NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK - When most Americans are asked, "What do you think of Klezmer?" they are flummoxed, like it is an intellectual question only a MENSA member might know the answer to.
"Hum....klezmer.....klezmer....what is this Klezmer?" they ask, after guessing it is type of fish, a root vegetable from Russia, a kid's card game, or a brand new techno device.
Rolling Stone Magazine take note, Klezmer might just be the best dance music most people have never heard of. Klezmer is also a survivor. It survived the Holocaust and since its arrival in the U.S., has borrowed influences from American jazz and Israeli music.
"Klezmer" which is Yiddish for "musician", originated in Eastern Europe with Ashkenazi Jews. Klezmer bands feature a fiddle, a bass or cell, a clarinet and a drum, and also, at times, a hammered dulcimer and an accordion. Traditional Klezmer music experienced a revival over 25 years ago. Even Itzak Perlman plays Klezmar and led an all-star tour that went around the world.
"We love Klezmer music!" exclaimed Bill Smith, a fan of the 'Java Jews Klezmer Band' featured in the summer at the Iowa State Fair. "When we saw the name on the bill we didn't know what to expect, but their music had Great-grandma Smith on her feet, dancing around, and we haven't seen her dance like that in 20 years!
Another fan, Mitzi Marmaduke, of Ottumwa, remarks, "Klezmer kind of reminds me of music from 'Fiddler on the Roof'. It has a lot of soul - sometimes it makes you want to laugh. Sometimes it makes you want to cry. It's hard to pin down, exactly. All I know is the people at the fair were either dancing, or tapping their feet, most of the time!"
Meanwhile, Klezmer websites, fan clubs, and "I Love Klezmer" bumper stickers are springing up all over the country. Maybe someday Rolling Stone will hear the music, too.