The Provocative Baron Cohen Clan: Sacha (Aka Ali G, Borat, Bruno) Is Not the Only Member of This British Jewish Family to Make a Name for Himself as a Creative Rebel

By Glazer, Sarah | Moment, July-August 2010 | Go to article overview

The Provocative Baron Cohen Clan: Sacha (Aka Ali G, Borat, Bruno) Is Not the Only Member of This British Jewish Family to Make a Name for Himself as a Creative Rebel


Glazer, Sarah, Moment


Erran Baron Cohen is drinking coffee at a cafe in Temple Fortune, an enclave of synagogues and kosher shops in north London. With a mop of dark curls, Erran looks slightly rumpled and harried, a man on deadline. The musician is just finishing composing the score for The Infidel, a comedy film about Mahmud Nasir, a British Muslim who discovers he was born Solly Shimshillewitz and adopted. As Nasir walks in a daze through a market in the majority Bangladeshi London neighborhood of Whitechapel, manic Klezmer-style brassy music, inflected with Pakistani rhythms, pursues him. The music, says Erran, is meant to show the "conflict between Mahmud's identities."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Erran, 42, is a creature of modern London, a city of diverse immigrant communities, distinct ethnic neighborhoods and a wild mixing of cultures, where tolerance predominates but prejudice lurks not far away. His band, Zo-har, named after the central text of the kabbalah, blends music of the Middle East with Jewish themes and a modern beat. Musically, as well as culturally, Erran believes, Jews and Arabs are cousins. "The way the hazan often improvises around the melody in a very Semitic way is similar to what an Arab muezzin [who leads the call to prayer] would do. I think there's amazing similarity between our cultures," says Erran, who attributes his interest in music to listening to his cantor's moving singing in synagogue as a child.

Americans may not be familiar with Erran's name but they know his work. He composed the music for Borat (2006) and Bruno (2009), written by and starring his brother Sacha Baron Cohen, the comedic actor three and a half years his junior. The score for Borat won Erran an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers award. He snagged the commission to write the score by composing a fictional Kazakhstani national anthem in one night, recording his own voice and multiplying it about 40 times to create the effect of a resounding chorus of male voices. Although Erran often draws on world music, in this case, he says, "that was not Kazakhstani at all, but the idea was militaristic: the Russian Red Army singing, quite Soviet there." Some of the anthem's lyrics, which Erran did not write, go: "Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan, you very nice place/From plains of Tarashek to northern fence of Jewtown." The movie was a smash hit and lauded by critics, earning Sacha a Golden Globe award for best actor and an Oscar nomination for best screenplay.

Borat follows the adventures of a bumbling faux-Kazakhstani journalist who effortlessly elicits expressions of anti-Semitism and racism from the ordinary Americans he interviews. Even before the film, Sacha's Borat persona was exposing prejudice. His most infamous anti-Semitic outburst was broadcast on HBO in 2004, when he led patrons in a Tucson, Arizona, bar in a rousing rendition of a song composed by Sacha titled In My Country There is a Problem (Throw the Jew Down the Well). Sacha's Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion reporter, has no trouble getting fashionistas to repeat his thumbs-down trope of "Train to Auschwitz" to condemn designs that don't meet their approval.

In a rare interview as himself (and not one of his characters) Sacha told NPR's Terry Gross that he didn't believe that the people Borat encountered agreed with his racist statements just to be polite, and even if that was their motivation, he was concerned. "'The path to Auschwitz was paved with indifference," Sacha, a Cambridge University history graduate said, quoting British historian Ian Kershaw. "It's that indifference that's quite dangerous."

Sacha, through his satirical characters, and Erran, through his musical fusion, are pushing back against prejudice, which has played a powerful role shaping Baron Cohen family history. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Provocative Baron Cohen Clan: Sacha (Aka Ali G, Borat, Bruno) Is Not the Only Member of This British Jewish Family to Make a Name for Himself as a Creative Rebel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.