Although the acoustic quartet Chesed is based in the Czech Republic and has recorded for a Czech label (Indies Records), it does not specialize in Czech music (either traditional or contemporary). Chesed's focus is traditional Jewish music, and its members often embrace time-honored Jewish offerings such as "Ad de Lo Jada," "Jemej Chanuka," and "Avinu Malkjnu" (all of which are in Hebrew). The group was formed in the '90s, when vocalists Zuzana Wirthová and Monika Brenková got together with violinist Kamila Dolecková and acoustic guitarist Jan-Matej Rak (who plays the accordion as a second instrument). In 1999, the foursome recorded its debut album, Zidovské Písne (Hebrew Songs), for Indies Records, a small independent label based in Brno, Czech Republic.
Chesed changes tempos frequently; the group has no problem embracing haunting, moody ballads one minute and more uptempo and festive material the next. Chesed's music isn't really klezmer, a Jewish style that originated in Eastern Europe in the 19th century and went on to incorporate jazz elements in the 20th century; Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman (two Jewish-American swing clarinetists) influenced their share of progressive klezmer musicians in the '30s, '40s, and '50s. However, there are certainly parallels between Chesed's music and klezmer, and some of Rak's acoustic guitar playing has a somewhat Django Reinhardt-ish quality. (Although Reinhardt lived in Paris, the seminal gypsy jazz guitarist was heavily influenced by Eastern European music). Indies, one of the labels that was formed after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, released Zidovské Písne (Hebrew Songs) in 2001. ~ Alex Henderson