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History of Jewish musical culture in Spain
Sephardic songs and religious melodies
Role of women in maintaining Sephardic music
Sephardic music appeared for the first time in medieval Spain, when “cantigas” started to be performed at the royal courts. “Cantiga” represents a genre of 13th century Spanish monophonic, or unison, song, often honoring the Virgin Mary. The biggest collection is the manuscript “Cantigas de Santa Maria” compiled by King Alfonso X the Wise of Castle and Leon in the second half of the century and preserved in three manuscript copies at the library of El Escorial, northwest of Madrid, the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, and the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence. In some words the word “cantiga” is the equivalent of “canso”: a courtly song in the vernacular. After the expulsion of 1492, the Jewish community of Spain scattered to many different geographical locations. They retained their medieval Castilian speech, called “Judezmo” or “Ladino”, maintaining it as a distinctive language wherever they settled. Enlarged with Hebrew and Aramaic vocabulary, Ladino became for the “Sephardim” (Sephardic Jews) what Yiddish became for the “Ashkenazim” (Ashkenazic Jews) of East Europe – a unifying vernacular tongue. The “Sephardim” also took with them from Spain their special synagogue traditions of worship, along with their distinctive literature and folklore, a folk art and music. Some even retained in their families for generations the very keys to their former homes in Spain.
The present work has the aim to present the features of Sephardic music during its existence and the diversity of types of Sephardic songs which persist until present.
We have selected the following plan of presentation of the subject:
Firstly, we present briefly the Sephardic music or Judeo-Spanish music of Spain. Unfortunately, regarding this type of music, a small number of fundamental works can be mentioned. But, in the work, we have relied on the works of Klára Móricz, Edwin Seroussi, Eleazar Gutwirth, Josep Marti, Ramon Tasat and other authors who presented Sephardic music in Spain from historical and national point of view.
Secondly, we analyze the Sephardic songs and religious melodies which are rarely sung nowadays in Spain.
Finally, we will analyze the role of women in maintaining the Sephardic music in Spain during centuries as it was created from the Ancient times till now.
The main issue that we analyze in this paper is: Women or men have kept Sephardic music as it was created at the beginning of its existence? After analyzing the available data sources, we try to answer the question: Did Spanish people kept the Sephardic music as it was during centuries?
The objective of this paper is to present information not only in terms of history, but also to evaluate the role of Sephardic music in Spain nowadays and namely Sephardic religious music.
The research work consists of following sections:
1. History of Jewish musical culture in Spain
2. Sephardic songs and religious melodies
3. Role of women in maintaining Sephardic music.
The expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and then from Portugal in 1496 and 1498 led to the formation of Sephardic communities throughout the Mediterranean, in the urban coastal cultures of North Africa and Turkey, and in the insular worlds of the Aegean and Adriatic seas. The Sephardic music, and Judeo-Spanish music in particular, is music of multiculturalism. Despite the fact that the original is music of the Jews who came from the Iberian Peninsula, it includes the culture of the Arab countries, Balkan, Greece, Europe. As we have said in the present paper, Sephardic music was influenced by Arab, Spanish and Jewish musical cultures. If Jewish music is characterized by simplicity of musical instruments and the power of voice, the Sephardic music is characterized by a variety of melody lines, tones, tempo, voice’s vibration, etc.
In the present paper we have discussed the Sephardic music or Judeo-Spanish music of Spain, the Sephardic songs and religious melodies which are rarely sing nowadays, and the importance of wedding songs for the Sephardic music in Spain.
Responding to the question about who have pertained Sephardic music as it was created at the beginning of its existence we came to the answer: After analyzing the available data sources, we try to answer the question: generally men sing liturgical and paraliturgical songs, women are main conservers f wedding songs and romances. Women were significant movers in Jewish culture in the past but they remained excluded from the “text” of Sephardic studies because they did not produce written texts. Musical performance, particularly singing, is a field of action outside the domain of “religion” in which Sephardic women acted affirmatively throughout history. In a broader historical and socio-cultural perspective one can retrieve documentation about assertive Sephardic women making music. However, written documentation concerning this phenomenon is meager and available data is reduced to the oral traditions which reached our day and were recorded by modern ethnomusicologists. In such a way we receive the answer that both women and men pertained the Sephardic music alive, each having its role in the developing and transmission of these types of melodies.
The role of Sephardic people in pertaining Sephardic music consist in the next things: the songs of their ancestor are still sung and the history of their people is transmitted through songs from one to another not only in written form but also orally.