Jewish Music

Jewish Religious Music

Just as Judaism is a beautiful religion, its music is colorful and diverse. Jewish music is mostly religious in nature though modern Jewish music, although some still religious vary from classical, romantic, and folk music. Religious Jewish music is synagogal and cantorial. The earliest Jewish music was patterned from the one used in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Judaism combines music and singing for ritual use and other religious practices. Since ancient times, music has been used in religious services. Back then, a choir composed of a dozen men performed during services. In recent years, cantors sing the prayers in the synagogue although some synagogues still have choirs.

Religious Jewish music is also sung at home. Zemiros or Zemirot are Jewish hymns which are usually sung in the Hebrew language. These are sung at home by the family during Shabbos and Jewish holidays. Nigun on the other hand, are religious songs that are sung by groups. Nigun is sung without lyrics. Some known niguns are the Rebbe Nachman’s Lecha Dodi Nigun and the Erve Shabbos Nigun.

Jewish Secular Music

Music and dance has been part of Jewish celebrations since biblical times. Jewish secular music is often played at weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and other Jewish celebrations.

Klezmer is a type of music developed by Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe. Their kind of repertoire is basically dance songs used for weddings and other celebrations. Klezmer music is a variation of nigun tunes, Romany music and music from theater. The music is usually accompanied with piano, violin, clarinet, accordion and percussion.

Mizrahi music refers to the new wave of Israeli music combined with Arabic and Mediterranean music. The songs are usually accompanied with violin and Middle Eastern percussion. Mizrahi music is usually high pitched.

Israeli folk music, also known as “songs of the land of Israel,” is sung usually in public during social events. Israeli music covers different genres like European folk songs, children’s songs and some written by poets like Chaim Nachman Bialik.

There are also patriotic folk songs which were written during the wars in Israel. The songs of this type usually deal with the tragedy of death in times of war. Nowadays, many Israeli folk songs are used during memorials and other holidays referring to the Israeli dead.

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