Doyne (LKT)

This entry is part of the Lexicon of Klezmer Terminology (LKT). The LKT compiles a wide array of source materials that shed light on the historical and contemporary state of knowledge about klezmer music. Each entry includes a number of citations from primary and secondary sources that include or refer to the term in question. It also indicates whether musical notation or sound recordings are included in the source. To view the full reference, click on the bibliographic hyperlink at the end of each citation.


“The doina (Yiddish: doyne or doyna), a free-meter Romanian folk instrumental genre often associated with sheperds and pastoral culture, has figured prominently in the repertoire of klezmorim [plural of klezmer] throughout this century. Although the doina is quintessentially identified with Jews from Romania and the southern Ukraine, by the early twentieth century it had achieved currency among klezmorim throughout a wide area of Eastern Europe. Primarily intended for listening rather than dancing, doinas often serve to showcase a musician’s virtuosity and expressiveness, and characteristically involve embellished melodic exploration within a particular musical mode [usually the minor Mi sheberakh scale], rather than unrestricted improvisation. Some interchange is evident between doina and other contemplative, free-meter genres in the East European Jewish tradition, including cantorial recitatives, the kale bazetsn, and the Hasidic tish-nign.” Alpert 1993, p. 2. (Recording references included). 

“Doina: A free-meter but structured melody for listening, from the Romanian-Jewish repertoire. Often performed for guests at the banquet table during a wedding or other celebration, doinas allow a musician to display virtuosity and expressiveness through highly embellished elaborations within a variety of related modes. Also known as vulekhl.” Alpert 1996b, p. 58. (Recording references included). 

“Jewish weddings musicians played the doina as a table song.” Beregovski/Slobin 1982, p. 500, n. 75

“Besides the doina itself, which is performed at the wedding feast, primarily at the table, there are also other works in the doina style.” Beregovski/Slobin 1982, p. 558

Doyne.Beregovski/Goldin 1987, #20-21. (Musical notation included). 

“The transitional or ‘Orientalized’ repertoire consisted of the dance genres named volekh, hora, sirba, ange, and bulgarish. In the non-dance cateogry the most important genre was the doyne (doina)... Beregovski states that the oldest klezmorim in his time remembered that the doyne had been only recently introduced from Romania, replacing an older genre named taksim. The taksim in its turn was probably derived from the improvised instrumental sections of the Romanian epical ballads (cintece batrinesti).” Feldman 1994, pp. 7-8

“A taksim from the Beregovski collection was published by Joachim Braun. Although Braun states that ‘the intrinsic features of the Arab taksim... are preserved in Beregovski’s Jewish-Ukrainain klezmer-taksim...’ his musical example does not bear this out. Beregovski’s piece is a Romaninan doina, with no Jewish, let alone ‘Arab’ features. Beregovski had observed that the distinction between taksim and doina was known only to klezmorim then in their seventies to nineties. Max Goldin, who has compared the Jewish and Moldavian doinas on the basis of the extensive materials of both cultures, has concluded that ‘Jewish doinas do not have any distinctive structural features.’ A variant of the dance following the ‘taksim’ was recorded by Dave Tarras in the 1940s as ‘A Heimisher Sher.’ An example of a Romanian taksim may be heard on record no. 6 of Antologia de muzicii populare romanesti, vol. II, edited by Tiberiu Alexandru (Electrechord, EPD 1017).” Feldman 1994, pp. 31-32. (Musical notation and recording references included). 

