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The Klezmer Accordion

The Klezmer Accordion

An Outsider among Outsiders

(p.178) 9 The Klezmer Accordion
The Accordion in the Americas
Joshua Horowitz
University of Illinois Press

This chapter takes a closer look at the role of the accordion in klezmer music. Like the pioneering Italian American virtuoso accordionists, Jewish musicians felt equally at home playing classical and folk music. The select analysis of early accordion playing styles and stylistic characteristics sheds light on the interaction and interplay of klezmer musicians with their surrounding worlds—Old and New. A distinctive feature of the early “klezmer sound” was the accordion's imitation of the human voice heard in liturgical, paraliturgical, and Yiddish song. By the late 1930s, the accordion was often used for chordal accompaniment (rather than as a solo instrument). It was an integral element of the popular Hasidic bands of the 1960s and the “klezmer ensembles” that embraced the new Israeli music as well as earlier “Palestinian” music. Although it was often deemed “an outsider,” for the revivalists of the 1980s and beyond, the accordion has been characteristic of the klezmer style.

Keywords:   klezmer music, klezmer accordion, musical instruments, Jewish musicians

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