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BSI shares Sephardi culture and coffee

By Maya Shemtov and Rachel Gordon
On November 21, 2011

A small crowd dispersed throughout the dimly lit Cholmondeley's and was engrossed last Tuesday night as the Brandeis Sephardic Initiative held its first Turkish Coffeehouse. With a plentitude of performers and Turkish coffee, which is prepared with powdered roast coffee beans broiled in a pot, the audience sat attentive as each act performed. BSI works to increase awareness and appreciation of Sephardic Jewry and culture through communal activities, ethnic experiences, education and traditional food.

Luky Guigui '15, who was emceeing for the night, introduced the first act, Zevvy, a stand-up comic. Starting off the evening lightly, Zevvy had the entire audience laughing and set the tone for the evening.

The second act was rapper Saz.É (Osaze Akerejah '14), who performed four songs: "Mr. Nice Guy," "It's Lovely," "Passports and Sex" and "Ray Ban Weather." Saz.É said that each of these songs are from upcoming projects. The second track is from his second mix tape, Invincible Tomorrow, and the first, third and fourth songs were from the third mix tape, titled One Hell of An Internship, both due out next year.

The third song he performed, called "Passports and Sex," was about traveling across the globe with that special someone. As Saz.É sang, "We have the world to run/It's great fun making love close to the sun," he proceeded to explain how he writes songs about things he wished he could do, but can't. Before his last song, Saz.É went on to speak out to anyone who is artistic, saying how artists "create a world and make it engaging so people want to jump in it, make it breathe and everyone else will breathe with you."

The next performance was a different approach to music than Saz.É's raps. The Sephardi Band, which included Jacob Chatinover '12, Daniel Shimansky '12, Benny Sternberg '14 and Guigui, used only vocals and drumming. The group performed several piyutim (Jewish spiritual poems). Two of The Sephardi Band's performers have Sephardi ancestry, but Guigui was unphased that he himself was not one of them, saying, "sometimes personal heritage doesn't really matter. Embracing all heritages just calls out to a person."

In between each act, Guigui read Sephardic bedtime stories to the crowd. Shortly after the Sephardi band left the stage, Avi Popack '14 read slam poetry. He performed one of the poems he submitted as his college admissions essay and another he wrote recently for a poetry class. Popack has been writing poetry for three years and has performed at several other coffeehouses as well as at the Brandeis Open Mic Series.

"The crowd was great," Popack said. "Afterward, a lot of people were very encouraging. They came up to me and thanked me for coming and gave me feedback on the set, which was especially nice because one of the poems was brand new, and the other I had only performed once."

The last three acts were improvisational comedy group TBA, Brandeis' only all-male Jewish a cappella group Jewish Fella Acapella and Manginah, Brandeis' co-ed Jewish a cappella group. Each of the groups brought a unique flavor to its performance, from TBA's improv games that required input from a more-than-willing audience to the a cappella groups' many songs. TBA performed the improv games Survivor, Ding, Good Bad Terrible Advice and Press Conference, all of which they also play during their rehearsals every week. Yoni Sebag '13 said that TBA was "very happy with our performance at Chum's, thanks to a very responsive audience. Their energy enhanced our performance."

This coffeehouse offered a unique blend of cultural tradition with a wide variety of performances. "The acts I saw were pretty unique and great, they were nothing I'd seen before at a coffeehouse," Popack said.

Guigui also really enjoyed the event, saying, "It was the first time I have ever been an emcee and it was really fun." He also really appreciated all the hard work that was put into planning the event. "Thanks need to go out to all the BSI board but especially to Atara Chouake '14, Leah Naghi '14 and Aliza Braverman '14, for putting all of this together. It takes a lot to plan an event and these guys really put it all together and are responsible for it all."

Editor's Note: Aliza Braverman '14 is a Justice copy staffer.

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