Klezmer Timeshift


Klezmer

Michael Grade narrates the story of klezmer, from its origins in Jewish folk music performed at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs to a musical sensation enjoyed by millions worldwide.


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Transcript


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And now, ladies and gentlemen,

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klezmer tune!

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What's klezmer?

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I haven't the faintest idea.

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What is klezmer?

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It's a music that manages to mean many things to many people.

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I always think of it as Jewish jazz, in terms of expression

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and what it evokes.

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I would define it as joy with tears.

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HE PLAYS A DESCENDING SCALE

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It's the music that accompanied every ceremony,

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every big moment in the life of the Jewish community.

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HUMS "Hava Nagila"

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First impressions are that klezmer is a simple music

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for simple pleasures,

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but it's built on something much more profound.

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A need for a people to express the things

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that were beyond religion.

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A bit like a Sufi Islam idea too,

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that the music that your body produces

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is a direct contact with your soul.

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It's your soul expressing itself.

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So the term "klezmer", I think,

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refers to anything that has come from

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East European Jewish wedding music.

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As played by Yiddish-speaking people.

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Mazel tov!

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"Klezmer" is an ancient word

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that traditionally meant "instrument" or "musician"

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but since the 1970s,

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it has been used to define a whole musical genre.

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Klezmer has a distinctive sound.

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This tune is a freylakhs, a dance tune.

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"Freylakhs" is Yiddish for "joy"

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and it's the joyfulness of the music that is immediately attractive.

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Draws a crowd, makes people want to dance.

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They don't know what it is, but they know it's fun.

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There's a reason, it's a satisfying harmony,

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it's beautiful music and the tunes just work.

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There is a spirit of klezmer

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that I suppose, if you were Jewish, you would think

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is your heritage coming through, but you can feel that

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without having Jewish heritage, it seems.

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BAND PLAYS: "On Een Goppe"

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# Spelen op een goppe man dat leek altijd te kloppen

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# Of het nou bij Jidden was of niet 't was altijd raak

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# Hadden geen bureau'tje maar het was ook nooit een zooitje

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# Waren wij op straat, bliezen we ons uit de naad... #

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From its origins -

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as East European Jewish wedding music,

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as played by Yiddish-speaking people -

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klezmer has gone global.

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# ..Wijn, bier en stuf is voor na de gig... #

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Now played from Amsterdam to Australia, by Jews and non-Jews,

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it's a language and a style that's become accessible to everyone.

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# ..Hey! Joppie, wat is er jongen?

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-# Feestje!

-Zijn net begonnen

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-#

-Blazen!

-Dat is ons leven... #

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What today we call klezmer

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began as a collection of tunes and dances for special events.

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And, like life itself, there was a lot more to it than just joy.

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MOURNFUL SINGING

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To begin to understand klezmer,

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and particularly what lies at the heart of its unique sound,

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it helps to know a bit of history.

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2,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived in the Middle East,

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under imperial Roman rule.

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When the Jews rose up in revolt,

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the Roman army destroyed the Temple of Solomon,

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killing many of the Jewish population

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and driving the rest out of the country.

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The Jews became a people without a homeland.

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It was a cry.

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A lot of crying.

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And actually, it was reflected

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in the prayers also.

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Everyday prayers about Jerusalem,

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about impossibility to come back to their homeland,

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and every day, Jews were praying and crying

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so this cry was reflected in the prayers, in the singing.

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HE SINGS IN HEBREW

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In many synagogues, prayers are sung rather than spoken

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in order to give them emotional impact.

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The person who sings them is called a cantor.

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The musical scales the cantor uses came out of the Middle East

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and klezmer borrows from these same scales, or modes.

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What a mode is - it's, if you like, a collection of mini tunes

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or it could be...

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a succession of notes,

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for example, "da, da-da-da-da-da-da-da."

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You would not really find that in Western music

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because it's neither major nor a minor scale,

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but it is a Jewish scale, if you like,

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and whether it's a cantor or a klezmer player,

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they will be playing or singing in these modes

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and that's what gives the music its Eastern flavour, if you like.

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If you think of the normal major scale,

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which we have in Western music.

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That's a normal major, and that...

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It's become so bland that we don't even really notice it as a scale,

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but the klezmer major scale...

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..immediately sounds really different, exciting and unusual.

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So that's called the Ahava Raba.

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And there's also a minor scale.

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The Western minor scale is...

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Which again, sounds like nothing very much.

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But the klezmer minor scale, called the Mi Shebeirach, is...

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And it's these intervals...

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..which are wider than the normal intervals

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you would get in a Western scale,

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are what makes it really exciting.

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The sound of klezmer has changed over hundreds of years,

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as different instruments have come along.

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Two sounds now predominate - the clarinet and the violin,

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both of which emulate the human voice.

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And early musicians used these instruments

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to create another key part of the klezmer sound -

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the krekhts.

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# Ya-da-da-da da-da doich-dam... #

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It has all those flavours, all that...

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That particular ornament is called a krekhts.

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"Krekhts" means to gasp, or moan, or sob, or sigh,

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and Yiddish cantorial music and Yiddish folk song

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and klezmer music is full of that "Oy, oy oy oy" style.

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And it's like a sob in the back of the throat.

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So that's one. There's another one, which is sometimes called a kvetch,

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which I believe means whining or complaining.

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It's a very special kind of...

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..intonation that, for me, is like, "Oy, oy!" You know,

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it's like you're making your violin speak in Yiddish.

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So our destiny, you know, everything is fine, but oy vey!

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Oy vey!

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To play klezmer, you have to understand this.

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During the early 19th century,

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there were over five million Jews living in Eastern Europe,

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many in ghetto communities in cities

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and others in villages known as shtetls.