“...[This dance is done by an old] Jew with a long gray beard... carrying a cane in his hand, [and] he pushes his way to the center of the circle. The old man is an expert in the ‘Shtocktants’ (‘Dance of the Stick’). Immediately, a circle of young scholars forms around the old man. The circle remains just wide enough for the old man to freely swing the stick as he dances. The old man commandingly turns to Abramele the Klezmer and asks for a doyna, a Rumanian gypsy melody. The old man bends to the earth and moves his cane to mark the space he needs so that he does not hit anyone while he dances. Then the dance itself begins. The old man falls on his knees, his whole body bent forward. He begins to swing the cane with great speed in front of him, and then he makes a figure eight with it by his sides and above his head. This takes quite a long time, causing his whole body to shake. Gradually, he raises himself from the ground while swinging the cane in time to the msuic and accelerating the tempo. When he is on his feet in upright position, he begins to leap. Occasionally a young scholar, also holding a cane, joins him and they both dance together. They face each other and dance with quick movments, their bodies twisting and their canes swinging without stop. 

There is a second type of ‘Shtocktants’ which is even more acrobatic. The dancer puts a pencil in his mouth and on the end of this balances a cane. He dances like this for a long time (sometimes ten or fifteen minutes).” [Lag B’Omer, Meron, Israel, 1960-70s.] Fridhaber 1975, pp. 27-28

Doyna is the name of a Rumanian gypsy dance genre; genre referring to a specific type of dance such as the dance genre of waltzes.” Fridhaber 1975, p. 33, n. 6

“...This old man is the expert in the ‘shtoktants,’ the ‘stick dance’... he turns to Avrem’l the klezmorim [sic], calling for ‘a doyne,’ requesting that they play the Romanian-Gypsy ‘doyne’ melody for him...” [Lag B’Omer, Meron, Israel 1960s-1970s]. Fridhaber 1978a, p. 7

“One of the most beautiful dances on display during this event is no doubt the ‘techiat ha-metim’ dance, or in popular language ‘tekhies hameysim tants.’ A pair of dancers execute this dance the whole of which consists of a choreographic story in three scenes:... This dance is [divided] into three parts, borrowing three different melodies, the first section of the dance performed to the ‘doyne’ melody, which is also practically the melody of the ‘beroyges tants’ dance...” [Lag B’Omer, Meron, Israel, 1960s-1970s]. Fridhaber 1978a, p. 8

“The soul of Moldavian music is the doina. The doina is performed on the fluere (sheperd’s pipe) or violin; it is sung by men and women, adults and children. In structure it is divided into two parts. The first is in a free, improvised form. It is filled with longing, pensiveness, hidden pain. The second, lively part is characterized by a very clear form and has an animated dance character. The doina first portrays the grief of the sheperd who has lost his sheep. Then it presents his joyful feeling when the sheep turn up. This is the usual explanation of the origin and the meaning of the doina....

The Jews adopted the Moldavian doina, and not only the genre as such. The klezmers borrowed the doina music itself. In the Jewish folk song only the plot of the doina was borrowed and modified. Jewish [instrumental] [sic] doinas, whether called that or not, were performed by the klezmers at weddings as music for listening. In Beregovski 1987 there are four doinas: one was borrowed in toto, one partially, and two reproduce the typical roulades, rhythms and intonations of Moldavian doinas. A taksim and a dobranoch were also borrowed in toto. Twenty-five dance tunes in the volume are built on the rhythms and intonations of the Moldavian dances that conclude doinas. About as many were composed under greater or lesser Moldavian influence without being borrowings as such.

Beregovski claimed that the Jewish doina differed from the Moldavian doina in its structure. In the 1930’s however, very few Moldavian doinas had been published (in Korchinskii 1937), and it was impossible to form a correct picture of their structure. From more recent publications [on Moldavian folk music] [sic], in particular Kotliarov 1955 and 1973 we can see that Jewish doinas do not have any distinctive structural features.

