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Klezmer Info

Klezmer: good Yiddish stock brewed with plenty of Gypsy spice, generous portions of Eastern European & Middle Eastern flavours, garnished with hot jazz then served up with zest. Klezmer is a genre of music that has a repertoire & history from Eastern European "Yiddish" Jews but also one that is very much alive & is constantly evolving. It's basically Jewish gypsy/jazz in sound.

Seth Rogovoy discusses the contradictory nature of Klezmer as "both young and old, urban and rural, Old World meets New World, traditional and experimental, classical and folk, jazz and rock, Western and Eastern. Secular and sacred. Joyous and sad. For dancing and for listening. A virtuoso style with rigorous parameters that is nevertheless eminently accessible. It is a music of contradictions, and the vibrant, cutting edge of a cultural revival. "*

Instrumental melodies are usually led by the clarinet and vocals often co-lead the show in a contemporary line up like KaOZ Klezmer, with material from the Yiddish Theatre & folk song to draw the repertoire from.

The music is based in easily danceable rhythms of 2 or 3 beats a bar. The chords in the accompaniment which are usually played by accordion, piano & guitar are very familiar while the scales used are perhaps a little exotic but still very accessible. Also expect Hebrew material such as the well known Hava Naguila along with Yiddish music.

There's also a lot of humour associated with klezmer and Yiddish culture. On being spotted playing in the St. Patrick's day parade by a Chasidic kid who recognized him from the Williamsburg bandstands, Shelly Gordon said in response to the kid's puzzled "What are you doing Here?" "From one God you can't make a living."

Rogovoy rounds off the contemporary scene well when he says: "the klezmer music we hear today, the music of the contemporary klezmer renaissance ... is, therefore, an ecstatic fusion of old and new. Undoubtedly it is precisely that fusion that gives the music its added emotional depth, that accounts for its raw power to move the heart, the soul, and the feet, that induces an immediate sense of faraway recognition, even for those who are miles and generations and cultures apart from the shtetlekh of Galicia and Bukovina." *

To answer to the question what is Klezmer and why is it attracting so big a following? Basically you have to be there and experience Klezmer live - there's nothing like it! Check out the tour dates page to find out when and where to see KaOZ Klezmer play.

*From The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover's Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music, from the Old World to the Jazz Age to the Downtown Avant Garde, by Seth Rogovoy. May 12, 2000

Related links:

This article by Pietro Fine, 2001.