European Jewish Musical Roots takes center stage at the 20th Annual Jazz’n’Klezmer Festival

 Nigun Quartet - Berditchev Nigun (photo credit: YOUTUBE)
Nigun Quartet - Berditchev Nigun
(photo credit: YOUTUBE)

The Unified Jewish Social Fund’s Arts and Culture Center in France recently held their annual Jazz’n’Klezmer festival in November in cities across France, an eclectic blend of Jewish musical traditions, blues, jazz, world music and lyrical storytelling that has become a mainstay of the French cultural scene for two decades. 

Coordinated between major metropolitan centers in Paris, Lyon, Montpellier and Nice, the Jazz’N’Klezmer festival has become a celebration of the of Klezmer and Jazz musical movements, described by the festival organizers “Like DNA, which binds us, both our territory and our horizons, jazz in its fusion and its eclecticism, and the marriage holds, 20 years of love.” 

The festival has evolved into a musical celebration of world Jewry, with a growing base of supporters and collaborators, as well as world-renowned artists who have developed their own unique connection to the community and festival, a fundamental part of the success since 2002. 

The Jazz’n’Klezmer Festival kicked off with an immersive performance by Neta Elkayam and her musician partner Amit Chai Cohen.  Elkayam combines Andalusian, Berber and Mediterranean musical influences in her voice. Her musical style combines influences of soul pop and rock'n'roll. In her work, she collaborates with musicians and orchestras from Israel and the world, and performs on international stages, notably Morocco, France and Canada.  In attendance were Israel’s former Ambassador to France, Yael German, and the Mayor of Paris’s Fifth District. 

Additional performances included Israeli-American jazz composer and musician Omer Avital, along with Israeli jazz pianist Yonatan Avishai at the New Morning Jazz Club, to a standing room only crowd, followed by Yemen Blues.

Led by Israeli musician and singer Ravid Kahalani, Yemen Blues infuses Yemenite and African musical roots, together with more contemporary Latin jazz, funk and blues for a rare and unique sound that electrified audience members throughout the entire set.

Israeli jazz saxophonist Eli Degibri was featured to a broader audience across France during a live broadcast on the TSFJAZZ radio station during the festival.  Degibri, a past recipient of the Prime Minister Award for Jazz Composition, has become a major influence in the international Jazz scene, with an exceptional improvisational talent and bold melodies.

The weeklong festival culminated in a stunning performance by the Nigun Quartet, who performed for the first time in France after they were discovered by French guest following Israel Musical Showcase Festival in in 2021, in collaboration with the "Yellow Submarine" in Jerusalem and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Nigun Quarter masterfully blend jazz and klezmer in creating a new Jewish-Israeli music that has been described as rhythmic, exciting, catchy and speaks to a wide audience of listeners.  Their unique approach to klezmer brings with it a combination of the simplicity of the melody with rhythmic and harmonic complexity, which creates a special and dreamlike experience.  Following their performance at the Jazz’n’Klezmer Festival, the Nigun Quarter continued their tour to perform for additional audiences in the south of France.

Throughout the week, one theme prevailed above all, and that was the preservation and new age interpretations of Judaism’s rich musical roots and the celebration of it’s impact in European and global musical culture that has ensured that the Jazz’n’Klezmer festival will remain a mainstay of the French cultural scene for years to come.

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