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Life for the majority was basic and difficult.

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Jews could only live in permitted areas

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and were restricted to particular professions.

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The occasions they could forget their troubles

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were during religious and secular celebrations,

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in which klezmer music played a central part,

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as did the people who performed it -

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the musicians known as klezmorim.

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The klezmorim were freelance professional musicians

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available for weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs.

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They had more freedom than was usual for Jews at the time,

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which gave them a certain reputation.

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They were kind of the bad boys of the Jewish old world,

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in that they didn't respect what they were told

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by the people in the Synagogue.

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They were in the community,

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but also not in the committee.

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They weren't like a proper Jew, who has to follow all the traditions.

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When you've a gypsy life, you are a little bit different.

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You do not follow all the rules.

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When you play, you have to be creative.

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When you're creative, you break the rules.

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We don't know a lot about the klezmorim.

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Secular music was not considered important enough to document.

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By all accounts, they were low down in the pecking order

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and it was by no means a lucrative profession.

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You wouldn't want your daughter to marry one,

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but no wedding was complete without them.

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Weddings, weddings were the most...

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were the main place

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where klezmer musicians could play and earn some money.

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Weddings brought whole communities together for a good time

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and for this, a band was fundamental.

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In fact, there is an old Yiddish saying,

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"A pish un a fortz iz vi a khasene un a klezmer!"

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Literally - "A piss without a fart is like a wedding without a band."

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Klezmer accompanied every part of the ceremony.

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There were melodies to escort the families between homes,

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melodies to greet the guests,

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and melodies for seating the bride.

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The band would process through the streets, gathering the guests.

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That would be the first thing.

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They would play a type of tune that's in...

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We now play it in three

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and it goes something like this.

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They had to string together a whole load of tunes in that time signature,

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then they would stop at each house and people would come out

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and then they would move on

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until they got to the moment where they're going to play for the bride.

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What's interesting about a Jewish wedding

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is that often, the piece one would play for the bride

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can be quite a tearjerker, not an upbeat

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sort of happy tune, necessarily,

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you know, it's actually often about making everybody cry

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and feel kind of moved.

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The bridegroom would sing, "Oh, my beloved bride.

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"Now has come the time in your life when you must leave your home.

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"You thought life was hard before, now it's going to be even harder.

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"You'll have to raise children,

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"the pain of which is too terrible for words.

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"You'll be on your own.

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"Your husband will go out and pray all day and go to work,

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"and you'll be sat home with the children..."

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All this kind of terrible message about adulthood

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and, "You're leaving your mother who's looked after you

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"and now you're responsible for doing this yourself..."

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And she'd cry.

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Weddings were usually outdoors, under a canopy, or khupe,

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symbolising the home the bride and groom were about to enter together.

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Sometimes, the groom would also be tested on his resolve.

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They would explain to him that this was the day of no going back,

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this was the day of reckoning with God.

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Now you must... All your knowledge of Hebrew

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and your knowledge of the Bible must come together

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and you must be a proper man, now that you're being married.

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You have responsibilities. It was quite austere and quite serious.

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And he would cry too.

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With everyone thoroughly miserable,

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the ceremony would build to its climax.

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The bride and groom would sip from a cup of wine...

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the ring would be placed...

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and then the moment everyone had been waiting for.

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When the groom says, "I will remember the Jerusalem,"

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and he breaks the glass. Dsh!

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UPBEAT MUSIC AND CLAPPING IN TIME

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This was the cue for the band to launch into a freylekhs -

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a joyful tune.

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The majority of klezmer tunes are upbeat,

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and at weddings, guests have a duty to entertain the bride and groom

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by dancing.

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'They have to dance, they have no choice.'

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You have to stand up and dance, otherwise you are not a Jew!

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HE LAUGHS

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You have to be happy - it's mitzvah!

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It's a good thing to say, mitzvah, to do.

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It's mitzvah to dance and mitzvah to be happy at the wedding.

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'Its rhythm's extraordinary.'

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It's not there to make everybody go, "Yeah, that's groovy,"

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it's there to make everybody get out of their seat

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and throw themselves around and eat matzos.

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These infectious dance numbers were designed to release the emotions

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and keep people up on their feet for hours.

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It's about feeling the beat on the one.

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You know, like, feeling very grounded into the earth,

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and that's why, you know, klezmer's a real true dance genre

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because you feel like you want to just bounce off the, sort of,

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the first beat in the bar and, kind of, move with it.

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For the Jews of Eastern Europe,

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klezmer acted as a kind of sonic glue.

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One of the things that bound them together as a people.

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There are songs that everybody knows,

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at every wedding you've ever been to,

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and that, somehow, adds to the meaning of the occasion

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because you remember the last time it was played.

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You remember all the times in your life that it was played and you danced.

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You remember the steps and maybe you were holding hands with different people,

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but there's something about that repetition that is very powerful

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and that has that link back through the generations.

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'Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all very much!

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'There'll be a lot more dancing later on in the evening.

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'For now, we invite you back to your tables. Thank you.'

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The East European Klezmorim didn't just play for Jews,

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they performed for non-Jews too,

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which required a completely different playlist.

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What we have to remember is that Klezmorim didn't just play,

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kind of, klezmer tunes. You know, it was a very fluid repertoire

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and there was a lot of borrowing that went on

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from other indigenous peoples who lived round and about.

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So whether that was the Turkish community, or the Poles, you know,

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plenty of polkas in the Jewish repertoire.

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Plenty of Romanian tunes.

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In Poland, for example, in Poland, there is polka, in Russia kazachok.

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That the klezmer players were from an outcast culture

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only made them more interesting.

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And sometimes, they were asked to play something Jewish.

