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
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
"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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
This article by Pietro Fine, 2001.