The Red Hot Chachkas have been playing Klezmer music since 1998. We started by learning the basics, the standards, going to Klezmer camps, and listening, listening, listening to recordings and performers, old and new. We bring our deep appreciation of traditional Klezmer to all our gigs. At the same time, we have explored other musical genres, and added a wide range of these to the mix, including improvisation. This CD comprises original compositions, and the title “Beats without Borders” reflects our many musical journeys. With wild abandon and solemn introspection, we travel to places of joy, beauty, and dancing; our excitement has no borders! Enjoy! 

Julie Egger: violin 
Barbara Speed: Bb clarinet, tenor sax, C flute 
Tony Phillips: mandolin, mandolin-banjo, octave mandolin 
Glenn Hartman: accordion 
Breck Diebel: upright bass, electric bass guitar 
Michael Arrow: drums, percussion 

Produced by The Red Hot Chachkas

Recorded, mixed & mastered by Christopher Krotky /

For bookings, contact Julie Egger / 415-488-9125 

Photos & Montage by Fletcher Oakes /

Design by Lisa Berman /

Copyright 2009 The Red Hot Chachkas. All rights reserved.

Total time = 54:20 minutes


See track list below for selected full tracks, or selected full tracks on SoundCloud, or excerpts of all tracks on iTunes,, and CDBaby

Where to get it?

The Buzz

"With Beats Without Borders, the Red Hot Chachkas are certainly pushing the envelope to an astonishing extent. They are firmly positioning themselves for the general world music market here, as indeed the title might already suggest, and that is a very positive thing in itself. While adhering to traditional klezmer forms, with a deep love and understanding of and respect for the tradition, the Chachkas explore a wide range of 'genre bending' and they also incorporate improvisation. The genre bending extends to incorporating elements of Latin, jazz, and even popular music, and beyond.

"Not only that, with Beats Without Borders the Red Hot Chachkas very courageously and enterprisingly present an album consisting entirely of originals - not a single traditional klezmer standard within hearing. They are not only keeping the tradition alive, but extending it considerably with their excellent compositions.

"The musicianship of the Red Hot Chachkas throughout is superb and beyond question and they are evidently a highly empathic band. In their inventiveness they remind at once of fellow Northern Californian band The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band and The New Orleans Klezmer All Stars, although their style and direction is entirely their own.

"This album may come as something of a surprise to many klezmer aficionados, but I'm sure that it will grow even on hardcore traditional klezmer fans. Beats Without Borders is a delightful and highly enjoyable album, full of charm, wit, and originality that quickly proves irresistible with its irrepressible grooves. It clearly will prove attractive to the widest possible range of world music listeners. Klezmer fusion at its sublime best! Think of Beats Without Borders as a musical journey of discovery and you're bound to enjoy a quite extraordinary trip!" —  Rich Sharm, Rainlore's World of Music, 1/06/2011 Full Review

"The Red Hot Chachkas are a very cool klezmer fusion band from the San Francisco Bay area, fresh from their Canadian debut at the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto last week.

"Beats Without Borders includes 14 tunes, composed by one or another of the band members, which has them creating new klezmer music that variously incorporates strains of world, jazz, rock, R&B and folk music. Opening number 'Zets,' composed by clarinetist Barbara Speed, is a punchy piece that seems to be part Eastern European, part Middle Eastern, part bebop and part surf-rock. 'Five Old Shekels,' by mandolinist Tony Phillips, puts a minor key klezmer spin on the melody of the Appalachian fiddle tune 'New Five Cents,' while the intense 'Midtog Nign,' composed by violinist Julie Egger, was inspired by Chassidic men at prayer.

"The musicianship on Beats Without Borders is inspired and inspiring." — Michael Regenstreif, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, p.61, 9/6/2010, & Klezmershack

"The Red Hot Chachkas are a very cool klezmer fusion band from the San Francisco Bay area. This latest album – 14 tunes composed by one or another of the Chachkas – sees them creating new klezmer tunes that variously incorporate different kinds of world, jazz, rock, r&b and folk music. 'Five Old Shekels' was inspired by the fiddle tune 'New Five Cents,' while the cleverly titled 'Barack Ata Illinois,' which sounds like a Hassidic meditation, was written on Inauguration Day in 2009. There’s lots of inspired playing on this CD." — Michael Regenstreif, Sing Out! • Vol. 53 #4, p.152