The theme of the lost and then found sheep formed the basis for the popular folk song ‘Dos pastekhl’ or ‘a pastekh’ (‘The/A Sheperd’). which is sung to two different melodies [Kipnis 1918:129, 1925: 135; Jaldati 1969:28, 196-97]. In the Yiddish version the plot is much more elaborate than in the Moldavian original... The structure of the melody corresponding to the unfolding of the plot: first it has a narrative character, then it becomes more dramatic... The concluding part is a dance melody. ‘Dos pastekhl’ is one of the richests and most beautiful of Yiddish folk songs. A certain non-Jewish influence heard in the melody is probably Ukrainian. In the middle part of the melody one also hears the intonations of synaogue recitative. It is surpisring, but true: both melodies to ‘Dos pastukhel’ were composed in the Ukraine and not in Moldavia, as we can see, among other things, from the mixed Yiddish-Ukrainain text of the song. This means that the Moldavian theme of the lost and then found sheep as well as the doina itself were also well known in the Ukraine.” Goldin 1989, pp. 26-28

“Jacob Gegna recorded a taksim followed by this piece ca. 1917. (A taksim usually refers to the Turco-Arab manner of a rubato exploration of West Asian modes. It means something related to this, but different when referred to as the precursor of the Romanian doina.) Despite the title, Gegna’s performance seems to be a doina, although with perhaps less accompaniment then [sic] usual...” Phillips 1996a, pp. 14-15. (Musical notation and recording references included). 

“‘Terkishe Melody from ‘Doina’ Medley #1.’ This is the furst tune of a medley by S. Kosch... It exhibits the typical terkishe (Actually Greek sirto) back up rhythm, albeit at a slow pace.” Phillips 1996a, p. 46. (Musical notation and recording references included). 

“‘Doina #1.’ [Romania] This 1905 cornet solo by Mihal Viteazul... Because of its rubato phrasing and (usually the) absence of steady rhythmic pulse by accompanists, it is impossible to design accurate and precise transcriptions of doina using standard notation... The accompaniment consists of a few other horns pedaling on the notes of the chords... The phrasing in the entire selection is very legato... After a final pause the entire band launches into an energetic freylakh.” Phillips 1996a, pp. 54-55. (Musical notation and recording references included).  

“‘Doina #2.’ [D. Tarras]... In this arrangement an accordion supplies an arrhythmic chordal drone.” Phillips 1996a, pp. 56-57. (Musical notation and recording references included).  

“‘Der Gasn Nigun (A)’... This melody also appears as part of Max Weissman’s Doina...” Phillips 1996a, p. 61. (Musical notation and recording references included).  

“‘Hora #3’... The piece is part of a medley recorded under the title of Yiddeshe Doina [Art Shryer].” Phillips 1996a, p. 69. (Musical notation and recording references included). 

“‘Freylakh from ‘Doina’ Medley #1.’ Violinist Leon Ahl played this freylakh after an extended doina... The third and fourth sections have phrasing and melodic contours like a sirba.” Phillips 1996a, p. 94. (Musical notation and recording references included). 

“In Jewish music the term taksim had been used before the doina came in. It is not clear what they meant by that...There was a kind of melody that Romanian Gypsies played in accompanying ballads which they called taksim, and those things are very much like doinas, but note quite. They have certain kinds of melodic phrases that are not typical of doina. No doubt that influenced what the Jews considered taksim; it is possible that some Turkish influence entered through the Romanian taksim however.” Phillips 1996b, pp. 182-83

“The doina is just the tip of the iceberg of that type of music that once existed. These go back and forth between cantorial chant, Chassidic tunes and klezmer... there are deeper forms from which the dances evolved... meditative explorations of modes. These were played particularly to achieve a spiritual state. The doina which is the sheperd’s melody. It’s a parable. The Sheperd calling his sheep is God calling the Jews.” Phillips 1996c, p. 185

“The taksim was an older type of improvisation among klezmorim, which was gradually replaced around the turn of the century by the more modern rumenishe doyne (Romanian doina). The taksim, which was freely improvised according to typical modal patterns, seems to have been developed by Jewish musicians from the instrumental preludes to the non-Jewish epic ballads from Wallachia in Southeastern Romania... Improvisations like taksim and doyne were always ended with a freylekhs-type dance.” Rubin 1997, pp. 21-22. (Recording references included).

