Showing posts with label klezmer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label klezmer. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What is KLEZMER Music? What is Jewish Music?

Klezmer is the traditional instrumental music of the Yiddish-speaking Jewish community that lived in Eastern and Central Europe since the Middle-Age. It was played by the Klezmorim, who were professional itinerant musicians traveling from town to town, from village to village playing for various celebrations, secular or religious, especially weddings.

beth & jack
Photo  by periwinklekog 
They played the Jewish traditional repertoire but as very skilled musicians they were able also to play the folk tunes of the local population, as well as the classic repertoire that was popular at this time.

Klezmer is a Yiddish word which is the contraction of two Hebrew words, kli which mean vessel or instrument and zemer which means voice or song. So the klezmer is the instrument of the song, the vessel of the voice. It is a very appealing and charming music which encompass all the human emotions, from laughter to tears, from joy to sorrow, from despair to hope.

It reflects the daily life, the culture and the spirit of the Jewish people of the diaspora who were wandering since the Temple destruction. The roots of the Jewish music can be traced back to the Old Testament, (The Psalms of David). Since then the Jewish music tradition has spread all over the European continent and has been influenced by the cultural surroundings of the Jewish communities, from Andalusia to Moldova.

In the ghettos, the Jewish people were subjugated by a lot of strange and compelling laws and regulations, among them was the banning of playing loud instruments like brass and drums. Therefore the violin which can be played softly and can be carried easily was the instrument of choice of the early klezmorim bands.

The fiddler was generally accompanied by a cimbalom (dulcimer). In the second half of the 19th century the clarinet shares the lead with the violin in most of the Klezmer orchestras, nowadays, the clarinet is the essential lead instrument in most of the klezmer ensembles.

From 1880 to the early twenties of the 20th century, there was a massive immigration of Jews from Central and Eastern Europe to the United States. A lot of talented musicians were among them, and they brought their music with them. It was the time of greatest success for klezmer music in America.


After a period of dormancy there was a rebirth of klezmer in the late seventies, in Europe thanks to Giora Feidman, and in America, Andy Statman and "The Klezmorim" were some of the initiators of the klezmer revival.

In conclusion, the Klezmer may be assimilated to an ethnic music or a Jewish music, but in fact, it carries a universal message, a global language. Klezmer is one of the most popular world music which is played by thousands of musicians bands, groups, and listened by thousands of fans, around the world, mostly not Jewish.



Saturday, August 6, 2016

Insight Into KLEZMER Music

The Klezmer music is the traditional Jewish music originated in Eastern Europe in the last centuries. In fact, the term Klezmer is a yiddish word which is a contraction of two Hebrew words, "kli" and "zemer". The meaning of kli is instrument, tool, while zemer definition is air, melody, song.

Anakronik Electro Orkestra - 14 oct. 2008 - Université du Mirail
Photo  by aleske 
So the Klezmer is the instrument of the song, the vessel of the voice. At the origin, the word klezmer was employed to designate the itinerant Jewish musicians (the plural is "klezmorim") who were playing at weddings and celebrations, traveling from village to village. The Jewish folk music had many cultural and geographical influences. Although being essentially an Ashkenazi music the impact of the Oriental, Greek, Turkish, Jewish and non Jewish communities living in the Ottoman empire was not negligible.

Wherever they were, The musicians picked up music from the people living around them, the Gypsies, Romanian, Ukrainian, Moldavian, Lithuanian, Polish and many others. But in spite of or maybe thanks to all those external influences the Klezmer kept his particularity, his characteristics and his unmistakable sound. At the beginning of the 20th century, this music style was indexed as Jewish music, Yiddish folk music or even as "Bulgar", but gradually the word Klezmer began to refer to the style and the repertoire.

It is probably Moshe Beregowsky, a Russian-Jewish ethnomusicologist who used for the first time the term Klezmer as the music performed by the Klezmorim. In the seventies, while the Klezmer revival occurred, the word was definitively adopted as the generic term for the musicians and the music style.

Hence, while the music itself is a few centuries old, the word Klezmer is a kind of neologism. In fact the juxtaposition of klezmer and music is a tautology, a redundancy. Although the Klezmer is a secular music, its roots are religious, liturgic. The fact is that globally and in every culture, music has always a religious or mystical origin. It is a way to accompany the rites or the ceremonies, to reach a state of trance and to approach the divinity.

Klezmer is not an exception, the Psalms of King David in the Bible are maybe the first apparition of structured music. The Klezmer adopted also the intonation and the voicing of the cantor at the synagogue. The Klezmer is not playing, but rather he is singing through his instrument, hence first the violin and then the clarinet were the instruments of predilection for the Klezmer, because they are very close to the human voice.

The art of klezmer is an art of interpretation, many players can play the same tune, the same melody, the same nigun (nigun in Yiddish means a wordless melody), but it will always sound different, because each musician is expressing his deep emotions and revealing his own soul. Giora Feidman, the great clarinet Klezmer player called this "the inner voice". Maybe the Klezmer is the most appropriate musical expression to show off sentiments, feelings, sensibility. It can be joyful, it can cry, it can burst out laughing or burst into tears.

But in spite of this ambivalence, there is always a message of hope.



Sunday, April 3, 2016

KLEZMER and Tango - World Music Or Ethnic Music?

Tango and Klezmer musical influence worldwide has been and continues to be actually notorious. Both music genres have had a great impact all around the world. Both music types are still played and heard in the most important concert halls around the globe. Both have become part of the international world music scenes, and have thousands of followers. It is true that on the one hand, we are dealing with attempts to counter the cultural globalization by preserving the feelings of an authentic and clear identity.

Klezmer band playing on Decatur Street, French...
Klezmer band playing on Decatur Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, on the other hand, the world has long become the musician's source for all sorts of musical set pieces, enabling them to experiment with and develop their music in a way that would never have been possible in a culturally more rigid and confined environment.

There are Tango, Klezmer groups, bands, singers on professional, semi-professional, and amateur levels all around the world. In addition, there are also millions of people striving to learn how to dance tango, or go deeper into klezmer music. What is more, many people can even travel long distances to achieve those goals. Therefore, this fact demonstrates the great relevance, as well as the important place both genres occupy in the musical world nowadays.

Tango and Klezmer cannot be classified as ethnic music. Both genres are spread all around the world and are played by musicians of all origins. Although klezmer is considered as a Jewish music it is played by numerous non-Jewish players.

Ethnic music connects a community to a selected component of its past, and obviously there is no Tango community nor an homogenous Jewish entity.

To conclude, both tango and klezmer genres have made great contributions to the music world. Both with their similar as well as distinct characteristics have been internationally influential, and have also found the way to success through the years. Their music lives on and it will certainly continue like this for years to come.