"The Red Hot Chachkas plays the more obvious and accessible kind of Klezmer with recognizable melodies and uplifting dances. The band was founded thirteen years ago and with this third album they proof to be one of California’s nicest Klezmer influenced band. Their original compositions are of good quality and there is chemistry between the musicians which results in a strong groups sound and occasionally some nice solo’s supported by the rest of the musicians. A sunny album with uncomplicated quality music."  — Eelco Schilder, Folkworld (Germany) #42, 7/2010

"Your cd is fantastic. I love your drummer. Great tunes, original music in the klezmer style. Finally a klezmer cd that is not overly nostalgic. Did I mention I love it?! Hey, the rest of you should check it out."  Asher H., Seattle

Press Play: Red Hot Chachkas, "Beats Without Borders"

The third CD from Red Hot Chachkas, led by Marin fiddle player Julie Egger, is loaded with clever new songs written by members of the instrumental sextet, a hip klezmer outfit that fuses Eastern European Yiddish music with jazz, rock, old-time, classical and Latin styles.

Egger, who lives in Lagunitas, wrote three of the CD's 14 tunes, including "Dancin' on the Creekside," which she dedicated to "the folks of the San Geronimo Valley."

The song, featuring James Brown snare accents, a "Twist and Shout" finale and rocking accordion solo by Glenn Hartman, was inspired by the West Marin spirit of community during times of flood and other natural disasters.

"It is like living in 'Brigadoon,' where, when someone is in need, the universe provides," she writes in the liner notes.

She also contributed "Midtog Nign," a tune with an unpronounceable title opens with a Hassidic prayer that women, in Jewish tradition, are not allowed to participate in, except in this song.

Mandolin and banjo player Tony Phillips wrote "Barack Ata Illinois," an elegant, dignified tune dedicated to our first African American president. The title comes from a Hebrew prayer that was an e-mail sensation during the run-up to the election. It must have worked.

Barbara Speed, the band's reeds and flute player, wrote the lion's share of the songs on the disk. Her tune "Goyl" is reminiscent of the Beatles' "Girl," which inspired the title, and the dreamy, rhapsodic "Mamoshes" was titled after a word in the index of the book "Born to Kvetch." It means "substantial" in Yiddish. The same could be said for this album; It's lighthearted, but has some weight to it. Mazel tov— Paul Liberatore, Marin Independent Journal

1. Zets! (Barbara Speed ©2009) 3:13 
The gadget spec URL could not be found

Our drummer Michael really gets a chance to shine on this revved-up ditty of Barbara's. He may never have gotten as hot and sweaty as he did during this recording session! According to Michael Wex, in his book on yiddish "Born to Kvetch," a "zets" is a "blow." Julie knows the word well; parents often say to their kids, “If you don’t stop it now, I’m gonna give you a zets!”

2. Barack Ata Illinois (Tony Phillips ©2009) 2:49 
The gadget spec URL could not be found

No prize for guessing to whom this modal melody that Tony composed on January 20, 2009 is dedicated. Although the mood of the day was elation, this intelligent, elegant, and dignified meditation is what emerged. The title is from the beginning of the Hebrew prayer that circulated by email during the previous November, "Barack ata Illinois elohenu melech ha'olam hoo-ray p'ri ha-electoral landslide. Amen." Based on actual historical events. Amen.

3. Adventure Tanz (Breck Diebel © 2009) 3:45

Breck takes to heart our notion of "Klezmer fusion," composing pieces that combine aspects of Klezmer tradition with jazz, Latin, and popular music. This tune merges typical Klezmer melodic and harmonic elements with jazz rhythms and forms. This piece is an adventure through various musical landscapes, with plenty of room for Breck, Glenn, and Barb to stretch out with some fun solos.

4. Stepping Out (Barbara Speed © 2009) 3:46

We recorded several takes of Barbara's sher with a calypso feeling only at the end. But one time we calypso'd all the way through, and the infectious unmixed version had everyone in Michael's household up on their feet dancing the whole time. That persuaded Barbara: we are stepping out to the islands, the sooner the better! Glenn (who is also the leader of the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars) added a lot to this tune's easy tropical warmth.

5. Who Let the Cat Out?! (Barbara Speed © 2009) 2:56

Freylekh, freylekh, freylekh -- the cat’s really out of the bag on this lively dance that Glenn gallops us all into. Glenn's joyful roller-coaster accordion style helps get us all yowling, and we predict that this tune of Barbara's will get you on your feet and out the door, making some catty moves under a full moon in some exotic back alley!

