minstrel: Sephardic music

Linda Olson josceline at hotmail.com
Sat Apr 22 18:46:19 PDT 2000

Lady Magdalena vander Brugghe queried, regarding Sephardic music,

>So, can anybody suggest a couple of albums or artists?

I have two CDs containing Sephardic music, both on the Dorian Discovery 
label. One is "Songs of the Sephardim: Traditional Music of the Spanish 
Jews" by La Rondinella; the other is "Iberian Garden (vol. 2): Jewish, 
Christian and Muslim Music in Medieval Sapin" by Altramar.

As the liner notes for the first point out, it is impossible to know for 
certain how the Sephardic songs were sung in the Middle Ages, as there are 
many regional variations in tunes and playing styles; the songs belong 
firmly to oral tradition. The booklet also mentions the 20th century 
folklorists and ethnomusicologists who first began collecting these songs: 
Cecil Sharp in England, Bela Bartok & Zoltan Kodaly in Hungary, John Lomax 
in the U.S. and Manuel Manrique de Lara in "Sephardic communities".

The latter collection uses only songs with _texts_ that survive in medieval 
manuscripts, although the Jewish & Muslim melodies are not strictly 
documented. I don't know about Vol. 1, but Vol. 2 contains only one Jewish 
song, "ahalay yikkonu darakay" by Abraham ibn Ezra. It is in Hebrew rather 
than Ladino. There are also two Arabic songs, two (Christian) Spanish songs, 
and two instrumental Estampies on the CD.

Somewhere else (but I cannot remember where) I read a reference to someone 
making an effort to find a few Sephardic songs that were sung with the same 
melody on both sides of the Mediterranean, which is a good indication that 
they preserve the original, medieval tune. If I figure out where I read 
that, I'll pass it along.

Josceline Levesque
Midrealm, Northshield, Barony of Jararvellir
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