Montréal-based band Ichka follows the journey of Ashkenazi jews from eastern Europe to New York City in the 1910s and 1920s. As many jews left Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova for a better life in the "new world", they brought their violins, clarinets, and accordions with them. Upon arriving in New York, their music was affected and influenced by jazz and other American styles. This evolution is of particular interest to clarinetist Zilien Biret, who has spent years studying the particular styles of playing of two clarinetists who made this journey - Naftule Brandwein and Dave Tarras.
Since 2012, Zilien has been exploring this music with Eli Camilo on trombone and Isaac Beaudet on violin. In 2014 they recorded their first full length album,"Podorozh," with original accordionist Laurence Sabourin. Podorozh, which means "voyage" in Ukrainian, was meant to reflect the journey that klezmer music has taken, the album featuring music from both the "old world" and "new world," and even very recent compositions by renowned klezmer musicians Alicia Svigals, Steven Greenman, and Merlin Shepherd.
With current accordionist, Yoni Kaston, and percussionist Thierry Arsenault, Ichka continues to explore this rich musical tradition. Ichka has performed at jewish music festivals such as KlezKanada Laurentian Retreat, Ashkenaz Festival, Boston Jewish Music Festival, and Yiddish Summer Weimar. Since 2014, Zilien also teaches at KlezKanada, Yiddish Summer Weimar, Ashkenaz Festival and Yiddish New York, and works closely with renowned ethno-musicologist, Zev Feldman. Thierry and Eli have also taught workshops on klezmer music at KlezKanada.