Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

Sephrdc-music-msg - 9/19/09


Period music of the Sephardic Jews.


NOTE: See also the files: Jews-msg, Khazars-msg, Spain-msg, fd-Jewish-msg, guitar-art, music-bib, p-songs-msg, story-sources-msg, dates-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000 17:17:18 -0700

From: "Stephen Higa" <mitsuo at uclink4.berkeley.edu>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Introduction (& spiel about music...)



> Oh lovely! I don't know much about the Mediterranean music, but I'd love to

> learn! I know quite a lot about the medieval music of Scandinavia and

> especially Finland. Old Finnish music is great, filled with the coldness and

> darkness of the winter, you can really feel the rough life.


Cool! Quite the opposite of Mediterranean music, which I might say is

thoroughly soaked with sun and warmth...


> For anybody interested I recommend the album "Suden Aika" from Tellu and the

> early recordings of Hedningarna (Kaksi and Tr=E4d).


Thank you!  I shall definitely check those out...



For Se=F1or Rhodri, some recordings of Sephardic music:


First, of course, most songs in the Sephardic folk repertoire you hear on

most recordings have not been proven to have existed before the expulsion

(1492). The only clues we have relate to the lyrics, in that many songs

across Sephardic communities have similar texts, and relatives have been

discovered in Spain today.  However, the melodies are widely variant and

seem to be influenced somewhat by the "host" culture, whether Morocco,

Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, or the Americas...


1. two recordings by Altramar, Iberian Garden Vol.1 and 2--They include an

example of a 12th c. Hebrew muwashshah (sung poem), an 11th c. reshut

(pre-liturgical religious poem), and an 11th/12th c. piyyut (religious

poem). Since no music has yet been found for these genres in genuine

medieval documents, Altramar formulates their own melodies based on

contemporary musical descriptions and the modern traditions in these genres.

Their liner notes are just as enjoyable as the music!  They also include

some lovely examples of re-created medieval Arabo-Andalusian music...And all

are very convincing.  They really do their homework.


2. La Rondinella has produced three wonderful and moving recordings of

Sephardic folk songs.  Here, they aren't going for that "early music" feel

you're trying to stay away from--rather, they present the songs more like

European folk music, unlike the groups who imagine the songs as pseudo-Arab

music. The simple arrangements, featuring only guitar and the lovely alto

of Alice Kosloski on most, sometimes introducing renaissance and folk bowed

strings, recorders, or simple percussion.  The instrumentalists sometimes

join in with vocal harmonies on the refrains.


It doesn't sound as if they are trying to present the songs the way they

might have sounded if indeed they'd existed before the expulsion, but they

nevertheless capture the spirit and beauty of the music better than any

other recording I've yet heard.  Very haunting.  Try giving them a listen on

Amazon.com if you have RealPlayer.


3. Sarband brings out the Arabic qualities of the music.  A few songs are

convincing, and the vocalists are for the most part sufficiently believable

(i.e., no bel canto).  They include the only two songs in my (limited)

knowledge ("Calvi, calvi" and "Ea Judios") that have been documented as

medieval (15th c.).  I don't own any of their CDs, so I don't know if they

know this (I haven't seen their liner notes)--but these songs were the two

examples in an article I read about secular Jewish music in medieval Spain

in a book on Medieval Jewish music I found in our music library.


4. Two artists not in the "early music" field but the world music field (why

do I keep accidentally typing "fiend??") are Ruth Yaakov and Judy Frankel.

Yaakov demonstrates how the Sephardic and Balkan musical traditions merged

in Greece, and Frankel brings out the Spanish qualities.  I don't own any of

their CDs, but have heard portions of them.  Yaakov's voice seems very

proficient in the Balkan folk idiom, and Frankel's voice is lyrical and



5. I haven't checked out the Boston Camerata's "The Sacred Bridge" yet, but

Joel Cohen has never ceased to amaze me with his other recordings.  So it's

worth a try.  This CD is subtitled "Jews and Christians in Medieval Europe"

and includes some pieces by a 13th c. Jewish trouvere (!).


More recordings than you'd ever want to know about, I know. :)


Moshe ibn Yishma'el


"Foldatz ed e leujaria

quar part vostres mandamens

vos am, pero per nuls sens

ma foudat no'm camiaria."

--Berenguer de Palol (12th c.)


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org