A Brief History
The music now known as klezmer took root in the United States during the period of heaviest eastern European Jewish immigration, between 1880 and 1924. Klezmorim migrated from many parts of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires and from Romania and carried with them musical traditions which, while diverse, also share a great deal in common. At first, virtually all of the klezmer orchestra leaders were violinists. Some brought over typical European klezmer instruments such as the tsimbl (hammered dulcimer), straw fiddle (folk xylophone), harmonica (small accordion), bohemian flute, and rotary valve cornet. By the 1920s, Jewish dance music instrumentation had fallen more in line with typical American vaudeville or concert bands of the time. By then, a large proportion of the European Jewish ritual music repertoire had also been abandoned, along with much of the badkhones (wedding jester) tradition, which only lived on in certain Hasidic communities.
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