— Bibliographic Items

Judeo-Spanish Songs for the Life Cycle in the Eastern Mediterranean

Cantares Judeo-españoles del Ciclo de la Vida en el Mediterráneo Oriental

Judeo-Spanish Songs for the Life Cycle in the Eastern Mediterranean
Jewish Music Research Centre, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Material Type: 
Eastern Sephardi
Place of Publication: 
Jerusalem, Israel
Anthology of Music Traditions in Israel
2 CD + Booklet
Type of Recording: 
Research Recording
Ladino (Judeo-Spanish, Judezmo)

The album includes folksongs in Ladino that Sephardic Jews used to sing in events of the life cycle in their communities in Turkey, the Balkans and Israel. The recordings and accompanying commentaries are the work of Dr. Susana Weich-Shahak, one of the veteran associate researchers of the JMRC and one of the most prominent scholars of the folksong in Ladino worldwide. These CDs summarize the ethnographic work of Weich-Shahak at the JMRC and the National Sound Archives of the Israel National Library that span for over four decades.  Eighty-seven songs are included in the CDs, some of them rare pearls, some of them in different versions, all performed by the best folksingers, mostly women, from the Sephardic communities of Turkey and the Balkan who were recorded in Israel after their immigration. The CDs are accompanied by a substantial trilingual booklet (English, Spanish, and Hebrew) that includes detailed commentaries on the contexts of performance of the songs, their language and literary content as well as the musical styles of the melodies.

You can listen to this album on Spotify, download MP3s at Amazon, or find it on Apple Music. 


La mujer de Terah

The figure of Abraham, the first circumcised Israelite, is central to the brit milah. This copla, mentioning Abraham’s mother and his father, Terah, is based on a midrashic interpretation of Abraham’s birth. Terah’s wife was pregnant. She changed and grew pale; although she knew the cause, she did not reveal her situation even to her husband. She wandered through fields and vineyards, suffering birth pains, and finally gave birth to Abraham in a cave. The song continues with the story of Abraham’s old age (at a hundred years) and about his wife, Sarah (at the age of ninety), their son, Isaac, and the Biblical story of Isaac’s binding.

El novio manda

Variant of a song on the theme of a list of gifts that the prodigal, lavish groom, has bought for his bride, as well as his hopes from her. The first line of each strophe states the gift sent to the bride: wooden clogs, hairpins, sweets, a purse, a wardrobe. The second line states an attribute that rhymes with the gift: the bride will be righteous and honest, she will come with her relatives, she will be adorned with long bunches of golden threads on both sides of her face, she will not be old, she is coming from her bath. “Let it be in a blessed hour,” says the refrain.