Music

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Mahinarangi Tocker

New Zealand singer-songwriter Mahinaarangi Tocker (1955-2008) was best known as a Maori musician, but her Jewish heritage was an essential component of her identity and her music.

Episode 59: Zohra El Fassia

Zohra El Fassia was born around 1905 near Fez, Morocco. She sang from the time she was a girl, and by the mid-20th century, she was a star. El Fassia recorded hundreds of songs for international record labels and performed regularly for the king in Rabat. When she moved to Israel in 1962, her career took a hit, but she sought out smaller venues and was soon rediscovered by younger Moroccan Israeli artists. Zohra El Fassia died in 1994. Writer and ethnomusicologist Tamar Sella tells her story for Can We Talk? and for JWA's revised and updated edition of the Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women.

Julie Rosewald

Julie Eichberg Rosewald was America’s first woman cantor. Known as the “Cantor Soprano” at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, she served between 1884 and 1893. Rosewald enjoyed a brilliantly successful career in opera as well as being a composer, author, teacher, and professor of music.

Zohra El Fassia

Zohra El Fassia was a renowned singer and recording artist in twentieth-century Morocco. Her life story moves between the burgeoning colonial recording industry in the Maghrib to North African immigrant histories in the south of Israel. El Fassia’s soulful music and powerful persona have resonated with generations of artists and activists who look to her for the unheard stories of Jews in the Arab and Muslim world and of Mizrahi Jews in Israel.

Women and Sephardic Music

Ladino or Judeo-Spanish Sephardic songs are primarily a women’s repertoire. The two main traditions are that of northern Morocco and the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily today’s Turkey, Greece, the Balkans.

Women in Israeli Music

The arrival in pre- and post-state Israel of Jewish immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa resulted in a culturally diverse proliferation of music, much of which involved performance and composition by Jewish women. Jewish women have also contributed significantly to the development of music education and music scholarship, being involved in music studies publications and projects as well as the development of music education institutions.

Florence Menk-Meyer

Australian pianist Florence Menk-Meyer took Europe by storn with her musicianship during her first visit there in the 1880s. She was a favorite of audiences overseas and in Australia for many decades, her achievements as a pianist compared to Liszt and other legendary masters

Jewish Women in Contemporary Popular Music: 1950 to Present

Since 1950, Jewish women musicians have moved with the times, performing with bands, as solo acts, and as songwriters. They have included mainstream pop performers and rock, punk, and Riot Grrrl musicians. Some Israeli artists have reached international audiences, often via the Europvision Song Contest.

Jewish Women in Jazz

Jewish women have been involved the world of jazz from its beginnings, as instrumentalists, vocalists, and businesspeople. The degree to which Jewishness overtly affects their music varied, and these musicians’ identities as Jews intersect in interesting ways with other facets of their selves, most notably their femaleness. Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, Jewish women in jazz took up a wider variety of instruments, and as jazz became more international, Jewish female jazz musicians from around the globe began to come to prominence.

Karen Sarhon

Karen Gerson Sarhon, founder and vocalist of the Sephardic music group Los Pasharos Sefaradis, is coordinator of the Sephardic Culture Research Center in Istanbul, Turkey, and chief editor of El Amaneser, the world's only newspaper wholly in Judeo-Spanish/Ladino. She continues to produce innovative projects for the preservation and promotion of Sephardic culture and language.

 

Flory Jagoda

Flory Jagoda is a singer, musician, and composer who has promulgated and enriched the Sephardic and Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) musical and folkloric tradition in the United States. Born in 1923, in Sarajevo, Bosnia (formerly Yugoslavia), she managed to leave Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia and avoid the sad fate of the extended family that nurtured her musical talent and Sephardic heritage. The popular Hanukah song, Ocho Kandelikas, is one of her many original compositions in Judeo-Spanish.

Elizabeth Swados

Elizabeth (Liz) Swados was an American composer, writer, and theatrical director. Best known for her 1978 Broadway musical, Runaways, Swados created a diverse body of work that included novels, poetry, plays, music, and musicals.

Episode 51: Alicia Svigals, Klezmer Fiddler (Transcript)

Episode 51: Alicia Svigals, Klezmer Fiddler (Transcript)

Episode 51: Alicia Svigals, Klezmer Fiddler

Alicia Svigals is the world’s leading klezmer fiddler and has played a central role in the klezmer revival. Alicia was a co-founder of the Grammy-Award winning band, the Klezmatics, and she has recorded, performed, and collaborated with countless artists over nearly four decades. In our second episode on creativity in the pandemic, Alicia joins us to talk about how music is helping her get through this difficult time.

Mordechai Gebirtig's 'Undzer Shtetl Brent' with flames

"Undzer Shtetl Brent": Our Town Is Burning

Erica Gerald Mason

Written in the aftermath of a pogrom, Mordechai Gebirtig's 1936 song "Undzer Shtetl Brent" is particularly relevant in 2020.

Topics: Music

Episode 42: Ode to Ladino

Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish, was once the mother tongue of Sephardic Jews in Turkey and other Jewish communities that once thrived around the Mediterranean. Now, there are only about 100,000 Ladino speakers scattered throughout the world. In this episode of Can We Talk?, we meet Karen Sarhon, a woman on a mission to keep Ladino, and the culture surrounding it, alive. Freelance journalist Durrie Bouscaren brings us this story from Istanbul, Turkey.

Natalie Portman in "Jane Got a Gun"

Eighteen Jewish Country Songs

Beth Levine

Here are eighteen heimishe tunes to get your ortho slides a tappin’ and your tush a boppin’.

Topics: Comedy, Music
Chicago Women's Liberation Union Rock Band

The Path to Melodic Liberation

Isabel Hoffman

From the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band's story, I learned to be wary of putting myself in a box and labeling my “brand” of feminism.

Eden Derso

Jewish Ladies Who Rock, Vol. 2

Rebecca Long

What better way to celebrate spring than by listening to the second installment of JWA’s playlist of Jewish women who rock?

Topics: Music
Peaches in Seattle

Jewish Ladies Who Rock, Vol. 1

Rebecca Long
Whether you’re “making your way downtown, walking fast,” or just “lying here,” there’s a song in this playlist for everyone.
Topics: Music
Market at Minho by Sonia Delaunay, 1915

The Art of Gender Representation

Sofia Heller

The words to SZA’s “Drew Barrymore” ring in my ears as I write this; the song serves as an anthem for the teen angst and insecurities I’ve been feeling since I got home from school today. Feeling lonely, feeling like I’m not living up to the standard of female beauty: SZA articulates the thoughts that have been running through my mind.

Topics: Painting, Music
Natalie Harder at her Bat Mitzvah

A Woman’s Place is in the Cantorate

Natalie Harder

If you ask any member of Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Massachusetts, they will tell you that Jodi Sufrin was made to be a cantor. Not only does she have a beautiful voice, but she radiates this soft warmth at all times—inviting everyone to take part in what she is saying or singing. From sing-alongs in Beth Elohim’s preschool to Friday night services, Cantor Sufrin has been a gentle, but nonetheless powerful female presence in my life. She is, and has always been, the type of person I (and every other young Jewish girl at my temple) aspire to be. And as I grew up and became the person I am today, I couldn’t have been luckier to have a role model like her, showing me what being a Jewish woman can mean.

A Besere Velt, 2016

Twenty Years of Singing for Bread and Roses

Rebecca Long

This year, the Boston Workmen’s Circle Yiddish chorus, A Besere Velt (A Better World), will celebrate its 20th anniversary. I spoke with original chorus members, Michael Felsen and Jenny Silverman, about the choir’s conception, past, present, and future.

Topics: Music

Girls in Trouble: Women's Agency and Power in the Torah

Guest teacher Alicia Jo Rabins introduces two new study guides from her "Girls in Trouble" curriculum. By exploring the stories of the Sotah, and the daughters of Tzelofchad, participants consider women's agency and power in the Torah.

Man Wearing Native American Headdress

Inappropriate Appropriation

Sofia Heller

My classmates started posting pictures from last year’s Coachella, their excitement for the music festival illuminating my phone screen. However, amidst all the elation, I couldn’t help but notice the troubling cultural appropriation that also filled the pictures. In the backgrounds of nearly every photo I saw, there were young women wearing bindis and feathered headdresses, and young men wearing war paint. Unfortunately, this insensitivity to and misappropriation of cultures is not specific to Coachella, nor is it a new problem in fashion.

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