Yasmin Levy and the Politics of Performing Sephardic Identity

Christina Azahar

Inventing Sephardic Traditions from 1492 to the Early Twentieth Century

  • Expulsion of Jews from Spain during the Inquisition leads to formation of Sephardic cultural identity through experiences of transnationalism and diaspora
  • Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) popular songs surrounded by myth and often falsely thought to have origins in Medieval Spain
  • Scholars begin to collect oral musical traditions at the beginning of the twentieth century, categorizing them into romances, life cycle songs, and calendar cycle songs – often adding changes when transcribed

Isaac Levy and the Sephardic Song Revival

  • Collects Sephardic popular songs from 1950s and 1970s and publishes several collections of transcriptions and recordings that become the basis for late productions of Sephardic popular music
  • Work at Jewish national radio influences orientalist tendency to want to Mediterraneanize Israeli national culture

Yasmin Levy: Performing Sephardic Traditions for the World

  • Grew up in Jerusalem and was exposed to a wide variety of cultures and musical practices which she incorporates into her interpretations of her father’s repertoire as well as her original compositions
  • Eclectic performance style makes her music easily communicable across cultures and languages, but her blurring of cultural and linguistic distinction removes her output from the nationalist project of her father’s work by framing Sephardic popular music as a tradition intended for all people

Example:

Una pastora – Combined Recording of Isaac and Yasmin Levy

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