Music and the Jews… it starts today

Music and the Jews… it starts today


norman lebrecht

March 09, 2014



My three-part Radio 3 series on how music shaped the Jews, how the Jews shaped music, goes live from 1845 London time tonight.

It contains sounds and ideas never aired before, including what we believe to be the oldest known melody associated with Jews.

Here’s the official BBC microsite. The twitter handle is #musicandthejews

And here’s a fuller outline in the JC.

leonard cohen israel


  • kamioner says:

    I wish with allmy heart that I could hear you. Hals und Beinbruch!

  • Michael says:

    Will it be available as a podcast, Norman? I won’t be able to listen live tonight.

  • RIGHT up my current alley! JUST did a program linking early baroque (the 1730 Uhrovska collection) dance tunes that I believe were the kind of tunes that Telemann claims he loved as the music of the klezmer. Not very modal – or not the same modality at all – as current Ladino or Ashkanaz of mid 19th.c onward. THEN, moving almost a century later I included Scottish music of Isaac Nathan, which really wasn’t composed as much as it was adapted from “the ancient melodies of the Jews”. In an 1.5 hour program I was focusing on just these elements because it was meant to focus on how Scottish influences were around and to include other Scottish Jewish connections. I damn well better be able to hear this program of yours, Norman! As a classical klezmer who always performs as historically as known to me, I’m LISTENING!!!!

  • Martin Bookspan says:

    I can only echo kamioner’s feeling. Would that I could hear the series here in Florida!

  • Gaffer says:

    Forza, Norman!

  • Micaela says:

    I really enjoyed the broadcast & learned so much! I especially enjoyed Yasmin Levy and her research and interpretations of Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) music. Fascinating to hear that hear that her 90 yr. old grandmother still speaks Ladino with her sisters!

    The history of Judaism in Spain is epic. I was so pleased that you gave Spain its due place in this broadcast and showed us how Judeo-Spanish culture has been kept alive through Ladino music. Superb!

    • Fiona Jackson says:

      Yes – I loved Yasmin’s singing. Have you heard that Spain is going to allow Sephardic Jews to have Spanish passports? I heard it on the radio yesterday.

      • Micaela says:

        Yes, Fiona! There’s a new surge of interest in Ladino culture, I believe, ;perhaps because of this. Spain has introduced a new law (Feb. 2014) which will grant Spanish citizenship to descendants of the Sephardic Jews who occupied Spain before their 1490’s expulsion, mentioned in this broadcast.

        There has been an overwhelming response to this offer, esp. from Sephardic Jews in Israel. Descendancy must be proven, and most of the documents which prove Spanish ancestry are in Ladino, the medieval form of Spanish spoken by the Sephardic Jews. This is the language, the culture, which Yasmin Levy speaks about in the broadcast. It is the culture which her music is preserving.

        Here is a news article which discusses the new law. Some of comments which follow the article are fascinating. Several discuss the surprising possibility that Spain’s dictator, Franco, protected the Jews from Hitler during WW2, because he was himself of Sephardic Jewish descent.

        Here is the NY Times article on Spain’s new law in the works:

  • V.Lind says:

    Why can’t some of you hear it? I’m in Canada and it’s already posted.

    I assume, as with most BBC Radio programmes, it will be there a week. Anyone on Slipped DIsc has a computer, so I do not know why they cannot hear this.

  • Fiona Jackson says:

    While listening to the Archers I was leafing through the Radio Times and caught sight of your programme – no question about it, I switched over immediately, annoyed that I’d missed the start. I’ll probably listen again and again.

    Two books in front of me: Jazz Jews by Mike Gerber and There was a fire: Jews, music and the American dream by Ben Sidran. These consider a more recent and narrower Jewish musical history albeit one I find fascinating. I look forward to being educated and informed further by your series.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Most excellent! