EM63 / 2010
Klezmer is a name for Jewish folk music that used to be played at weddings and fes- tive gatherings in Eastern Europe prior to World War II. Shira Etana plays traditional klezmer melodies. The ensemble’s mem- bers have varied musical backgrounds – classical, jazz and folk music. This influ- ences their arrangements and results in their unique sound and musical expression. Over the past few years, the ensemble has entertained many audiences with melan- cholic ballads and festive melodies. Jews have been part of the Norwegian popula- tion since the end of the 19th century and are now defined among Norway’s five offi- cial national minorities. Shira Etana’s founder and violinist, Leoni Abrahamsen Kohn, is a fourth-generation Norwegian Jew. On the basis of my knowledge of the klezmer genre, gained through work with Ethnic Music Club, I can say that the Shira Etana Ensemble maintains a very high ar- tistic standard and that their music is rela- tively traditional. In this genre, where it is easy to exaggerate in the short span be- tween expression of lingering melancholy and joyful ecstasy, Shira Etana manages a controlled, virtuoso reserve that is artistically effective, and rather a kind of “understatement” in the context of klezmer mainstream. Their minor melodies bear an atmosphere of sorrow and longing. The performers exude feminine skillfulness in the best sense of the word – a quality of sophisticated precision, as in intricate, colorful embroideries.