Genres of Jewish Music
Music & Cultural Festival embraces all forms of Jewish musical genres:
Klezmer, folk, theater, contemporary, blues, jazz, Hasidic, religious, and Ladino.
The Klezmer genre, which first made
its appearance five centuries ago, is the traditional instrumental music of the
Jews of Eastern Europe. Among the Hasidism, Jews were encouraged to express
their piety through the ecstatic fervor of music and dance. The term Klezmer
derives from the Hebrew words “kley zemer," which mean vessel of music or
musical instrument. The soulful music of the synagogue mixed with the
verve of Gypsy melody is crucial to the Klezmer sound. Lively dances known as
freylakhs, bulgars, horas, and shers are interspersed with soulful doinas and
were not only residents in the small backwater shtetls (villages). They were
just as likely to be found in the major European cities playing life-cycle
events; such as weddings, “bris’s” (circumcisions), bar mitzvahs, dances
and parties, and even in concert halls.
with the immigration of Jews from Europe came their musical culture. In the New
World, the musicians as members of large bands were able to rise from the base
poverty they had previously known. They were exposed to jazz and readily
incorporated it into their repertoire. Jewish music also found a willing partner
in the Yiddish theater companies that dotted Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The
Jewish theater, and later the movies, gave to the community a vast store of song
and dance still enjoyed today.
The music of the Jewish liturgy is
also part of our musical heritage, and it often finds expression in secular
settings outside the synagogue in concerts and festivals.
Ladino is the secular language of Sephardic, or
Spanish-speaking, Jews. Their musical legacy reflects the Iberian culture in
rhythm and tonality, and is vastly different from the sound of Eastern European
music. However expressed, all musical genres reflect the same life cycle events:
birth, childhood, love, marriage, joy, and parting.