Halva - A Musical Exploration of Eastern Europe

Halva is the international ensemble with which I investigate the links between traditional Yiddish music and the music of many cultures surrounding the Ashkenazim (the Yiddish-speaking Jews in Eastern-Europe): Greek, Hungarian, Turkish and even Western Classical Music.

Whereas Halva’s first album, The Sweetest Klezmer Orchestra (Galileo, 2019) stayed relatively close to the traditional sound of Yiddish music, on the second album, Dinner in Sofia (Oriente Musik, 2021), I am going one step further and try to make a homogenic mix of Bulgarian, Romanian, Greek, Jewish and Middle Eastern music. The band is a truly remarkable team of top-notch musicians, and I am very proud of the result of our 2021 recording session.

Generally, you could say that I am using traditional forms and formulas and putting them in a contemprary musical context, without being bothered by the elitist classical approach. Also, I am proud to say that the jury in the Bubbe Awards, organized by the Instituto da Musica Judaica in Sao Paolo (Brasil), awarded one of the core pieces of the new record, “Khosidl für das neue Leben” with the second prize in the category “Best New Instrumental Piece”.

Halva will captivate and enchant you – come and join!

This music is the result of years of research I conducted, both in private study and 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.

You can check out some of the videos and sample tracks on this page. More Halva music videos to see here, and a playlist of videos about the album, the instruments we play and so on here. Or even better, you can order the album and the scores here.

If you wonder what other people thought about the music, you can check out concert and album reviews 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

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

Rootstime Magazine

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

New Folk Sounds

“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.”


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

– Moors Magazine