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"Can you play for us something Jewish?" To laugh!

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"Ha-ha-ha, it sounds so interesting, so funny! It's not ours!" You know?

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They were asked to play, and when they are asked to play, they have to pay!

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Even nowadays, when you come to a Russian restaurant

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and if you request a song, you have to give some money.

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I play in Russian restaurants and this tradition...

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..they don't understand.

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British people, when they come to a Russian restaurant,

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they just request, request, request, but we are the musicians! HE LAUGHS

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We say, "No! No, no, no, you have to put some money."

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And this is, this tradition actually develops the musician.

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Encourages the musician to know more, more songs.

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The klezmorim often played with another outcast group, the gypsies.

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In fact, under Russian law, Jews and Gypsies

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were the only two groups permitted to be professional musicians

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outside an orchestra.

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And both sets of musicians were catalysts for change.

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Both Jewish musicians and Gypsy musicians in Eastern Europe

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took, kind of, popular music

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and did something else with it so that things that were,

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kind of, ballroom or even court, you know, as in Royal Court,

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waltzes and polkas, and things like that, became something else,

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and developed into, you know, the bulgars, and the freylekhs,

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and the horas that you associate with klezmer music.

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So klezmer was a magpie music, made up of many different elements.

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And there was yet one more influence

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that would add a spiritual note to the mix,

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and that came from the Hasidim.

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HE CHANTS RAPIDLY IN HEBREW

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The Hasids are mystic sects within the Jewish faith.

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They gave klezmer some of its most beautiful tunes,

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that grew out of wordless songs that they sang to connect with God.

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'They're the mystical Jews. They're like the Rastas.

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'In fact, I think there's a good reason why

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'there's a similarity of appearance.'

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They have spiritual concerns more at the front of their consciousness

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and they no doubt pour that into the music.

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WORDLESS SINGING

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What sounds like football chanting is in fact a nigun,

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a style of song particular to the Hasids.

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WORDLESS SINGING

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'Hasidic tradition is all around nigunim.

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'So the singing of wordless melodies. And very much'

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about - I'm glad I've got a table here - but very much about, like, table pounding.

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So banging on the table, drinking some slivovitz, or whatever.

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Kind of, singing for hours, reaching a real state of ecstasy,

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and transportation through the singing of these wordless songs.

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WORDLESS SINGING

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'They are ecstatic.

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'They will sing a tune for half an hour'

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and dance to it, and sing this one tune over and over again,

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until they achieve an almost trance-like state,

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which they call deveikus - union with God.

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WORDLESS SINGING

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These nigunim are symbolic of the rebel spirit

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in which Hasidism was born in the 18th century,

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as a grassroots reaction against the religious establishment.

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The establishment was very much about learning Torah for its own sake

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and emphasising less, perhaps, the more spiritual, mystical aspects of Judaism,

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and I think the common people couldn't really identify with that so much.

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And the Hasidim said, "Even if you are not able to learn

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"at the same level as some of the great rabbis, but everybody can sing,

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"dance, they can drink alcohol!

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"They can get to God in a spiritual way

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"and in a way that approaches God from the heart."

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WORDLESS SINGING

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'I once had a night in Poland singing these songs'

0:24:150:24:19

and we were banging the table

0:24:190:24:20

for hours, and drinking slivovitz,

0:24:200:24:22

and singing these songs, and by

0:24:220:24:24

the end, it felt as if the table was,

0:24:240:24:26

like, coming up to meet our hands.

0:24:260:24:29

It was so, like, immensely powerful.

0:24:290:24:31

WORDLESS SINGING

0:24:310:24:34

'What's important to realise is that 150 years ago, in Eastern Europe,

0:24:390:24:43

'if you were a non-Hasidic Jew,

0:24:430:24:46

'you would have Hasidim living right next to you.'

0:24:460:24:49

So, their system of prayer, and their system of song,

0:24:490:24:53

and their system of melody writing would have influenced everybody,

0:24:530:24:57

and some of the greatest tunes of the klezmer repertoire

0:24:570:25:00

have come from the Hasidim.

0:25:000:25:02

The most famous klezmer tune in the world

0:25:270:25:29

came from a Hasidic nigun.

0:25:290:25:31

CRACKLING RECORDING

0:25:310:25:33

# Hava nagila

0:25:330:25:36

# Hava nagila

0:25:360:25:40

# Hava nagila, ve-nis'meha... #

0:25:400:25:47

Hava Nagila, originally a wordless melody from the Ukraine.

0:25:480:25:52

It was set to words in the early 1900s.

0:25:520:25:55

Throughout the 20th century,

0:26:010:26:03

Hava Nagila was to increase in tempo and popularity,

0:26:030:26:07

while traditional klezmer was to find itself in eclipse.

0:26:070:26:11

In the late 19th century, there was little demand for joyful music,

0:26:230:26:27

as the Jews of Eastern Europe faced terrifying times.

0:26:270:26:30

Millions fled from a sustained campaign of persecution

0:26:300:26:34

and anti-Semitism.

0:26:340:26:36

By the 1920s, around two million had left for America,

0:26:380:26:42

about 150,000 came to the UK.

0:26:420:26:45

The largest of the Jewish communities here lived in London's East End.

0:26:460:26:50

Some hung on to the culture they came from.

0:26:500:26:53

Many, however, wanted nothing more to do with it.

0:26:530:26:56

I think my grandparents turned their back

0:26:580:27:00

on the lives that they left behind,

0:27:000:27:05

because it was unhappy memories, probably,

0:27:050:27:07

and because they wanted to fit in.

0:27:070:27:09

Unlike today, where a lot of people come from abroad and come here,

0:27:120:27:16

they still don't want to be part of Great Britain...

