The Judeo-Spanish Folk Songs in Israel: Sephardic Music and Literature between Survival and Revival

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies

The aim of this article is to examine the growing interest and involvement with Ladino folk songs in Israel in recent years. Its particular focus is on an overview of the stage performances, the rerecording of Ladino songs by a new generation of artists, and the inclusion of Sephardic music in the growing repertoire of Israeli folk music. The article presents a socio-cultural survey that attempts to answer the following questions: Is the growing involvement with Ladino folk songs in the realm of conservation—in other words, repetition—of the age-old Ladino cultural heritage, or are we witnessing a cultural process whose main thrust is appropriation and whose goal is to use new instruments to bring the cultural wealth from the past into the present and present it to a new generation, not necessarily the current generation of the Sephardic ethnic group?

  • 4

    See Matilda Koen-SaranoVini Kantaremos (Jerusalem: Author’s Edition1993); Susana Weich-Shahak Romancero sefardí de marruecos (Madrid: Alpuerto 1997); Susana Weich-Shahak La boda sefardí: música texto y contexto (Madrid: Alpuerto 2007).

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  • 8

    On this see Dwora RothThe Ladino Culture and its Presentation in Contemporary Hebrew Literature Prose (Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University2006).

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  • 18

    See David Gurevitz and Dan AravEncyclopedia of Ideas: Culture Thought Media (Tel-Aviv: Babel2012) 726–728 [Hebrew].

  • 19

    Baruch Kimmerling“The New Israelis: Plurality of Cultures without Multicultures,” Alpayim 16 (1998): 264–308 [Hebrew].

  • 20

    Kimmerling“The New Israelis” 264.

  • 26

    Mally Shechory“Ethnic Stereotypes and Social Distance in Israeli Society,” Social Issues in Israel 1 (2006): 64–88 [Hebrew].

  • 27

    See: Tamar AlexanderThe Heart is a Mirror: The Sephardic Folktale (Detroit: Wayne State University Press2008) 3–14.

  • 28

    Yohanan Peres and Eliezer Ben-RafaelCleavages in Israeli Society (Tel-Aviv: Am Oved and Sapir Library2006) 138 [Hebrew].

  • 30

    Peres and Ben-RafaelCleavages in Israeli Society139.

  • 32

    Judith R. Cohen“Judeo-Spanish Song as Identity Marker, from Iberian Neo-Sephardic Activities to the Internet,” Proceedings of the 12th British Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studieseds. Hilary Pomeroy and Michael Alpert (Leiden: Brill 2004) 159–167.

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  • 34

    See Edwin Seroussi“The Growth of the Judeo-Spanish Folksong Repertory in the 20th Century,” Proceedings of the 10th World Congress of Jewish StudiesDivision D Vol. ii (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies 1990): 173–180; Edwin Seroussi “Sephardic Music: Bibliographical Guide with a Checklist of Notated Sources” jfer 15(2) (1993): 56–61; Susana Weich-Shahak “El rol de la mujer en el repertorio musical sefardí: interprete y personaje” El Prezente: Studies in Sephardic Culture 3 (2009): 273–291.

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  • 35

    Judith R. Cohen“ ‘Pero la voz es muy educada’: Reactions to Evolving Styles in Judeo-Spanish Song Performance,” Hommage à Haïm Vidal Sephiha (Sephardica)eds. Winfried Busse and Marie-Christine Varol-Bornes (Bern et al.: Peter Lang 1996) 65–82; Judith R. Cohen “Judeo-Spanish Song as Identity Marker from Iberian Neo-Sephardic Activities to the Internet” 159–167.

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  • 36

    Cohen“Reactions to Evolving Styles in Judeo-Spanish Song Performance” 65.

  • 37

    Cohen“Judeo-Spanish Song as Identity Marker” 166.

  • 38

    Cohen“Judeo-Spanish Song as Identity Marker” 160.

  • 39

    Cohen“Judeo-Spanish Song as Identity Marker” 165.

  • 40

    Cohen“Reactions to Evolving Styles in Judeo-Spanish Song Performance” 69. Even so it is important to note that from a critical perspective Cohen’s statements are questionable as she does not live in Israel is unaware of the developing cultural dynamics in Israel and her perception of the developments in Ladino folk songs are the perceptions of a researcher outside the Israeli cultural circle. In addition Cohen’s conclusions are possibly motivated by personal taste style and preference such that the same can be said for the criticism she voices regarding events in the Israeli cultural landscape.

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  • 42

    Seroussi“The Growth of the Judeo-Spanish Folksong Repertory in the 20th Century” 173–180.

  • 43

    Benedict AndersonImagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Tel-Aviv: The Open University1999) 36 55 64 [Hebrew].

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  • 44

    Michal Held“ ‘The People Who Almost Forgot’: Judeo-Spanish Web-Based Interactions as a Digital Home-Land,” El Prezente: Studies in Sephardic Culture 4 (2010): 84.

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  • 45

    See David Gurevitz and Dan AravEncyclopedia of Ideas: Culture Thought Media (Tel-Aviv: Babel2012) 1023.

  • 46

    See Gurevitz and AravEncyclopedia of Ideas1024.

  • 48

    Hadas Pal-YardenThe Judeo-Spanish Songs Repertoire in Jerusalem Nowadays: New Social Significance of Traditional Repertoire (Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University2001).

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  • 50

    Cohen“Reactions to Evolving Styles in Judeo-Spanish Song Performance” 65–82.

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