Medieval Sephardic Music | performance

September 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

Medieval Jewish music of  Spain.  Beautiful.

Exotic to our ears, ethereal and rhythmic.

Above is a long playlist of 26 pieces of Spanish Sephardic music.  The first performances are by “Ensemble Fontegara”.  They are period pieces featured at the beginning of the playlist.  I have not listened to the entire list, I love their work.  It inspired me to write this post.

 Music History

Sepharad refers to the descendants of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula.  Sepharad is a Hebrew word meaning ‘Spain’.


Medieval Sephardi with period instruments in Spain.

Sephardic music has its roots in the musical traditions of the Jewish communities in medieval Spain.  Since then, it has picked up influences from Morocco, Argentina, Turkey, Greece, and the other places that Spanish Jews settled after their expulsion from Spain in 1492.  Much of the original music has been lost.  Lyrics were preserved by communities formed by the Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula.  These Sephardic communities share many of the same lyrics and poems, but the music itself varies considerably.

Medieval period instruments in Casa de Sefarad, Spain

Medieval period instruments in Casa de Sefarad, Spain

Sephardic music has evolved over centuries as it incorporated local instruments, sounds and rhythms into the genre.  What we find is a wide variation of musical styles united by common lyrics. Sephardic music, including pan-Sephardic music which may not necessarily be Judeo-Spanish, is primarily vocal. Instruments, when they are used, are played to accompany songs. Instrumental practice among Sephardim has generally reflected that of the host culture.

The tradition of Jewish liturgical chant dates back to Biblical era. But the profane Jewish singing acquired its breadth and diversity in the Diaspora, through the cultural and musical influence of the various cultures with which the Jewish communities were -willingly or by force- in contact. Just as poetry, Sephardic music remained the privileged witness of the strange adventure of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula who successively underwent tolerance, success, persecution and deportation. In spite of dispersion and acculturation, Jews have preserved their language and specific cultural values.

sources – from:



Explore the Music Online

  • Sephardic Music: A Century of Recordings

“This website showcases over 100 years of recorded Sephardic music, from the 78 rpm era to the present. It first explores in detail the earliest Sephardic recordings, the artists that made them, and their repertory and performance practices. These early recordings tell a rich story of Sephardic musical life in the first half of the 20th century. The site next covers the second half-century of recorded Sephardic music, touching on the amazing outpouring of Sephardic recordings and the diverse performing styles used in these recordings.”  The history and various types of Sephardic music.

Desire to Share.  Online samples of a variety of regional Sephardic music (note, music starts playing when the page loads)

  • Sephardic Music Festival  This showcases the modern influences and evolution of Sephardic music.  They also have free downloads.


Note:  I removed the Historical Notes, Architecture and Religious Art sections to create a separate post.


Medieval Sephardic Music | performance was originally published on Kept


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