0:27:160:27:19

..the Jewish immigrants did want to become part of Britain,

0:27:210:27:25

so they became as English as they possibly could.

0:27:250:27:28

MUSIC: "Painting The Clouds With Sunshine" by Jack Hylton

0:27:280:27:32

This meant doing things the English way.

0:27:330:27:35

Like going to Bournemouth on holiday...

0:27:370:27:40

..tea with milk, and playing tombola...

0:27:410:27:43

..and learning how to cook with margarine.

0:27:440:27:47

Klezmer had no part in this world.

0:27:480:27:50

And, anyway, Britain was buzzing to its own music.

0:27:500:27:53

They danced to the big bands -

0:27:550:27:57

Jack Payne, Jack Hylton,

0:27:570:27:59

Billy Cotton, Victor Silvester - those were the bands of the day.

0:27:590:28:04

But it wasn't Jewish dancing.

0:28:040:28:07

Never.

0:28:070:28:08

# When I pretend I'm gay

0:28:080:28:11

# I never feel that way

0:28:110:28:13

# I'm only painting the clouds with sunshine... #

0:28:130:28:18

So, although my grandmother would sing My Yiddishe Momme -

0:28:190:28:22

I mean, she would sing it in Yiddish, as well -

0:28:220:28:24

she also had Doris Day, you know.

0:28:240:28:26

And she also liked other forms of music.

0:28:260:28:29

You see, I don't think the Jews in Britain really ever formed

0:28:350:28:39

a society which would need folk music in that way.

0:28:390:28:43

I'm trying to think of anywhere that anybody would have actually

0:28:430:28:46

performed klezmer music as a folk music for dancing and parties.

0:28:460:28:49

Jewish weddings became more British, too, and it seemed that

0:28:520:28:56

the entire wedding repertoire had boiled down to just one tune.

0:28:560:29:00

HE HUMS "HAVA NAGILA"

0:29:000:29:02

And my sister and I would look at them and think they were mad,

0:29:020:29:05

because Joyce and I loved jitterbugging and jiving, and that...

0:29:050:29:10

We knew nothing about that.

0:29:110:29:13

I thought, as a little boy, that Jewish weddings were really boring.

0:29:150:29:19

There would be none of the kind of wonderful madness that is klezmer.

0:29:190:29:22

They probably would sing Hava Nagila,

0:29:230:29:26

and so you'd all get into this huge circle,

0:29:260:29:28

but if you were little, you'd just get trampled on.

0:29:280:29:31

So I'd emerge from the wedding completely bruised and bored,

0:29:310:29:36

and my parents would wonder why I wouldn't go to the social functions

0:29:360:29:40

of the family after that, but there we are.

0:29:400:29:43

The urgent liveliness that was klezmer seemed to have become culturally redundant.

0:29:460:29:51

But there was still a spark.

0:29:530:29:55

How do we know?

0:29:550:29:57

Because someone made a record of Derek Reid's Bar Mitzvah.

0:29:570:30:01

BAND PLAYS "HAVA NAGILA"

0:30:040:30:06

The band playing is The Musicants,

0:30:100:30:13

house band and klezmorim to a restaurant called Silverstein's

0:30:130:30:19

in the East End of London.

0:30:190:30:20

This particular occasion is my Bar Mitzvah on 16th May in 1959.

0:30:220:30:29

-RECORDING:

-From Yorkshire?

0:30:290:30:30

Yes, I travelled all the way back

0:30:300:30:32

from Harrogate in Yorkshire to come to Derek's Bar Mitzvah.

0:30:320:30:36

Well, that's at least something worthwhile recording!

0:30:360:30:38

LAUGHTER

0:30:380:30:40

At this particular thing, I watched most of the adults

0:30:400:30:43

thoroughly enjoying themselves,

0:30:430:30:44

because I couldn't do the antics some of them were doing.

0:30:440:30:48

But they seemed to enjoy it,

0:30:480:30:49

and as you hear it, you'll also hear one of my mother's uncles

0:30:490:30:53

actually going straight past the microphone...

0:30:530:30:55

GLEEFUL YELP

0:30:550:30:58

Derek grew up in an East End family of traditional musicians

0:31:000:31:04

and storytellers who'd kept their traditions going

0:31:040:31:07

and loved the old tunes.

0:31:070:31:09

This particular piece is based on the Cossack dance,

0:31:130:31:17

if you know what the Cossack dance is.

0:31:170:31:20

It's to go down, bend the knees, kick them out, and jump up.

0:31:200:31:24

In Yiddish expression, it's called a kazatske,

0:31:240:31:27

and it normally is a piece that is played at...

0:31:270:31:32

..weddings and...

0:31:340:31:35

Or should I say, it used to be - it's not very often heard today.

0:31:350:31:39

Klezmer was hanging on, but only just.

0:31:420:31:45

There was no foreseeable future for it in the UK.

0:31:450:31:47

I know, having spoken to one of the younger members of The Musicants,

0:31:490:31:56

that most of the boys of the younger generation were actually advised

0:31:560:32:01

by their fathers, who were the musicians of the band -

0:32:010:32:04

70-plus, when I was a kid they actually were advised

0:32:040:32:09

to go into serious, classical music.

0:32:090:32:13

Vladimir Ashkenazy's father was a klezmer,

0:32:130:32:17

and he was told, "You can't make a living at this,

0:32:170:32:21

"go into serious music."

0:32:210:32:23

Klezmer's loss was Western music's gain,

0:32:330:32:36

not just in classical music, but across the board.

0:32:360:32:40

The Jewish influence on English popular music,

0:32:400:32:44

on a Richter scale of one to 16, is 17.

0:32:440:32:48

They were able to assimilate, and then develop.

