Is Klezmer Music Really Jewish? Culture and Creativity with Yale Strom

Conversation with the Rabbi

Oct 21 2021 • 40 mins

Rabbi Michael Beyo and Dr. Adrian McIntyre talk with Yale Strom about Jewish music, folklore, and other forms of cultural expression.

Yale Strom is a professor at San Diego State University and a violinist, composer, filmmaker, writer, photographer, and playwright. He is a pioneer among revivalists in conducting extensive field research in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans among the Jewish and Roma communities. Initially, his work focused on the use and performance of klezmer music among these two groups. Gradually, his focus increased to examining all aspects of their culture from post-World War II to the present. From more than 3 decades and 75 such research expeditions, Strom has become the world’s leading ethnographer-artist of klezmer music and history.

His klezmer research was instrumental in helping form the repertoires of his klezmer band, Hot Pstromi in New York and San Diego. Since Strom’s first band began in 1982, he has been composing his own New Jewish music, which combines klezmer with Khasidic nigunim, Roma, jazz, classical, Balkan and Sephardic motifs. These compositions range from quartets to a symphony. Strom is also one of the only top composers of Jewish music to carry on the tradition of writing original songs, with Yiddish lyrics, about humanitarian and social issues. His fifteen CDs run the gamut of traditional klezmer to "new" Jewish music.

Yale Strom was the first klezmer musician to perform at the United Nations General Assembly. His research has also resulted in photo documentary books, documentary films, as well as CD recordings. Strom latest children’s illustrated, “Shloyml Boyml and His Lucky Dreydl,” was published in November 2020.

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