An Introduction To The Sephardic Jewish Music


Mehmet Okonsar

Discography by Mehmet Okonsar

J.S. Bach "Die Kunst der Fuge"
All CD's available at and (partly) at

An Introduction To The Sephardic Jewish Music

An overview and introduction to the Jewish music of the middle-east, principally known as Sephardic music. Its place in some countries like Greece, Morocco and Turkey.

J.S. Bach "Musikalische Opfer"

F. Liszt: "modern" works

J.S. Bach "Well-tempered Clavier"

Recital: "Live at Salt Lake City"

J.S. Bach The Goldberg Variations

Piano Solo Improvisations: "Shadowy Arcade"

Robert Schumann: "Fantasie in C and Etudes Symphoniques"

All CD's can be auditioned entirely and freely at their respective pages. Click on the images.

Spanish Jews settled after their expulsion from Spain inside 1492. Lyrics happened to be preserved by the communities formed according to the Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. These Sephardic communities share many associated with the identical lyrics and also poems, but yet the music itself varies considerably.

There are usually three types of Sephardic songs-topical and even entertainment songs, romance songs and even spiritual alternatively ceremonial songs. Lyrics could be within several languages, including Hebrew with regard to religious songs, in addition to Ladino.

As together with other Middle-Eastern urban music genres, Sephardic music was basically sourced on a system of maqam, which in turn is really quite often translated as "mode," yet somehow actually embraces a broader series of musical elements.

Songs that are really song by the women are typically traditionally sung while executing household tasks, without accompaniment alternatively harmony. Tambourines and also other percussion instruments are really in some cases used, especially inside wedding songs. Oud as well as kanun are usually besides that used throughout a handful of instrumentations of Sephardic music, as well as more modern performers incorporate countless other imported instruments.

Sephardic music has got its roots throughout the musical traditions that belong to the Jewish communities inside medieval Spain. Due to the fact then, it is bound to have picked up influences from Morocco, Argentina, Turkey, Greece, as well as the other places

since therefore many centuries have passed due to the fact the exodus, a lot that belong to the original music has got been lost. Instead, Sephardic music is bound to have adopted the melodies and also rhythms that belong to the distinctive countries wherein the Sepharates settled throughout. The Greek as well as Turkish traditions are really fairly close. The Moroccan alternatively "western" Sephardic traditions are usually not the fact that close to the eastern-Greek-Turkish traditions.

These song traditions spread from Spain to Morocco (the Western Tradition) in addition to several parts that belong to the Ottoman Empire (the Eastern Tradition) including Greece, Jerusalem, the Balkans and even Egypt. Sephardic music adapted to each of these locales, assimilating North African high-pitched, extensive ululations; Balkan rhythms, with regard to instance within 9/8 time; as well as the Turkish maqam mode.

The song traditions used to be studied in addition to transcribed inside the early 20th century through a variety of musical ethnologists as well as scholars of medieval Hispanic literature. From around 1957 right up until quite just now, Samuel Armistead along with colleagues Israel Katz and also J. Silverman collected the Judeo-Spanish song tradition from informants within North America, Turkey, the Balkans, Greece, North Africa, as well as Israel. The digitized tracks, along with transcriptions as well as information about song type, is undoubtedly available over the website Folk Literature associated with the Sephardic Jews, at present permanently hosted through the University of Illinois Library.

The early 20th century saw a lot of popular commercial audio recordings of Sephardic music appear of Greece and even Turkey, followed by the Jerusalem and even other parts associated with the Eastern Tradition. The earliest performers appeared to be for the most part men, including the "Turks" Haim Efendi, Jack Mayesh as well as Yitzhak Algazi. Later, a unique generation of singers arose, many of whom were being not independently Sephardic. Gloria Levy, Janet as well as Jak Esim, Pasharos Sefardies, Flory Jagoda are typically popular Eastern Tradition performers of that period. Stefani Valadez, Gerard Edery, Francoise Atlan, Savina Yannatou, and even Yasmin Levy are really amongst the innovative generation of singers bringing a brand-new rendering to the Ladino-Judeo-Spanish heritage in addition to, inside the case of Levy and also Edery, mixing it along with Andalusian Flamenco.

Sephardic music, including pan-Sephardic music that may not necessarily be Judeo-Spanish, is actually predominantly vocal. Instruments, when they are usually used, are usually experienced to accompany songs. Instrumental practice among Sephardim seems to have typically reflected the fact that associated with the host culture: Turkish, Greek, Moroccan. The instruments a large number of common are typically plucked lutes: the Middle Eastern lute; and even throughout Turkey fretted saz or even in some cases mandoline as well as the chumbush), kanun or alternatively santur (plucked alternatively hammered Middle Eastern zither), violin and also hand drums (frame and also goblet).

For the purpose of weddings and even other celebrations, performers might additionally be hired from the Muslim community. About the other hand, skilled Jewish performers would be hired through the Muslim community.

Generally, Sephardic men competed both local percussion and even melody instruments, while women usually sang unaccompanied within domestic contexts, and even at weddings accompanied their singing along with tambourines as well as in some cases other percussion instruments.

Molho describes Salonica Sephardic women making use of kitchen items as improvised percussion, within a manner reminiscent of Spanish and even Portuguese village practice today. In the eastern Mediterranean, women performers specializing within singing in addition to drumming with regard to weddings were being referred to as tanyederas, in addition to they experienced a central role throughout the wedding events. A lot of early 20th-century Ottoman-area Jewish schools taught mandoline to girls, as well as a bit of women learned to play the piano. In any case, whether or even not instruments are typically used, the most important as well as normally correct music instrument throughout Sephardic music is simply the voice.

Middle age instruments as such are typically not used, except throughout cases such as the oud wherein the instrument of music seems to have survived along with minimal changes throughout traditional practice.

Sephardim, like other traditional music artists, commonly adapt traditional instruments to present norms: at a Sephardic wedding one will definitely not find any medieval instruments, nevertheless will possibly notice an electronic keyboard.

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You can use this article under the Creative Commons License CC-BY. This license lets you distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon my work, even commercially, as long as you credit me, by displaying the information on me given below verbatim for the original article.

Mehmet Okonsar is a pianist-composer-conductor and musicologist. Besides his international concert career he is a prolific writer. Founder of the first classical music-musicology dedicated blog-site: "inventor-musicae" as well as the first classical-music video portal: "classical videos".

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