Zhok (LKT)

This entry is part of the Lexicon of Klezmer Terminology (LKT). The LKT compiles a wide array of source materials that shed light on the historical and contemporary state of knowledge about klezmer music. Each entry includes a number of citations from primary and secondary sources that include or refers to the term in question. It also indicates whether musical notation or sound recordings are included in the source. By clicking on the bibliographic hyperlink at the end of each citation, you get the full reference.


“Zhok.” Beregovski/Goldin 1987 #226-231. (Musical notation included). 

“In many communities in Eastern Europe, especially in Hungary, Moravia, and Rumania, Jewish youths would assemble on Saturday afternoons for dancing under the supervision of a woman. The dancing would be held, when possible, in the open air in the synagogue courtyard, which became popularly known by the name of dance they loved, the Joc, a type of hora common among their gentile neighbors. Although this dancing was regarded as wholesome, it was frowned on by the rabbis, who however were often overruled by the people. This popular Saturday afternoon dance movement produced new folk songs and dances.” EncyJud 1971, p. 1267

“The transitional or ‘Orientalized’ repertoire consisted of the dance genres named volekh, hora, sirba, ange, and bulgarish. In the non-dance cateogry the most important genre was the doyne (doina). In addition, there were a number of non-dance genres (such as mazltov far di makhetonim) which were related to the zhok -- the latter having either a dance or non-dance genre function.” Feldman 1994, pp. 7-8

“While the zhok had already been transformed into several wedding genres (such as mazltov and opfihren di makhetonim)...” Feldman 1994, p. 27.

“Zhok [D. Tarras]”. Phillips 1996a, p. 71. (Musical notation and recording references included). 

“Tunes in triple time are one of the most intriguing questions about klezmer music. The most recent structures you have for these is the waltz on one hand and the zhok on the other. They are completely different things...But we also have a lot of tunes which are not connected with dancing. Although zhok was sometimes just used as ‘street melodies’ without tunes...

Zhok is also quite recent. Stutschewski is of Ukrainian origin and in his book he writes about zhok as if it were a new innovation that was not really Jewish. He left Kiev in the Ukraine in the 1920’s perhaps. In Kiev in the 1920’s, zhok was not yet klezmer music. It was Roumanian or Bessarabian...In western Moldavia the term [hora] can also refer to the zhok form. In the East, in Bessarabia they use the term ‘zhok’. Phillips 1996b, pp. 176, 178

“The Hora, or Zhok / A slow Rumanian-style piece in triple meter, usually written in 3/8, whose rhythm is distinctive because of the lack of a second beat... The Hora also invites virtuosic ornamentation due to its slow tempo...” Sokolow 1987, p. 19

“The zhok, or Rumanian hora, is a slow piece in a 3/8 rhythm, with the second beat omitted. The pattern is: 1-3 1-3 etc. It is sometimes referred to with the Yiddish term, ‘krimme tantz’ (cripple’s dance) because of its limping rhythm. All rhythm instruments accompany the zhok with a strict 1 3 pattern. In the piano, a low open 5th in the left hand and a 2nd inversion right hand chord works wonderfully.” Sokolow 1991, p. 5.

“Zshok: the ‘zhok’ is performed mainly as a street-melody, and only at rare moments was it used to accompany dance. Its origin was Moldavian and Romanian music. The ‘zhok’ entered to a great extent the literature of the klezmorim, and some creations in the spirit of the ‘zhok’ introduced with the names of well-known klezmorim.” Stutschewsky 1959, p. 216