0:32:480:32:52

I worked in the music industry myself, as you know, and...

0:32:540:32:57

..always Jewish people there.

0:32:580:33:00

I mean, they were always running it, it was a business.

0:33:000:33:03

It's a good business, you know?

0:33:030:33:05

It was show business.

0:33:050:33:07

One of the most successful post-war composers was Lionel Begleiter,

0:33:070:33:13

better known as Lionel Bart.

0:33:130:33:15

Born into an East End Jewish family,

0:33:150:33:18

he would have grown up around Yiddish culture and klezmer music.

0:33:180:33:22

In his most famous musical, Oliver, Bart reached back into that

0:33:220:33:27

heritage to give the Jewish thief, Fagin, a klezmer-esque swansong.

0:33:270:33:32

# A man's got a heart

0:33:350:33:37

# Hasn't he?

0:33:380:33:39

# Joking apart

0:33:420:33:44

# Hasn't he?

0:33:450:33:47

# And though I'd be the first one to say that I wasn't a saint

0:33:500:33:54

# I'm finding it hard to be really as black as they paint

0:33:570:34:01

# I'm... re...viewing

0:34:060:34:11

# The situation

0:34:110:34:14

# Can a fella be a villain all his life?

0:34:140:34:18

# All the trials and tribulations

0:34:180:34:22

# Better settle down

0:34:220:34:24

# And get myself a wife

0:34:240:34:25

# And the wife will cook and sew for me

0:34:250:34:27

# And come for me and go for me

0:34:270:34:29

# And go for me and nag at me

0:34:290:34:30

# The finger she would wag at me

0:34:300:34:31

# The money she would take off me!

0:34:310:34:33

# The misery she'd make of me!

0:34:330:34:37

# I think I'd better think it out again. #

0:34:370:34:40

ARCHIVE: Today is a gay day in Israel -

0:34:510:34:53

the festival of the fruit harvest.

0:34:530:34:55

One country that might have been expected to embrace klezmer

0:34:550:34:58

with open arms was the State of Israel,

0:34:580:35:02

which created, for the first time in 2,000 years, a homeland for Jews.

0:35:020:35:06

Their great grandfathers dreamed of such a thing,

0:35:060:35:09

for Israel is the meeting place of age-long dreams.

0:35:090:35:11

Some one million people gathered from around the world

0:35:130:35:15

and set about building a culture that would connect them as a nation.

0:35:150:35:19

These are the dances of biblical times, enjoying a new revival

0:35:200:35:24

by youngsters claiming their heritage for the first time,

0:35:240:35:28

casting back to their own beginnings for truths

0:35:280:35:31

and beauty that belong to them.

0:35:310:35:32

Surely, klezmer, the music that had meant so much to so many,

0:35:340:35:39

would prove a natural fit?

0:35:390:35:41

Imagine you're one of the first settlers in the land of Israel.

0:35:410:35:46

You're speaking Hebrew,

0:35:460:35:48

you're creating a brand-new culture in a brand-new land.

0:35:480:35:52

So anything that reminds you of the old world, the diaspora,

0:35:520:35:57

such as klezmer, the Yiddish language,

0:35:570:35:59

anything from that world is going to remind you of a time

0:35:590:36:03

where the Jews were not at home, were not in Israel.

0:36:030:36:07

And it's not going to be encouraged,

0:36:070:36:11

and you're probably going to not be that interested in it.

0:36:110:36:14

It's old.

0:36:140:36:16

When you're setting up a country from scratch

0:36:160:36:20

and you're trying to make a living selling pomegranates and navel oranges and avocado pears,

0:36:200:36:24

there isn't really the time to create the background of a society

0:36:240:36:27

which would then learn and cherish and nurture

0:36:270:36:31

an old custom like klezmer music.

0:36:310:36:34

Because, I think, klezmer music had gone from the planet, anyway, pretty well.

0:36:340:36:38

So they might as well play traditional jazz or sing Frank Sinatra.

0:36:380:36:41

MUSIC: "New York, New York"

0:36:430:36:45

If neither Britain nor Israel saw value in klezmer,

0:36:500:36:54

there was one country that would.

0:36:540:36:57

The 1970s saw America celebrate an important birthday

0:36:570:37:01

it was 200 years old as an independent nation,

0:37:010:37:04

and the bicentennial celebrations

0:37:040:37:06

sparked a new interest in the country's roots.

0:37:060:37:09

People from all ethnic groups began exploring their own ancestry.

0:37:110:37:16

It was one film in particular that fuelled nostalgia

0:37:160:37:19

for the descendants of Eastern European Jews.

0:37:190:37:23

# Tradition, tradition!

0:37:290:37:31

# Tradition!

0:37:330:37:34

# Tradition, tradition!

0:37:340:37:37

# Tradition! #

0:37:380:37:40

Fiddler on the Roof was an emotional touchstone

0:37:400:37:43

for reconnecting with a lost heritage.

0:37:430:37:46

Traditions, traditions.

0:37:460:37:49

Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as...

0:37:490:37:55

as...

0:37:550:37:56

as a fiddler on the roof.

0:37:560:37:59

The grandchildren of the immigrant generation had come face-to-face

0:38:030:38:10

with their backgrounds and thought, Grandma and Grandpa,

0:38:100:38:13

Bubbe and Zeyde, were wonderful people,

0:38:130:38:17

but they looked so old as youngsters.

0:38:170:38:20

What was it that kept them? Why did they have to work so...?

0:38:200:38:23

People started to look for roots.

0:38:230:38:26

People started to look back at where they had come from, their histories,

0:38:260:38:30

what their countries were, why the family had come West.

0:38:300:38:34

One of the people seeking answers was a banjo player

0:38:370:38:40

from Brooklyn called Henry Sapoznik.

