Capturing the Sounds of Sephardi Music

Nov. 30 2015

At the annual Pro Musica Hebraica concert last week, the Amernet String Quartert, along with the mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway and the guitarist Adam Levin, performed a series of pieces based on traditional Jewish melodies with their roots in medieval Spain. Grace Jean writes in her review:

Because Spanish Jews preserved their culture through oral traditions, Sephardi music was rarely written down, but rather passed between generations through singing. The composer Alberto Hemsi (1898–1975) sought to capture the songs he heard in his travels, ultimately publishing ten volumes of melodies.

Inspired by Hemsi’s efforts, the composer Ljova (Lev Zhurbin) . . . arranged “Blanca Nina,” a suite of traditional songs and ballads. For this world premiere, Calloway sang with haunting presence while Amernet proved an equal partner in depicting a young woman’s life in Sephardi Spain.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Arts & Culture, Jewish music, Music, Pro Musica Hebraica, Sephardim


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount