DISORIENTALISTS “Who was Essad Bey”
Genre: klezmer cabaret, oriental ragtime, historic theatre
Country: Germany (originally Ukraine, USA, Moldova)
Record label: Oriente
Disorientalists are Yuriy Gurzhy (RotFront, Russendisko, Born in UA), Daniel Kahn (Daniel Kahn and Te Painted Bird, Brothers Nazarof, Semer Ensemble) and Marina Frenk (Marina & Kapelsky, Real Baba Dunyah). The three berliners-bychoice joined forces to write and perform a musical based on the life of Essad Bey a.k.a. Kurban Said a.k.a. Lev Nussimbaum. “Who Was Essad Bey” is a work in progress, performed regularly in the Studio Я of Gorki Teatre Berlin.
Disorientalists – „ Who Was Essad Bey?“ is recorded in Sternstaubstudio Berlin by Tomas Stern (Meret Becker, Einstürzende Neubauten, Crime and Te City Solution, Swans) and will be released on Oriente Records in December 2016.
Well, who WAS Essad Bey?
It’s important to say
Tat he was born on a train
Somewhere in Ukraine
He grew up in Baku
He’s a Russian, a Jew
But was this who was Essad Bey?
He lived in Berlin
To Allah he prayed
He once wrote a book Called “Allah is great”
A poser, a fascist
In his his very own way
but was this who was Essad Bey?…
So who was Essad Bey?
“Lev Nussimbaum was born to a Jewish oil magnate father in Baku, Azerbaijan and mother who helped bankroll Stalin. Lev immigrated to Germany with his father and German nanny after his mother committed suicide and the Russian Revolution uprooted the family and sent it on a mad journey through the Caucasus, Istanbul, Paris and ultimately Berlin, where Lev was enrolled in the Russian Gymnasium in Charlottenburg. A precocious youth, monarchist sympathiser and idealiser of all things Oriental, Lev converted to Islam in Berlin, took on the name Essad Bey and became a successful international author, writing the first biography of Stalin, Tsar Nicholas, novels and essays on the Orient for Die Literarische Welt, all the while denying his Jewishness and casting himself as a Muslim prince. The Nazis put an end to that, hung a Publikationsverbot (publishing ban) over him, and forced him into exile, driving him to Italy, where, oddly, he fell under the spell of Mussolini, of whom he hoped to become official biographer. Essad Bey died at 36 in 1942, and was buried in a Muslim grave in Positano. It wasn’t really until Tom Reiss wrote a best-selling biography of Bey in 2005, entitled The Orientalist that the details of Bey’s convoluted life came fully to light. “
Yuriy Gurzhy was inspired by this story “Sometimes you spend hours thinking about the subjects you should write songs about, but when you hear this story you feel that it is the perfect story to write about,” says Gurzhy. A little bit folkloristic, a little bit klezmer, incorporating elements of swing and oriental romance, Gurzhy and three other band members performed the songs – played on ba˘glama, accordeon and piano – clad in red fezes at the Gorki Theater in December 2015.