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Klezmer Rhythms and Dances
An overview on some of the klezmer song types, dances and rhythms
Freylakhs:The Freylakhs is a (3+3+2=8) joyful
circle dance. The piano (accordeon, bass) plays a duple oom-pah while the drums play the beat. The tempo is
moderate to bright. The structure is composed of two or three sections with height or sixteen measure phrases.
No doubt that the Freylakhs is one of the more popular klezmer dance. "Tarras's Freylakhs","Naphtaly's Freylakhs",
The name Bulgar maybe refers to the Bulgarian minority of Southern Bessarabia. The bulgar is somewhat slower than
the freylakhs but his construction is more complex, it is similar to the Sirba and the Israelian Hora. The Bulgars
were very popular in the New World, favorite of Dave Tarras. Some well-known Bulgars: "Bb minor Bulgar by Dave
Tarras", "Dovid Shpil Es Noch A Moll", "Heyser Bulgar", "Keshener Bulgar"...
It is a very common dance in 2/4, similar to the
Russian quadrille or the American square dance. The tempo is moderate to fast.
Sher means scissors and there is a few interpretations why this name was chosen: the leg's movement of the dancers
is perhaps a remembering of the blade's scissors motion, or maybe it was the favorite dance of the barbers or the
This is a hassidic
dance with a 2/4 or 4/4 performed in circle or in line. The tempo accelerate gradually to reach an ecstatic
"Oi Tate", Bayem Rebe's Sude", "Ukrainer Khusidl"...
This dance's tempo is slow and may not be confused with
the Israelian Hora which have a fast pace. The measure is 3/8 with the beat on 1 and 3. The hora has Romanian roots
and is played with a lot of embellishments according to the mood and talent of the player.
Very fast tempo
in 2/4 is a fast popular dance from Ukraina.
The Terkish can be
assimilate to the the Turkish Tsiftetelli, the Spanish Habanera or the Greek Syrtos. It has a Oriental taste,
played in duple meter whith a moderate tempo.
Naftule Brandwein made the Turkish famous. " Terk in America", "Araber tantz", "Der
Yid in Yerushalaym" are some of the Naftule's favorite songs.
A 2 beat dance
which is like a virtuoso Freylakhs and can be instrumental only.
The Taksim was more
played in Terkish and Muslim Balkanic countries, it is roughly an improvisation, a prologue, an overture to the
next piece. It was replaced later by the Doina.
Like the Taksim the
Doina is not a dance but an improvisational free-metered piece aimed at listening.
Originaly it is a Romanian sheperd's lament and it is also a reminiscence of the
(Cantor of the Synagogue). The etymology of the word 'doina' can be from the Sanskrit. The
Doina has a high lyrical quality which bestows to the player a large palette of expressiveness and allows him
to showcase his improvisational talent. It is ordinary played by the clarinet or the fiddler who performs a suite
of short melodic sequences that lead to chord changes. The accompaniment consists of long sustained notes or chords
played by the accordion or the tsimbl. The Doina is also a prelude (forshpil) to the following piece, a Hora,
Terkish, Bulgar or Khusidl ('nokhshpil'). Dave Tarras, Naftule Brandwein as well as the
Feidman and Andy Statman among many others played beautiful
Nigun is an Hebrew
word which means melody. It is a wordless song and through the Nigun the Klezmer player can express the deepest of
his emotions. Giora
Feidman is the clarinet player who brought the nigun to the highest
level of expressiveness.
There are a lot of dances that were borrowed to the local cultures, the
Hungarian Csardas (immortalized by Monty, a must for every clarinet player), the
the Russian Kosatchok, the Waltz, the Polka, The Mazurka, the March, the Quadrille,
the Ragtime, Jazz and many others. The klezmer cannot be confined in academic stereotypes and must
reflect the universality of musical expression.
A few words about The Israelian
The “hora” is now the traditional folklorik dance of Israel.
It is a joyful and buoyant dance where dancers gather in a circle. As the song goes by the rhythm quickens, the
tempo become more staccato,the dancers move around quicker and quicker.
The origin of the hora is from an agricultural rite, a primitive ritual for
celebrating the harvest. The leaps, the jumps and the arms towards the
sky symbolize the upward growth of the crops. In fact in many cultures
all over the world people gather and dance
celebrating the power of nature. The message is universal, the dance is universal,
the soul expression has no frontier. Let's dream and imagine a Hora
around the world where all mankind are dancing in a big circle celebrating the peace.
Indeed “Hora' is a Serbo-Croatian word meaning tempo and movement. It was associated
with prosperity, harvesting and fertility, therefore it was the dance of joy, the dance of marriage
celebration. The Sephardi Jews who flew the inquisition and migrate to
the Balkan adopted the Hora. Now the Hora is the most popular folklorik dance in Israel.
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