0:38:400:38:42

The story goes that he was playing, I think, bluegrass music,

0:38:460:38:51

and people... You know, a Jewish gentleman -

0:38:510:38:54

and people were asking him, "Why don't you play your own music?"

0:38:540:38:59

And I think this made him stop and think,

0:38:590:39:02

"Why DON'T I play my own music?"

0:39:020:39:04

Sapoznik and others realised that their own music had all but gone.

0:39:040:39:09

Luckily, the mass immigration of Eastern European Jews in the early 1900s

0:39:090:39:14

had coincided with the beginning of the recording industry.

0:39:140:39:18

And among those immigrants had been klezmorim, who had made records.

0:39:180:39:22

Sapoznik began to collect them.

0:39:220:39:24

In the '70s, there was no internet.

0:39:250:39:28

You know, you couldn't go on YouTube and find it,

0:39:280:39:30

you really had to hunt around.

0:39:300:39:32

You had to go through old people's...

0:39:320:39:36

..treasures from their grandparents, probably.

0:39:370:39:40

And, you know, there were trunks under beds and, I don't know,

0:39:400:39:44

cellars full of bins of old stuff, and...

0:39:440:39:47

Kind of...all the good stuff about hoarding produced great treasures.

0:39:470:39:53

The result was a revelation to those searching for musical roots.

0:39:560:40:00

So these recordings actually represent a wonderful kind of document

0:40:150:40:19

of a tradition in transition that was happening at that time,

0:40:190:40:23

and we get a very strong idea of the culture as it was coming over

0:40:230:40:27

and its change in response to Americanisation.

0:40:270:40:30

I like to think of them as sort of three-minute musical rosetta stones.

0:40:320:40:35

That is, they unlock the secrets of this tradition.

0:40:350:40:39

So this is Abe Schwartz.

0:40:480:40:50

These records gave musicians a unique style guide

0:40:500:40:53

to the music and how to play it.

0:40:530:40:55

I might just speed it up a bit, actually.

0:40:550:40:57

There you go, you can hear the really lovely cracks that kind of...

0:40:590:41:03

Almost like a birdsong.

0:41:030:41:04

SHE SINGS

0:41:040:41:06

Like in the clarinet.

0:41:060:41:07

There's sort of one guy who's like chirping over the top.

0:41:080:41:11

SHE SINGS

0:41:110:41:13

And then...

0:41:130:41:15

They're really playing as a band.

0:41:150:41:17

But they're also kind of, like,

0:41:170:41:19

weaving their own little stories in there,

0:41:190:41:21

which is really, really lovely.

0:41:210:41:23

SHE HUMS

0:41:230:41:25

If you want to play klezmer music seriously,

0:41:420:41:44

you really have to go back to the old recordings.

0:41:440:41:46

Well, to the wax cylinder recordings,

0:41:460:41:49

and then, to the 78s.

0:41:490:41:50

And, probably, or this is what I did,

0:41:500:41:53

like, slow them down and listen to them, like, at half speed

0:41:530:41:57

and really get deeply, deeply into

0:41:570:42:00

what ornaments were being played

0:42:000:42:02

and the absolute minutiae

0:42:020:42:04

of kind of what was being done.

0:42:040:42:07

The first musicians to rediscover klezmer

0:42:160:42:19

remained as faithful as possible to the original.

0:42:190:42:22

All musicians, they crave a voice which they feel fluent in,

0:42:270:42:34

and they feel that they understand on an internal, emotional gut level.

0:42:340:42:40

And for many klezmer musicians, especially in America,

0:42:400:42:45

in this rebirth of klezmer,

0:42:450:42:48

they, they discovered this music for themselves.

0:42:480:42:52

One of the most typical ornaments in Yiddish music

0:42:520:42:55

is the bend followed by the trill...

0:42:550:42:57

In the 1980s, Sapoznik and others set up Klezcamp,

0:42:570:43:02

a music school to pass on what they had learned.

0:43:020:43:05

If you're not used to playing his music,

0:43:050:43:07

you might tend to play the tune like this.

0:43:070:43:10

Oh!

0:43:140:43:15

THEY CHUCKLE

0:43:150:43:16

With that dead space between the phrases, but...

0:43:180:43:20

a really authentic Yiddish klezmer thing to do would be to do it like this...

0:43:200:43:25

SHE SINGS

0:43:310:43:33

And that bend, it's like, it's like a kvetch,

0:43:330:43:35

it's an emotional thing, it's a cry.

0:43:350:43:38

Klezmer became more than just a rediscovered music,

0:43:420:43:47

it provided a focus for people to re-immerse themselves

0:43:470:43:50

in a whole culture.

0:43:500:43:52

And klezmer, as a term, was now used for the first time

0:43:520:43:55

to describe this revived music, and it stuck.

0:43:550:44:00

And the klezmer term is beautiful,

0:44:000:44:03

because it manages to find a category to put it in in the record store.

0:44:030:44:07

You can't look through the record store

0:44:070:44:09

and look for East European Jewish wedding music, it doesn't make sense.

0:44:090:44:12

But klezmer music fulfils that function.

0:44:120:44:13

It also, very conveniently, takes the J-word out of it.

0:44:130:44:17

The klezmer renaissance coincided with an appetite for world music

0:44:170:44:22

and opened it up to an international audience.

0:44:220:44:26

The revival of interest in Yiddish culture and in klezmer music

0:44:260:44:31

certainly started in the States,

0:44:310:44:33

but that has, in a way, brought East European culture

0:44:330:44:37

and Eastern and Jewish culture from over here,

0:44:370:44:40

it's kind of brought it back

0:44:400:44:42

and given us over here a chance to get back into it again.

