What is Klezmer? It’s gaining a lot of popularity, but what do we really know about klezmer? Alicia Svigals, a renowned klezmer fiddler, sets straight some of the misconceptions of klezmer music and talks about its growth in popularity – even beyond the Jewish population!
Alicia on Misconceptions about klezmer: “It is not all fast ‘hora’ music; klezmer has the full range of moods, modes and tempos, from solemn ceremonial melodies, to elegant cocktail hour background music, all the way up to the crazy fast stuff.”
“Klezmer is a cousin of “Hebrew” music, aka “simkhe (simcha) dancing music” – the music popular at orthodox and modern orthodox events – but it is not the same. We do mix that repertoire in whenever we have a crowd that will enjoy it though. But klezmer is essentially non-religious, instrumental party music and you don’t have to be religious for it to be on your playlist!”“You don’t have to have an all-Jewish crowd either – we’ve played mitzvahs full of non-Jewish kids and they totally get into it. And at our mixed marriages, non-Jewish family members always seem psyched to do something interesting and new. Klezmer really gets the crowd on the dance floor!”
View More Details About Alicia Svigals
“Our band also plays rock, pop, R&B, jazz standards – they are top-notch New York City musicians who have toured and recorded with the greats and can do practically anything you ask for.”
Klezmer has a healing effect – Alicia shares this unusual anecdotes about klezmer tunes. “I co-led a band for many years called the Klezmatics – at one show, a woman approached us to let us know that she loved our CDs and that one of our ‘bulgars’ (fast dance tune) had evidently brought her mother out of a coma! We can’t guarantee that result every time though…”
We asked Alicia what she has on her ipod. Much like her band’s repertoire, her ipod has a wide range of music. “On my ipod in addition to klezmer: Charlie Parker’s bebop sax, Anne Sophie-Mutter playing Mozart violin concertos, Led Zeppelin (I played on a Plant and Page reunion tour in the ’90s and am a big fan), Audioslave, Greek underworld pop music of the ’20’s, and everything in between.” Obviously Alicia’s tastes and love of music expands beyond klezmer – and she incorporates many of those genres into her performances.
Want to know where klezmer originated and why we think of klezmer as a fast hora? Here is Alicia’s quick background summary of klezmer. “Klezmer is the original heritage party music of Jews whose families came from Russia, Poland, Roumania etc. Far more than Hava Nagilah, there are hundreds of klezmer tunes which range from dignified khosidls to frenetic bulgars. Each kind of tune has its own dance which our dance leaders expertly guide the guests through, for the hora experience of a lifetime – way beyond just running in a circle, they are easy to follow and a total blast to do! Klezmer is kid music in spirit and the kids will outdance the adults… and its euphoric, celebratory music which sends brides and grooms and their guests over the moon.”
Enjoy this video of Alicia ‘at work’ and learn more about Alicia Svigals
We’d love to hear your comments or experiences with Klezmer.