6. Mamoshes (Barbara Speed © 2009) 4:10

Barbara wrote this hora, and wanted to give it a Yiddish name. Trouble is, she doesn't speak Yiddish (yet!), but she does have Michael Wex’s book "Born to Kvetch." Scouring the index for a dignified, weighty title to match the mood of the piece, she found the word "mamoshes," defined as "substance, substantiality." That sounded right. But wouldn’t you know it, Julie had never heard of "mamoshes," and neither had her mother! Ah well, we're exploring new territories. Beats without Borders, here we come!

7. Goyl (Barbara Speed © 2009) 2:56

This khosidl, written by Barbara, has a sweet lilt that suggests some of the elegance of dance masters Michael Alpert and Steve Weintraub, whom Barbara had the pleasure of seeing in action at several KlezCalifornia workshops. Once she realized that the beginning of the tune was reminiscent of the early Beatles song "Girl," the title followed. And one musical quote seemed to invite another in the third section of the tune. Can you identify it? Think of Springtime and Count Basie!

8. Melted Chocolate (Julie Egger © 2009) 3:53

Julie wrote this tune, and she loved the title "Melted Chocolate;" it just came to her and felt right. The song was conceived while she was practicing on her own in her studio. She brought it to the band, and it took on an exciting and wild life of its own, especially with Michael's opening kick-off drum solo. This song could be the soundtrack for a cartoon or a Keystone Cops episode with lots of chase scenes, and you will have trouble sitting in your seat when you listen to it! Go find some good chocolate, let it melt, then eat it. This tune is better than that!!!

9. My Son the Doctor (Tony Phillips © 2009) 3:16

"Q. What's the Jewish definition of when life begins?" "A. When the fetus graduates from medical school." As often for Tony, the title preceded the tune, which reworks the traditional American fiddle tune variously called "Doctor, Doctor" or "Dear Doctor," that Tony learned from fiddler Rayna Gellert, who traces it back to her father Dan Gellert, while a published version is attributed to Jere Canote. Not all good doctors are Jewish, of course, but why take a chance? Here's the Klezmer version.

10. Klezburg (Breck Diebel © 2009) 5:55

Breck says this composition of his could just as easily be called "KlezShake," as the recipe calls for a pinch of cartoon music, a dash of spicy Latin, a splash of swing, topped off and thoroughly blended with essence of Klezmer! Caution, this combination may cause overexuberence!
The gadget spec URL could not be found
Julie lives in West Marin, where every winter she watches to see if the creek will overflow, as it has in the past. But her community is close-knit and vital, and it rejuvenates on a daily basis. It is like living in “Brigadoon,” where, when someone is in need, the universe provides. Glenn's suggestion to use the tight James Brown-style anticipated accents on the snare, his wild accordion solo, and his "Twist and Shout" lead into the final notes of this song, help us all to shake it up, baby! This song is dedicated to the folks from San Geronimo Valley, California.

12. Five Old Shekels (Tony Phillips © 2009) 2:54

Tony made this Klezmer adaptation of a traditional fiddle tune. An early recording of the melody is Ted Sharp, Hinman and Sharp's "Robinson County," recorded around 1933 in the Ozarks. John Lusk, an African-American fiddler in Tennessee in 1946, and Isham Monday in Kentucky in 1959, recorded tunes titled "New Five Cents," but they seem very different. Bluegrass fiddler Paul Warren recorded the germinal modern version with Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass, released posthumously in 1979. Chip Curry taught it to Tony during a children's dance workshop in Kaustinen, Finland, in 2005. Our recreation may or may not be influenced by any or all the above sources.

13. SF Sher (Breck Diebel ©2009) 2:39 
The gadget spec URL could not be found

The traditional Yiddish sher dance is for squares of four couples, accompanied by a dance tune likewise called a "sher," with moderate tempo, usually played in duple meter. Breck's original composition is squarely in the tradition. Named for "the City by the Bay," it displays a pretty melody and a bit of a novelty. It's the only tune on this CD featuring multi-instrumentalist Barb on the flute.

14. Midtog Nign (Julie Egger © 2009) 8:18

Julie was sitting outside at the shopping center on a warm day, with time on her hands before teaching some violin lessons. She got a thought, quickly made some notes on a piece of scrap paper, and this emerged. The first part of this tune is her way of praying as Hassidic men do. She has always wanted to join them in their mantra-like nigunim, but women are not allowed. This is her way in.