Violinist Mixes Mediterranean Music with Klezmer

Virtuoso violinist Lior Kaminetsky talks about his Mediterranean klezmer style and how he became "fiddler on the tank" in the Israeli army.

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Ben Bresky,

Lior Kaminetsky
Lior Kaminetsky
<I>Photo credit: Arnold Zigman - Frum Simchas Photography</A>

They interviewed me and the photographer asked me to climb up on the tank. A month later, I saw my picture in the newspaper, captioned, "Fiddler on the Tank."
Israeli violinist Lior Kaminetsky has been busy studying for a doctorate in the United States while also perfoming on the violin for various pro-Israel functions. He recently returned to Israel and talked about his Mediterranean klezmer style to Ben Bresky, host of The Beat on Israel National Radio.

Kaminetsky is spending the next couple years away from his homeland to complete a unique doctoral degree in classical violin. The enthusiastic violinist talked about the concert series he held in small Jewish communities and more rural American communities in places such as Montana, as well as his shows with famous hassidic singer Avraham Fried.

Kaminetsky went to yeshiva in Gush Etzion in the Judea region of Israel, and also served in the tank unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, where he earned the title "fiddler on the tank."


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Ben Bresky: How did you grow up and get involved in music?

Lior Kaminetsky: I was born in Jerusalem. I am a seventh-generation Jerusalemite on both sides. I was born in a traditional religious family. My father was a hazzan (prayer leader). Judaism and music are the main factors in my life. I have both a yeshiva background and a music background. Jewish music is really the place that all of the important things in my life get together and create.

Ben Bresky: How would you define Jewish music or klezmer? Especially since you've done a lot of different styles.

Lior Kaminetsky: This is the million-dollar question. Jewish music really is something that's hard to define. You can define it in different ways because in the last 2,000 years Jews were in so many different places: Ethiopia, Spain, Ashkenazic music. But there are still people who claim there are some motifs that you can find in many kinds of Jewish music. For me, Jewish music would be defined as according to the context. If the music itself doesn't necessarily sound Jewish, for me the context makes it Jewish. Of course there are modes and elements that characterize Jewish music like Eastern European Jewish music is klezmer. My style is a combination of that with Mediterranean. Usually when they hear my music, klezmer is not the word that comes to mind.
The Nazis, even allowed some music to be performed to show the world that the situation for Jews was not so bad

Ben Bresky: Tell us about the Holocaust composers.

Lior Kaminetsky: I participated in a project of Holocaust composers. They mostly came from Theresienstadt. The Nazis, yemach shemam (may their name be obliterated), loved music and even allowed in Theresienstadt some music to be composed and performed to show the world that the situation for Jews was not so bad. But we all know, of course, that that was nonsense. The composers were killed. I perform one of those pieces for the project.

Ben Bresky: Tell us about your unqiue arrangement for Fiddler on the Roof.

Lior Kaminetsky: When I was in the army, Maariv, the Israeli newspaper, went from base to base looking for something interesting to make an article about. I was a medic in the tanks unit. When they got to our base everyone said, listen there is this guy here who always practices violin in the bathroom. They interviewed me and afterwards, the photographer asked me to climb up on the tank. After about a month, I saw in the newspaper, and it said "Fiddler on the Tank." I decided that I would do "Fiddler on the Tank performs Fiddler on the Roof."

Ben Bresky is a music journalist, recording engineer and the host of The Beat on Israel National Radio which airs live every Tuesday at 5:00 PM Israel time. His blog and show archive can be found at