My name is Jacob Howley and I’m a pricing and product support attorney at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC.
I’m also the front man for Corned Beef Hash, possibly the only band in the world playing a mix of three types of music: traditional Celtic, which is Irish and Scottish; klezmer, an Eastern European Jewish genre; and French Canadian fiddle tunes.
I’ve played Irish music for about 25 years — I was bitten by the bug as a teenager and never looked back — and last year, I got into a new hobby, learning Yiddish, which is the language of Eastern European Jews and a different part of my heritage.
In one of the classes, a famous Yiddish singer taught us some songs, and I thought: This is what I want to do now!
Coincidentally, some friends were starting this Celtic-klezmer fusion band around the same time and invited me to join. Each of us brings something different to the group: One plays the fiddle, one plays the mandolin and the bodhrán — an Irish drum, pronounced “BOW-ron” — and I play guitar and sing.
Lots of bands have combined Celtic or French Canadian folk with rock and other European and American music genres, but we could find very few that mixed them with Eastern European music like klezmer.
And while family heritage certainly isn’t a requirement to enjoy the music, it feels good to connect with our roots.
Just like anything from different cultures, the tunes don’t always fit together perfectly, but the fun is in the overlaps and dialogue between them.
The point isn’t authenticity but having fun with the cultural connections — hence the name, Corned Beef Hash.
Corned beef is famous as an Irish American food, but you won’t find a lot of corned beef in Ireland. When the Irish came here, they couldn’t find bacon at the local Jewish butcher shops, so they embraced corned beef as the next closest thing — and a beautiful new tradition was born.
That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re weaving the musical strands together into something colorful and new, and having a lot of fun while we’re at it.
“Off the Clock,” a column on Postal Service employees and their after-hours pursuits, appears regularly in Link.