Sephardic Music Festival’s goal is unifying people through culture and education, celebrating diversity and common ground. By way of this work, we put forth a public Jewish face to multi-cultural, inter-faith, creative, and collaborative bridge-building.
The Sephardic Music Festival showcases the remarkable diversity that exists within the Jewish community. Its tapestry of harmonies, rhythms, and cultural motifs are as rich, vibrant, and diverse as the Jewish world itself. Popular perceptions of Jews and Jewish culture are dominated by Ashkenazi images and symbols like bagels, gefilte fish, klezmer, and Yiddish. This is the first music festival to focus exclusively on the less familiar but captivating culture of the Jewish communities of Spain/Portugal, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
The festival showcases artists from all over the world, representing cultural traditions from Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) to Mizrahi (Middle Eastern/North African) to Yemenite (Judeo-Arabic). In addition to traditional liturgical music, Shabbat songs, Sephardic folk tunes, and classic love poems (Romanceros), the festival also presents artists who fuse traditional rhythms, melodies, and themes with modern styles such as electro, hip hop, and dance music. The Sephardic Scholar Series, an important part of the Festival, brings performers, ethnomusicologists, and experts together to illuminate the historical and sociological roots of Sephardic music and culture.
Past performers include the epic; Hadag Nahash הדג נחש, Yemen Blues, Yair Dalal, Moshav, Matisyahu, Miki Gavrielov מיקי גבריאלוב, Asaf Avidan, DeLeon, Diwon, dr Israell, Cheb i Sabbah, Soulico, Soulfarm, Saz, Piamenta, Pharaoh’s Daughter, Afro-Semitic Experience, Hasidic New Wave, Saadi, Sarah Aroeste, The Sway Machinery, Zion80, Vanessa Paloma, Gerard Edery, Juez, Asefa, Nuriya, The Hebrew Mamita & tons more!
PHOTOS FROM PAST FESTIVALS:
FEATURED PRESS (click to read); WALL STREET JOURNAL | NY TIMES | WFMU | TIME OUT | DAILY NEWS | VILLAGE VOICE | TIMES OF ISRAEL | BROOKLYN VEGAN | NPR | FORWARD 1 & 2 | THE JEWISH WEEK | JSPACE | THE JERUSALEM POST | NY POST & MORE
“This Hanukkah fest wants to school us in Jewish music—and not just your grandpa’s klez.” – Time Out NY
“eclectic lineup of traditional and contemporary artists, including many dedicated to fusing disparate sounds or bridging new and old.” – The NY Times
“Thanks to events like the Sephardic Music Festival, the sounds of Sephardic Jewry are at last beginning to get their due.” – The Forward
“For most New Yorkers, “Jewish music” means klezmer: plaintive fiddles, wailing clarinets and other vestiges of a largely vanished Eastern European culture. But at the Sephardic Music Festival, a New York City tradition…, the world of Jewish music gets explored from an entirely different angle, focusing on the aural legacy of Jewish communities from Spain and the Muslim world.” – The Jerusalem Post
“Our Hannukkah-side suggestion is the annual Sephardic Music Festival…look at this festival as the un-Ashkenazi festival.” – National Public Radio, WNYC
Recap video of SMF # 12
Ovation TV profile on the festival (Teaser)
SMF Promo clip
SMF Art Rave & Fashion Show (introduction video)
On Jewish Diversity at SMF 2010 and beyond
Shalom TV’s coverage of SMF’s opening night
Divahn @ Joe’s Pub
Hadag Nachash @ BB Kings
Eden Mi Qedem @ Highline Ballroom
Smadar @ Joe’s Pub
We have released to official SMF fundraiser compilations. The series is a mix of traditional, dance, electro, hip hop, and folk songs from around the Sephardic world. Grammy-nominated artist Matisyahu combines a suite of Middle Eastern inspired hip hop riffs with a time-honored Yemenite chorus sung by Yehuda Solomon. Yasmin Levy’s impassioned song “Mi Korasón” (My Heart) emphasizes the under-appreciated romantic side of the Ladino language. Moshav — an L.A. based group of expatriate Israeli musicians — contributes a powerful rendition of the Yemenite wedding song “Abba Shimon” in Judeo Arabic. Electro Morocco bring the infectious fun, funk and Middle Eastern and Balkan electro vibes on “Joe Pill”. Sarah Aroeste’s “Hija Mia” gets remixed and re-imagined by Balkan Beat Box’s Tamir Muskat making it not only beautiful, but banging. In addition, Yair Dalal, the world-renowned Sephardic musician who performed at the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize Gala in Oslo, offers a memorable interpretation of the classic Shabbat song “Ya Ribon.” Closing out the compilation is the final poem and prayer of King Solomon’s ‘Song of Song’ as interpreted by Benyamin, Dugans and Diwon with Moroccan melodies and downtempo grooves. The late Cheb i Sabbah, among the most talented world-music producers, kicks off the second compilation with “Im Ninalou” (If the Doors are Locked), a traditional Yemenite song made famous by the late great Ofra Chaza. Israeli club kids Axum blow up the compilation with their energetic “Knowa.” Dunkelbunt remixes Marseille-based Watcha Clan, which mixes Balkan brass and Sephardic folk with Gnawa trance and hip-hop. DeLeon use their distinctive style of rock to transform ancient Sephardic folk music into a sound that is both brand new and centuries old with a Manu Chao-esque groove. Jerusalem native Mor Karbasi chills out the compilation with her beautiful song titled “Arvoles.” The listener can’t help but feel that they are floating along on a carpet as Karbasi sings gently to the accompanying piano. Tel Aviv’s Cohen@Mushon highlights the 90′s golden era hip hop sound. Diwon includes a couple of his own tracks including a Middle Eastern instrumental single and a “Maoz Tzur” holiday-inspired song with an LMFAO feel featuring ex-Hasidic, gay rapper Y-Love and Ladino songstress Sarah Aroeste.
The compilations are as diverse and beautiful as the festival itself.
SMF VOL. 1 features tracks by Matisyahu, Moshav, Yasmin levy, Yari Dalal, Galeet Dardashti, Diwon & more! (click here)
SMF Vol. 2 features tracks by Cheb i Sabbah, Watcha Clan, Diwon, Mor Karbasi, Axum and more. (click here)