0:44:420:44:44

I mean, my great-grandparents came from Eastern Europe,

0:44:440:44:47

but, without the American influence, I may never have found it again.

0:44:470:44:50

ALL: Hey!

0:44:500:44:51

And others found their way back to it too.

0:44:510:44:54

When I had my oldest son's Bar Mitzvah, we got a klezmer band. I mean, it...

0:45:010:45:05

And we did it, it was...

0:45:050:45:07

I don't really think of it as a religious ceremony,

0:45:070:45:09

it was, it was a cultural ceremony,

0:45:090:45:11

it was a celebration of Jordy's life at that point, at 13.

0:45:110:45:15

And it was completely different to mine. My Bar Mitzvah was in the '70s,

0:45:170:45:20

and we had, you know, Kung Fu Fighting and...

0:45:200:45:23

Mull of Kintyre.

0:45:230:45:27

It was kind of a disco, you know.

0:45:270:45:29

And we just decided to book a klezmer band,

0:45:290:45:31

and it was... I got the feeling that probably most people in the room

0:45:310:45:35

hadn't actually seen a live klezmer band.

0:45:350:45:39

But it was... What you witnessed, what that music did to that room,

0:45:450:45:49

it just exploded with this music.

0:45:490:45:51

It was like... It's in our DNA, you just couldn't help yourself.

0:45:510:45:54

You know, young and old, everyone,

0:45:540:45:56

it just was riotous, it was amazing.

0:45:560:45:58

And you couldn't have got... It just topped it all off,

0:46:050:46:08

it just connected everything together so beautifully.

0:46:080:46:12

And now, ladies and gentlemen, klezmer tune!

0:46:210:46:26

Happy nigun! Come on!

0:46:260:46:28

Once a month, Oleg Lapidus plays a mixture

0:46:350:46:37

of klezmer and all-time favourites

0:46:370:46:39

to the residents of a Jewish care home.

0:46:390:46:43

In true klezmorim fashion, he has a good memory and a large repertoire.

0:46:430:46:47

He would play music to everybody's requirement,

0:46:520:46:56

because he is very versatile, he knows a lot of different...

0:46:560:46:59

And, you know, in a home like that, you've got all different people,

0:46:590:47:02

which is different culture, different food,

0:47:020:47:04

everything is different.

0:47:040:47:06

We cater for them, so I know what it is.

0:47:060:47:08

So... And he caters for their wishes of music.

0:47:080:47:12

You saw that lady who does that.

0:47:230:47:25

She is just one of the examples, she just hears the music...

0:47:250:47:28

She can't walk, she can hardly sit,

0:47:280:47:30

and she can hardly talk now,

0:47:300:47:33

but when that music goes, she goes... Her... Her shoulders move

0:47:330:47:38

and she is, she's dancing, actually.

0:47:380:47:40

I don't normally play sad tunes there.

0:48:000:48:03

I think, for them, it's better to wake up, to give some good emotions.

0:48:030:48:08

This is the music of their childhood, of their...

0:48:100:48:14

of something in their blood.

0:48:140:48:17

That lady who held his hand,

0:48:260:48:28

her father was the cantor in the synagogue... I think it was Berlin.

0:48:280:48:33

It was either Berlin or Hamburg.

0:48:330:48:35

Just before the war, he was the head cantor there.

0:48:350:48:39

So she knows all the tunes,

0:48:390:48:42

so, to her, the klezmer brings it all back to her and she is going...

0:48:420:48:46

She's completely Alzheimer's, she doesn't remember what she had five minutes ago.

0:48:460:48:50

She can ask you twice, "Why didn't you give me breakfast?"

0:48:500:48:53

You know, when she just finished it, actually.

0:48:530:48:56

But she remembers all the tune and she sings it.

0:48:560:48:58

This, she remembers.

0:48:580:48:59

That's why it was so important for her, this klezmer.

0:48:590:49:02

Klezmer is a hand that reaches back into the past.

0:49:210:49:25

This has always been a deeply emotional music.

0:49:250:49:29

And it's this power to move

0:49:290:49:31

that has carried it through to the 21st century...

0:49:310:49:33

..where it now thrives in a whole new dimension.

0:49:370:49:40

The music that was left by the roadside for so long

0:49:450:49:49

has been picked up and embraced by the world's musicians.

0:49:490:49:52

Like the Lemon Bucket Orkestra of Canada,

0:49:520:49:54

who mix klezmer with Balkan beats and punk attitude.

0:49:540:49:59

The wave that started in New York has swept back into Europe

0:50:110:50:17

and everyone is rediscovering it.

0:50:170:50:19

The Other Europeans is an occasional collective

0:50:260:50:29

of 14 leading klezmer and gypsy musicians

0:50:290:50:32

re-establishing the centuries-old cooperation

0:50:320:50:35

that was torn apart by war and emigration.

0:50:350:50:38

Yuval Havkin, at the piano, takes the traditional classical music of polite society

0:50:580:51:04

and mixes it up with klezmer

0:51:040:51:06

to produce something familiar to the Western ear,

0:51:060:51:08

but based on klezmer rhythms, scales and melody.

0:51:080:51:12

For a music that began with such a specific brief,

0:51:230:51:26

klezmer is proving remarkably adaptable.

0:51:260:51:29

It's really timeless. I mean, its qualities are timeless.

0:51:290:51:32

It's something that is both emotional and exciting

0:51:320:51:38

and spiritual.

0:51:380:51:42

It appeals to Jews, it appeals to non-Jews. It's a... It's a leveller.

0:51:420:51:46

APPLAUSE

0:52:080:52:10

Ladies and gentlemen, The Carousel Ensemble,

0:52:100:52:13

with a little klezmer music.

