mainly the case with Kalyma, she sang to accompaniments by Thierry Bretonnet on piano-accordion, Florent Labodiniére on acoustic guitar and oud and Antoine Rozenbaum on double-bass. Kalyma‘s key songs came out. These included the up-tempo title track, ‘And You, You Laugh’ – a prisoner’s imagining of their other half’s faithlessness beyond the barbed wire – and ‘Shnirele perele’ (‘String of Pearls’), for which she blanked the Messianic Yiddish lyrics and extemporised in German with her accompanists winging it behind the changed line lengths and stresses.
A fairy-dusting of coming projects slid in. She sang three self-composed, Yiddish-language re-poetisations of Portuguese fado songs from Amália Rodrigues’ repertoire. A signpost to what is coming. Noëmi Waysfeld & Blik proved themselves beyond superb.
All photographs © Santosh Sidhu/Swing 51 Archives.