Hava Nagila (Trad., arr. Sparke)

Hava Nagila (the title means ‘let us rejoice’) is perhaps the best known example of a style of Jewish music called ‘klezmer’.

Klezmer music originated in the 'shtetl' (villages) and the ghettos of Eastern Europe, where itinerant Jewish troubadours, known as 'klezmorim', had performed at celebrations, particularly weddings, since the early Middle Ages.

'Klezmer' is a Yiddish term combining the Hebrew words 'kley' (instrument) and 'zemer' (song) and the roots of the style are found in secular melodies, popular dances, Jewish 'hazanut' (cantorial music) and also the 'nigunim', the wordless melodies intoned by the 'Hasidim' (orthodox Jews).

Since the 16th century, lyrics had been added to klezmer music, due to the 'badkhn' (the master of ceremony at weddings), to the 'Purimshpil' (the play of Esther at Purim) and to traditions of the Yiddish theatre, but the term gradually became synonymous with instrumental music, particularly featuring the violin and clarinet.

The melody of Hava Nagila was adapted from a folk dance from the Romanian district of Bucovina. The commonly used text is taken from Psalm 118 of the Hebrew bible.