In the digital age, music albums are often seen as quaint, obsolete. Yet a well-crafted collection of songs often carries with it a narrative arc, even when the compositions lack words. That’s exactly the case with the latest album by the Brooklyn-based band Barbez. Its 11 tracks are rescued—literally—from the liturgical songs of Roman Jews that even Nazi hatred and genocide could not wipe out.
Rome’s Jewish community dates to two centuries before Christ, and some of the melodies that form this project’s backbone may be nearly that old. Yet they were almost lost—twice. The first time was around 1904, when changes to Jewish worship in Rome made many of these liturgical melodies obsolete. The second time was when the Gestapo sent some 2,000 Roman Jews to Auschwitz. Only 16 came back alive.