About Klezmer Music

Ranging from exhilarating dance tunes to soulful, probing melodies, Klezmer music sprang from the fertile cultural ground of Yiddish culture in Europe. The singing styles of cantors, Yiddish folk music, and the various folk musics of central and Eastern Europe all influenced the stylistic development of klezmer music.

The term klezmer came from the Yiddish version of the Hebrew words for musical instrument (literally, vessel of song). Klezmer ensembles were originally instrumental, and often consisted of a lead and second violin, a bass, and perhaps a flute, cimbalom, drum, and/or cymbal. Later the ensembles grew to 10-15 players, and the clarinet was added as another lead instrument.


Like the Gypsies, with whom they often performed, Eastern European klezmer musicians were professionals who were sought after for festive occasions in both the Jewish and Christian communities. Thus, they often knew and played the folk styles of several different ethnicities.

In the great wave of Yiddish immigration to the United States at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, many klezmer musicians came to New York. Some continued klezmer performances while others mixed in with the New York jazz and Yiddish theater scenes. Combined with the large-scale extinction of European Yiddish culture and musicians in the Holocaust, this led America to be the new locus of klezmer activity. However, by the middle of the 20th century, interest in this old world style had faded considerably, and there was comparatively little klezmer activity.

The current klezmer revival began in the 1970s, and has continued steadily to the present. More and more musicians and audiences, even those without a Yiddish cultural background, are finding this music irresistibly appealing. Oy Klezmer!, Atlanta’s first dedicated klezmer ensemble, is part of this revival.

Contact Oy Klezmer!

SUSAN J. CLEARMAN
phone: (828) 526-2078
E-mail: savory@luxnova.com
or
CHIP EPSTEN
phone: (404) 223-5343
fax: (404) 577-1739
E-mail: cepsten@mindspring.com

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