0:52:130:52:15

Klezmer gives this engine, this edge,

0:52:180:52:22

this something which makes it life.

0:52:220:52:25

You can mix klezmer music with everything

0:52:250:52:28

and if you put a drop, even one drop of klezmer, it starts life.

0:52:280:52:34

One of the world's most famous classical virtuosos

0:52:340:52:37

has been inspired by klezmer.

0:52:370:52:39

Nigel Kennedy plays with the Polish klezmer band Kroke

0:52:390:52:43

at concerts all over the world.

0:52:430:52:45

The question arises among some people -

0:53:030:53:06

it's never a question I've asked myself -

0:53:060:53:08

do you need to be Jewish to play klezmer?

0:53:080:53:11

Do you need to be black to play the blues?

0:53:110:53:15

Do you need to be large and Italian to sing opera?

0:53:150:53:19

I mean, all these things are just obviously not true,

0:53:190:53:22

and what's interesting is when all kinds of people

0:53:220:53:25

start playing each other's music,

0:53:250:53:27

and it's good for everybody.

0:53:270:53:29

It's kind of, everyone feels respect for each other's music,

0:53:290:53:33

and that's actually the way music develops.

0:53:330:53:36

The Amsterdam Klezmer Band is at the forefront

0:53:480:53:50

of the new European klezmer wave.

0:53:500:53:53

Since their inception in the 1990s,

0:53:530:53:55

they've not played straight klezmer,

0:53:550:53:58

but borrowed from a variety of other traditions,

0:53:580:54:00

including Balkan, gypsy and ska.

0:54:000:54:02

Their mixing-up of genres has opened them up

0:54:190:54:22

to criticism by klezmer purists,

0:54:220:54:24

who say this style of klezmer isn't kosher.

0:54:240:54:27

But others think this only adds to their appeal.

0:54:270:54:30

You know, we have rocksteady and we have dancehall,

0:54:300:54:34

and then, people take dancehall and they put klezmer legs on it too,

0:54:340:54:39

and so klezmer is now part of that continuum

0:54:390:54:43

and it's another style that you can dabble in,

0:54:430:54:46

it's another, you know, colour on a musician's pal-ette.

0:54:460:54:50

Now, on the one... Or "palette".

0:54:500:54:52

But, on the one hand, that might make for World Music soup.

0:54:520:54:55

On the other hand, it might make for something really very interesting.

0:54:550:54:58

French klezmer clarinettist Yom is influenced by traditional klezmer,

0:55:210:55:25

overlaid with jazz and heavy rock.

0:55:250:55:28

It's still klezmer, but not as we knew it.

0:55:280:55:32

Now klezmer music has all kinds of instruments

0:55:470:55:49

that wouldn't normally have been playing it back then.

0:55:490:55:52

There are all sorts of different types of klezmer music,

0:55:520:55:54

ranging from klezmer jazz,

0:55:540:55:56

klezmer rock, klezmer thrash, traditional klezmer...

0:55:560:56:00

It covers a very wide range of musical styles

0:56:000:56:03

that all have an influence from East European Jewish wedding music.

0:56:030:56:08

# One, two, three, four

0:56:080:56:11

# Join the Marching Jobless Corps

0:56:110:56:13

# No work in the factories

0:56:130:56:15

# No more manufacturing

0:56:150:56:18

# All the tools are broke and rusted

0:56:180:56:20

# Every wheel and window busted

0:56:200:56:23

# Through the city streets we go

0:56:230:56:25

# Idle as a CEO

0:56:250:56:27

# Idle as a CEO... #

0:56:270:56:30

Daniel Kahn is an American klezmer performer based in Berlin.

0:56:310:56:35

It's one of the more curious aspects of the klezmer story

0:56:350:56:39

that this music is now huge in Germany.

0:56:390:56:42

The most prestigious klezmer festival in the world is held in Weimar.

0:56:420:56:46

# ..Get for pay?

0:56:460:56:48

# Hungry, broke and thrown away

0:56:480:56:50

# Hungry, broke and thrown away... #

0:56:500:56:54

Kahn's klezmer with a contemporary message

0:56:540:56:58

confirms that this once-forgotten music is most defiantly alive today.

0:56:580:57:04

The fact that the music can live on in these new ways

0:57:040:57:06

that feel relevant to new generations is very exciting,

0:57:060:57:09

and very real, in a klezmer sense,

0:57:090:57:12

because that's what klezmer musicians would have done.

0:57:120:57:14

You know, they were living very much

0:57:140:57:15

as products of the communities in which they lived,

0:57:150:57:18

they borrowed from the Poles, they borrowed from the Turks.

0:57:180:57:20

You know, as a true klezmer, it's about that.

0:57:200:57:22

Jewish music has always been about that.

0:57:220:57:25

People will take it and make of it what they will.

0:57:300:57:34

Because it's free to go now,

0:57:340:57:37

it's been liberated from where it came from

0:57:370:57:41

and from its status as a museum music.

0:57:410:57:45

# ..Arbetsloz iz keyn shum hand

0:57:450:57:47

# In dem nayem frayn land

0:57:470:57:49

# In dem nayem frayn land

0:57:490:57:54

# In dem nayem frayn land

0:57:540:57:59

# In dem nayem frayn land. #

0:57:590:58:03

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:300:58:33

Michael Grade narrates the story of klezmer, the 'original party music'. From its origins in Jewish folk music performed at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, klezmer has now gone global, played from Amsterdam to Australia to audiences who find its spirit and energy hard to resist. Timeshift explores the sounds, influences and shifting fortunes of this infectious music and shows that beneath its joyful strains lies an emotional appeal that you don't need to be Jewish to respond to.


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