“In his early years performing [this doyne] for Brooklyn landsmanshaftn, it was not uncommon to improvise a doina, which was originally of Bessarabian-Moldavian derivation, for fifteen minutes or longer. Max made a more standard form out of the doina in this composition. He relates that whenever he went into a freylekhs, a fast dance in 2/4 time which traditionally follows the doina, the guests would start dancing... So he substituted instead the refrain from the cantorial favorite Sheyibone Bes Ha-Mikdosh.” Rubin and Ottens 1995, p. 24. (Musical notation included. 

“The first tune of this medley is a doina, a free-rhythm standard improvisation associated with Romanian music.” Schlesinger, Alpert and Rubin 1989. (Recording references included).

“The doina is at home on Rumanian soil; it is a folksong style of striking sound, plaintive and in free-rhythm. As developed instrumentally by local bands, the doina features intermittent backing chords that supply a tonal center. The opening unmetered segment of the piece is usually followed by a metered section. Jewish bands picked up and adapted this genre for their own audiences, and exported it from the Balkans to other areas... the first recording we have of a Jewish doina, distributed both in Europe and the United States, was made by a certain S. Kosch in 1910 in the city of Lemberg (Lwow), far from the Rumanian roots of the style.” Slobin 1984, pp. 35-37. (Recording references included). 

“The doina is a folk form indigenous to Roumania, and is related to Middle Eastern musical styles. Hence, there is nothing distinctively Jewish about it. Yet it has remained a favourite symbol of the Jewish sound for decades, illustrating the eclectism cited  earlier. The earliest surviving recorded Jewish doina, performed about 1910 in Lemberg (Lwow), Poland, was released by Columbia Records in the United States, far from its Roumanian roots... The basic sound of the doina is unmistakeable: sparse back-up chords against which a soloist improvises a weaving, twisting, plaintive melody. Here the instruments are flute and tsimbl, the latter being the Jewish version of the cimbalom, a central and southeastern European folk instrument.” Slobin 1987, pp. 97-98. (Recording references included). 

“The Doina / A rhapsodic, ametrical fantasy, often improvised, which served as a showpiece for clarinetists, violinists, mandolinists, flutists, cymbolists, accordionists, trumpeters- even xylophone and banjo doinas exist. The ensemble sustains chords while the soloist articulates. Chord changes are indicated by the soloist as the piece progresses. Usually, the doina is the first piece in a three-part suite that includes a doina, a hora (zhok), and a bulgar (freylekhs) or khosidl. Klezmer bands have also been called upon to play waltzes and mazurkas (both in 3/4 meter), polkas (2/4), tangos (4/4), European military marches (2/4 and 6/8), and popular pieces from the Yiddish theatre, often in fox-trot, waltz, tango, and even rhumba rhythms.” Sokolow 1987, p. 20. (Musical notation included). 

“The Doina, or Voloch, is a Rumanian form, out of tempo and largely improvised. Accompanying a doina is similar to accompanying a hazzan (cantor) in an ad lib liturgical piece. The pianist plays tremolando in both hands, occasionally echoing a phrase that the soloist plays. The soloist leads the accompanists into harmonic changes usually quite obvious, following standard melodic modes. In America, the doina is usually part of a three part suite: Doina, Zhok, Bulgar. The soloist leads into each new section by setting a vamp in the next tempo.” Sokolow 1991, p. 5. (Musical notation included).  

“The doina was the piece de resistance... In the middle of dinner, we’d say, ‘Waiters, get off the floor, don’t serve. Mir shpiln a doina! Right after the soup, before the main dish... When I did the jobs for Dave [Tarras] about ten or eleven years ago, he used to walk right up on the little floor -- that was obviously a remnant from the old style of doing it. Microphone, no microphone, he would walk out in the middle of the floor and play his doina...’ [New York, 1930s-1960s]. Sapoznik 1988, p. 15


See Taksim and Volekh.