May 24, 2012 - Leave a Response

A Klezmer ensemble.

Klezmer is a musical style of Ashkenazi Jews that originated in Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages.  The word “Klezmer” comes from the Hebrew words “kley” meaning “instruments” and “zemer” meaning “music”.  The genre consists primarily of dance tunes and instrumental pieces for Jewish celebrations such as weddings and bar-/bat-mitzvahs.

Traditional Klezmer instrumentation includes the violin, tsimbl (hammered dulcimer), flute, cello or bass, and small drums.  With the recruitment of Jews into armies in the early 20th century, brass and big sound percussion instruments began making their way into the Klezmer repertoire.  A particularly important addition was the clarinet, which edged out the violin as the leading instrument.  Klezmer music is characterized by its expressive melodies and sounds meant to mimic the human voice.  Such sounds include laughing, wailing, and sobbing, and were mainly produced by the violin (and later the clarinet).

Klezmer was introduced into the United States between 1880 and 1924 when Eastern European Jews were immigrating there.  While it thrived in the first half of the 20th century, it was nearly destroyed by the Holocaust as well as the American-Jewish trend of cultural assimilation.  Fortunately, Klezmer music experienced a contemporary revival in the 1980s and has been steadily increasing in popularity nationwide.


Early Klezmer History.  Safed.  Web.  23 May 2012.

Klezmer Music in a Few Words.  Klezmer Music.  27 Jan 2010.  Web.  23 May 2012.

Rogovoy, Seth.  The Klezmer Revival: Old Meets New.  The BerkshireWeb.  Web.  23 May 2012.

Romer, Megan.  Klezmer Music 101.   About.com World Music.  Web.  23 May 2012.