The History of Klezmer Music


Compared to other European folk music styles, little is known about the history of Klezmer  music, and much of what is said about it must be seen as speculation, meaning that there is no solid evidence of its origins, it is all based on opinions, stories, and unverified information.

It was simply music passed down from one generation to the next. It was not until the late 20th century that the word came to identify a musical genre. It is quite often referred to as Jewish folk music, and is the music that the Jewish people sang, played and danced to throughout the hundreds of years that they lived in Eastern Europe, as well as the music they brought with them as they migrated to America. The term Klezmer comes from a combination of Hebrew words: kli, meaning “tool, or utensil” and zemer, meaning “to make music”; leading to k’li zemer literally “vessels of song, or musical instrument”.

One of the world’s most renowned Klezmer musicians is Giora  Feidman. He believed music to be spiritual nourishment, and without it people simply couldn’t survive. Giora Feidman “plunged deeply into this “Jewish Soul” music, taking on various influences and developing them further into his own interpretations”.

giora_feidman_1For him, the clarinet proved to be the ideal instrument to do just that, to find expression in the realm of emotional nuances. He traveled from one kibbutz to the next, with his small group of musicians, and simply performed them spreading arousing, funny, and joyful music at wedding ceremonies, feasts and dances. The renaissance of the Klezmer was then to take its course.

Klezmer music is one of those “you-­know­-it­-when-­you-­hear-­it” music genres that has a nostalgic feel. It brings us back to that Old World sound. It is a wonderful thing when cultures embrace their roots, and keep their heritage living thru song and dance.

Listen to this beautiful clip from Giora Feidman.

About the Author
Arielle Adler was born in the Netherlands and has lived in Israel since 1993. She is an International marketing, corporate communications and channel marketing professional with more than 10 years of experience at international B2B and B2C companies in various industries.