Lev Ljova Zhurbin

Chutzpah! is the familial name given to The Lisa Nemetz International Showcase of Jewish Performing Arts. The festival is named in memory of Lisa Nemetz , a dancer, lawyer, mother, and supporter of the arts who passed away in 1997. I was able to take in one of the performances in this year’s program and wish that I had seen more.

I was treated to the eclectic music of Ljova and The Kontraband on the final day of this year’s festival. The band is comprised of Zhurbin, artistically known as Ljova (viola), wife Inna Barmash, (vocals), Patrick Farrell (accordion), Jordan Morton (double bass), and Mathias Kunzli (percussion). 

The music of Ljova and The Kontraband has its roots in klezmer music. Klezmer is the music of the Jews of Eastern Europe, performed primarily at weddings and other celebrations. When the music was brought over to America in the early 1900’s, it was blended with early jazz to create the klezmer style that is commonly known today.  

Many of the pieces performed were original compositions created by Ljova; it’s easy to hear the jazz influence. The music ran the gamut of pacing from slow to frantic, illustrating different emotions while telling a story. The group also performed interpretations of Yiddish and Russian poetry and folk songs.

The mash-up of gypsy music, European folk, and jazz combined to create a new sound with a rich historic past. Several of Ljova’s pieces have been used in music scores as well as in contemporary dance works.

The resumés of the band members are deep and impressive. Of particular visual interest was the work of percussionist Kunzli who used various paraphernalia to produce intriguing sounds to accompany the music, adding to the intricate sound patterns making up the compositions. I came away from this concert with an expanded knowledge of music and an appreciation for the talent to create new music with established musical genres.  

One of the goals of Chutzpah is to showcase new and exciting talent to Vancouver audiences and with Ljova and The Kontraband they succeeded. 

Idan Raichel; photo by Eldad Rafaeli
[Idan Raichel; photo by Eldad Rafaeli]

Although the 2014 festival is officially over, there are more events running as part of Chutzpah Plus: The Sidra Bell Dance Company of New York in a co-presentation with The Dance Centre (March 27 to 29) and The Idan Raichel Project (May 12). Visit the Chutzpah! Festival website for more information.

About Our Contributor MJ Ankenman

MJ Ankenman

MJ moved to Vancouver in 2005 and has been keeping busy ever since, enjoying all that the West coast has to offer, sharing discoveries through her writing and photography. MJ’s interests include yoga, biking, hiking, and enjoying BC wine. Follow MJ on Twitter @urbanista.


  • Comment by Ljova — March 18, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

    thank you so much for the kind words! we had a blast in Vancouver and hope to come back.

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — March 19, 2014 @ 9:12 am

    Hi Ljova,

    Glad you enjoyed Vancouver – hope to catch a future show (our writer MJ took it in as we were away on holiday).

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