Eastern Europe meets the American West with klezmer concert

The New York City-based band, “The Klezmatics,” will bring Jewish folk music to the Center for the Arts on Thursday.
The Klezmatics will perform at the Center for the Arts as part of an event sponsored by the Jewish Community of Jackson Hole. (Photo courtesy of The Klezmatics)

by | Jan 17, 2023 | Local Music


International music continues to come to Jackson. “The Klezmatics” are performing at the Center for the Arts this Thursday and bringing the sounds of Jewish folk music with them.

The New York City-based band is often credited with revitalizing “klezmer,” a musical tradition of Central and Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews. Sometimes described as Jewish jazz, with a fiddle, clarinet and accordian, the music is frequently the backdrop for dancing and partying. 

I think that there’s a real effort to bring klezmer to younger people,” said Matt Dariau, the clarinetist and saxophonist for The Klezmatics.

The band has been producing music for more than 35 years and made its mark by incorporating sounds from other cultures into their music, including African and Baltic rhythms. The group won a Grammy in 2006 for “Wonder Wheel,” an album that put Woody Guthrie lyrics to music. 

Dariau said that there is a tradition in Jewish culture of being socially engaged. The band tries to stay true to that with modern interpretations of standard klezmer tunes. Their first album was titled “Shvaygn = Toyt,” which is Yiddish for “Silence = Death.”

“It was a rallying cry in the gay movement in the eighties for people to get active and get off your butt and be loud,” Dariau said. “[The slogan] was used also in World War II for activating a resistance to the Nazis.”

Band members will teach a masterclass for Jackson Hole middle and high school students on Thursday.  They’ll perform at the Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

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About Emily Cohen

Emily has served as executive director of KHOL since June 2019. She has a background in ecological design and urban planning and has worked as a teacher on the US-Mexico border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, as a policy wonk in Washington, DC and as a land use planner in Wyoming. She enjoys getting away from the operations side of radio to produce original stories about arts and culture in Jackson.

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