Halva - A Musical Exploration of Eastern Europe

Halva is the international 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. Despite the myriad of influences, on this first album it is music that is still very clearly klezmer music, while 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 record is published and distributed by Galileo Music.

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 music 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.

Halva is currently working on a second album. Inviting some breathtaking guest musicians, the music will explore Romanian and Greek traditional music in more detail, opening a new universe of sound and rhythmical possibilities.

You can order the album “The Sweetest Klezmer Orchestra” here.


“Again and again the boundaries of sound and genre are explored, which happens in the refined arrangements in an unprecedented way: it is a totally new experience of klezmer music, nothing less than that. Bandleader and composer Nicolaas Cottenie is renovating klezmer music, for which he found an exquisite team. His courageous project is impressive in its determination and overflowing ideas.”

Giessener Allgemeine

“A complete klezmer album, offering a lot both to the connoisseur studying and recognising different influences and to the amateur looking for smooth dances and real melancholy.”


“An album that I can barely get enough of.”

Rootstime Magazine

“This truly is one that is not to be forgotten!”

New Folk Sounds

“This is an amazing orchestra and a sublime album.”

Moors Magazine

The Band

Nicolaas Cottenie (BE) – violin | www.nicolaascottenie.eu
Alina Bauer (DE) – violin | www.alinabauer.eu
Michiel Ockeloen (NL) – accordion, piano | www.michielockeloen.nl
Anja Günther (DE) – clarinet
Eline Duerinck (BE) – cello
Robbe Kieckens (BE) – percussion

Halva - 2020 Tour