Four Questions with Joel Edinberg, leader of the Somerville Symphony Orkestar
Until recently, Joel Edinberg was a full-time engineer and part-time musician. Now he’s doing music full time as the band leader of the Somerville Symphony Orkestar, and his music is getting noticed – that’s his sax in the background on this MTV clip. I asked him how living the dream has been going so far.
What is an “orkestar”?
Orkestar is the Bulgarian word for orchestra, and we use the foreign translation vs. the English word to signify the type of music we play. I got the name from listening to some more traditional bands that influence our writing, such as the Boban Markovic Orkestar. We’re a six-piece band that’s deeply influenced by Eastern European music. Our sound blends klezmer music, Balkan music, and traditional Russian music with reggae, rock, and funk. Some of the musicians in our band also play in other klezmer bands.
Is being a musician your full-time job?
Yes. I left my job as an engineer this year and I’m trying to make it as a musician. I’m working A LOT harder trying to make a living doing music than anything else I’ve ever done. Every day is about finding gigs, writing music for videos, writing music for the band. Almost every song my band plays is original – we do one Georgian song and a cover of “Pink Elephants on Parade.” Right now we have one album out featuring all original music. We sell it at our local shows and plan on releasing it nationally, i.e. online, by the end of the summer. We’re looking forward to recording more. It’s always good to have a new project.
As a saxophonist, how do you feel about the resurgence in the saxophone solo? (Think Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory.")
Before I go into this question, I don’t think any modern pop-saxophonist will ever match Sergio Flores. But in all seriousness, I’m torn about how sax is being used in pop music. I usually don’t enjoy the actual solo being played for pop songs, excluding Phil Woods’s solo in “Just the Way You Are” and a few others. But, it’s good to see it being used in pop music, and henceforth it’s good to see that there’s work for saxophonists in high budget recordings. Plus there are many more well-known indie bands now using a lot of non-rock instruments in cool ways, like violin and French horns, paving a good way for more interesting rock compositions that better incorporate the saxophone.
Your old job took you to Japan several times. Did you ever have anything dangerous to eat, like blowfish?
I did not eat blowfish, but I did eat natto, fermented soy beans. At the time I didn’t know what it was, and I can honestly say that it was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever had. It’s these squishy gooey brown balls -- just really disgusting, although apparently they’re very healthy. I did try them a second time; a lot of sake helped. Although I’m very open and willing to try just about anything, I did skip the raw chicken and raw ground horse served with an egg. I did have the raw duck with bitter orange squeezed on top. That was one of the best things I’ve ever had.
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Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!