Sephardim: Spanish stemming Jews
Sepharad: Hebrew for Spain
The time of the Arabian-Islamic supremacy in the medieval Spain was a time of cultural prosperity for the Sephardim. The tolerant attitude of the Islamic sovereigns opened the freedom for Jews, Christians and Muslims to live together in a peaceful way.
There was a considerable amount of Jewish singers and musicians among the poets, musicians and Joglares (court musicians) of the Iberian world from the 9th up to end of the 15th century, whose names have been handed down and who have been respected and appreciated by both Christian and Muslim authorities. During public and religious festivities as well as folklore parties Jewish, Muslim and Christian artists used to perform together, sometimes even allowing female singers.
At the end of the 15th century the upcoming catholic fanaticism along with the Inquisition entirely destroyed the peaceful atmosphere and coexistence of the diverse cultures and religions. Never again was it possible to create such a mutual comprehension and rewarding cultural teamwork.
The fact that many important economic positions were held by Jews, was seen as a threat to the kingdom and has been increasingly criticized. The sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella
, who have been favoring Jews because of their economic power up to that time, eventually
passed the repelling edict in 1492 and broke with the 1000 years lasting Jewish culture that has existed on Spanish territory.
Most of the Sephardim, approximately 200,000, rejected to convert and had to leave Spain.
The ones who succeeded to escape the inquisition, primarily settled down in countries of the Turkish Empire, Morocco and Palestine, where they build up new, flourishing communities.
They also took their religious-, festivity-, love-romance- and everyday- songs in their new, alien environment. The Jewish-Spanish music and the songs took a further development abroad picking up elements from the music, melodies and language of the new environment.
Due to the new influence there has been created a special kind of music, that in a unique way combines Jewish, roman and oriental elements. The romances and songs are performed in the original language of the Sephardim called "Ladino" or "Judezmo". They often have been passed on from mothers to daughters, which is often reflected by the female perspective of situations.
Since the founding of the country Israel many of the Sephardim have been immigrating, further developing the Sephardic music upon the new background situation.