“He was a man who lived the life he wanted.”
From the Guardian:
Jim Marcovitch, co-founder and leader of the inspirational Klezmer band She’koyokh, was an outstanding musician and showman whose virtuosity and passion inspired artists and audiences alike. He has died at the age of 34 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Born in London, he studied at the Warriner School, Bloxham, Oxfordshire, and then back in the capital: music at Goldsmiths College and Klezmer at the School of Oriental and African Studies. In 2001 he founded She’koyokh (roughly translatable as “good on yer, mate”) and began a whirlwind schedule of busking, touring, gigging and collaborating which lasted until the week before his death.
The band, typified in the early years by black frock-coated outfits and Jim’s astonishing unruly mop of hair, built a rapid word-of-mouth audience wherever it went. Busking in London’s Portobello Road in 2002, they had the aura of time-travelling minstrels, thronged by a dense, softly girating crowd. One awestruck tourist stepped forward to ask, “Where are you guys from?” The most likely answer seemed 18th-century Minsk, but Jim deadpanned back “New Cross”, and launched into another soul-teasing melody.
She’koyokh quickly consolidated its British fan-base with a series of unforgettable gigs in venues as diverse as Exeter prison and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, while its growing international reputation culminated in winning first prize at the 2008 International Jewish Music Festival. At the same time, Jim made theatre at the BAC arts centre in Battersea, south London, where She’koyokh were effectively the house band.
He worked with Filter Theatre, the National Theatre Studio, Cartoon de Salvo, and joined the Mouse Queen on its unlikely journey from the Little Angel Theatre, Islington to a sell-out run at the New Victory Theatre in New York. Felix Barrett, director of the theatre company Punchdrunk, who worked with Jim on the development of The Masque of the Red Death, seen at BAC in September 2007, said, “He had a sort of contagious calmness which enabled the creativity of all around him to flourish.”
It is as a collaborator that Jim will perhaps best be remembered. In his fiercely productive last year of life, he travelled widely, married his beloved Jenny and wrote and recorded an album, The Night of the Long Spoons, with his parallel band Soup. He also continued gigging with She’koyokh to the end. Mandolinist Ben Samuels recalled: “Three weeks ago, we went busking at the flower market where we have played Sundays, off and on, for five years. Jim asked us if we could play a mazurka with a complicated little step. He and Jenny danced together in the sun, 1-2-hop-1-2-3, and I watched Jim close his eyes, and cherish each moment. He was a man who lived the life he wanted.”