Jewish Folk Music

Since biblical times, music and dance have played a large role in Jewish culture. Jewish Folk music is very diverse, and dates back thousands of years, just like the religion. It varies greatly mainly in part because the Jews are a religion and a national people, the people of Israel. Thus, as there have been Jewish people around the globe for thousands of years, Jewish Folk music takes many forms.

Jewish folk songs are termed in Hebrew “songs of the land of Israel” and are meant to be sung in public by the audience or during social events. There are many different types of Jewish Folk songs. Some are meant to be children’s songs, others take European styles and traditions in European Folk music and combine it with the Jewish religion, while others have a military style to them.

Jewish Folk songs especially are based on the hopes and the dreams of Zionist youth who wish to travel to modern Israel in order to defend their homeland. Jerusalem is a common theme as well as other parts of Eretz Israel. These songs vary widely. The tempo is often very different, and politically, some songs are left-leaning while others are more right wing. Some are even love songs, lullabies and other formats. Some are socialist in style, thanks to the influence of socialism on Jews in parts of the Diaspora. The variety and differences in Jewish Folk music is tremendous.

Another popular subject in Israeli Folk music is that of war. They focus especially on the special bonds and friendships soldiers at war create, and the sadness of their deaths in defending the homeland, Israel. These songs are traditionally played at memorials and at holidays meant to mourn the Israeli dead.

In the 15th century a popular form of Jewish Folk Music was developed by musicians called kleyzmorim or kleyzmerim by Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe, called Klezmer music. This music focuses on traditions that precede biblical times and the musical legacy of klezmer musicians is continually evolving, even today. They are normally in Yiddish and are played at weddings and similar celebrations.

One of the more common types of modern Jewish Folk music is Mizrahi music. This form of music is new wave of music in Israel which combines traditional Israeli music with Arabic and Mediterranean, particularly Greek music. These songs generally have a strong string instrument combined with Middle Eastern percussion elements and is normally high pitched. This is the most popular type of Jewish Folk music on the Israeli scene today.

Jewish Folk music, due to the variety of the religion, takes on many different forms. It is generally relatively secular, and traditional, going back to pre-biblical times, featuring traditions thousands of years old. It is one of the most unique forms of Folk music, and one which is still well played today in many of its various forms, though it is not incredibly well known worldwide.