Halva is the Belgian-German-Latvian ensemble with which Nicolaas Cottenie investigates the links between traditional klezmer music and the many cultures surrounding the Ashkenazim (the Yiddish-speaking Jews in Eastern-Europe): Greek, Hungarian, Turkish and even Western Classical Music. The result is music that breathes a deep energy that invites to dance, with a touch of seriousness and moments of spiritual introspection here and there. It is music that speaks to the mind and the heart. It is music that, despite the myriad of influences, is still very clearly klezmer music, and at the same time is exploring the boundaries of the genre, searching for a fusion between Western and modal concepts of consonance and dissonance.
The repertoire consists of original compositions in mostly traditional formats such as kolomeyke, terkish and sher. The bulk of them were written by Nicolaas Cottenie (violin, Belgium): this album is the result of years of research he conducted at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp (Belgium) into the historical connection between composition and improvisation, and he studied with some of the great masters of klezmer music. On the other hand, there is work by Ilya Shneyveys (accordion & piano, Latvia/USA), the multi-talented musician who despite his young age has collected an impressive curriculum, with prizes (including the Rudolstadt RUTH German World Music Award with Andrea Pancur in 2014) and concerts in the entire world as a klezmer musician. The experienced clarinetist Georg Brinkmann (Germany) is the perfect complement as a virtuosic and versatile performer of klezmer and Eastern-European music. The almost melodic percussion by Robbe Kieckens infuses the music with its Greek, Turkish and Arabic elements. The rhythm section is completed with a grooving Belgian-German string tandem consisting of Eline Duerinck (cello) and Alina Bauer (violin).