Dash Arts and Nest Collective present: The Disorientalists
Part klezmer cabaret, part oriental ragtime, part theatrical storytelling, Berlin-based The Disorientalists tell the story of Essad Bey a.k.a. Kurban Said a.k.a. Lev Nussimbaum author of Ali and Nino
The 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 piece of musical theatre based on the life of Essad Bey a.k.a. Kurban Said a.k.a. Lev Nussimbaum author of the great Romeo and Juliet-esque novel Ali and Nino set in Baku during the upheaval of the Russian revolution.
So who was Essad Bey?
Lev Nussimbaum was born to a Jewish oil magnate father in Baku, Azerbaijan and communist-sympathising mother who helped bankroll Stalin. Lev eventually emigrated 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, Central Asia, Istanbul, Paris and ultimately Berlin. 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, Ali and Nino and other 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 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 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.
A little bit folkloristic, a little bit klezmer, incorporating elements of swing and oriental romance, Gurzhy and three other band members perform songs inspired by Essad Bey on ba˘glama, accordeon and piano.