Zemerl (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 refers to the term in question. It also indicates whether musical notation or sound recordings are included in the source. By clicking on the bibliographic hyperlink at the end of each citation, you get the full reference.


“...a zemerl [pl. zmires]...is a religious folk song in Hebrew or Aramaic sung on the Sabbath. Bearing a strong resemblance to Ukrainian and Romanian sheperds’ tunes, it is performed here in the style of the tish-nign and employs the most common nusakh [liturgical mode] of the Vizhnitser Hasidic tradition....[it was played] at small celebrations like the sholem-zokher, an evening party prior to a circumcision, at Hasidic gatherings, as dinner music at Jewish weddings, and at non-Jewish occasions where Jewish tunes were often requested.” Alpert 1993, p. 4. (Recording references included). 

“Violinist Leon Schwartz performs a kale bazetsn melody, and plays and sings the freylakhs (the second, faster part of the Tarras recording) as Yismekhu B’malkh’sheho, a portion of the Shabbat liturgy, commonly sung to a variety of tunes, as a zemerl (religious folk song).” Schlesinger, Alpert, Rubin 1989. (Recording referenes included). 

“The musicians’ work would begin on Saturday night before the wedding... Young men and women would gather at the bride’s home for a “goodbye party” and dancing. The klezmorim would play until late at night. Their melodies were known by the names ‘zmires’ or ‘motse-shabos.’ Stutschewsky 1959, p.156


For more information on this concept see Zemirot.