(text of Yaël ZAZAC)

A festive music with nostalgic inflections; festival Music with Yiddish accents, the klezmer is transmitted generation to generation since the Middle Ages. Characterized by variations of rhythm and tempo, dissonances and a part of improvisation, this music expresses at the same time nostalgic and merry emotion thanks to the sounds of the violin and clarinet. It approaches the human voice through a flexible, sharp and moderate instrumental expression.


The klezmer music is lively and invites to dance. In the Middle Ages, the klezmorim (Jewish muscians) go across the villages of Eastern Europe to animate marriages and festivals there. Little considered (they are in the bottom of social scale), they however are welcomed because they bring news of the shtetl (villages) close by, some of them even go very far, crossing the borders of their country. In 19th century, the klezmer music opens with other musical styles. Impregnated by liturgical and hassidic topics, it is under the influence of the traditional musics of central and Eastern Europe.(Russian, Rumanian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Greek, Othoman and especially gypsy). It also changes thanks to the introduction, around 1860, of the clarinet in orchestras. This instrument, today emblematic of this music as well as the violin, has no a links with the folklore of the crossed countries but with the military brass bands frequented by some Jewish musicians.

At the end of the 19th century, the Jews of Eastern Europe undergo persecutions and famine whereas the Yiddish culture - in particular theatre and music - is at its top. Fleeing from pogroms, more than 1,5 million of them settle in the United States. Since 1910, the klezmer music starts to be recorded there before being a real commercial success in the years 1920 with musicians like Naftule Brandwein or Dave Tarras.


With the crisis of 1929 and the installation of quotas of immigration forty years of silence begin from. Many musicians issued from klezmer such as Benny Goodman or Artie Schaw put themselves at the jazz, perhaps more lucrative. The klezmer style , very expressionnist, not so distant from this music in full rise, the practice of clarinet enables the Jewish musicians to take part, in between the two-war and the Fifties, with jazz movements jazz of various natures (Chicago, swing and West Coast, etc). Musical style enhence mutually.

Revival of klezmer music in United States and all over the world begins during 1970. Musicians from différent horizons (classical, jazz, folk, pop, etc) like Giora Feidman, Zev Feldman, Andy Statman, Henry Sapoznik (Kapelye group) or Lev Liberman (The Klezmorim), most of them Jews,, but not only, go on stage and produce records.

Since then new American artists, for the majority, give a boom to that music in different styles.Their influences come from the jazz (Honest Old World, John Zorn, David Krakauer…),rock'n'roll (The Klezmatics, Avi Piamenta…) or ethnical musics (Pharaon' S Daughter, Bustan Abraham…). We find also in europe many groups with varied styles as the French groups Klezmer Nova (with jazz tendency jazz), Le grand Klezmer (more traditional) or, since 1997, Azad (with oriental Europe tones).

To have more details on the history of the klezmer music, you can go on the site of Michel BORZYKOWSKI :

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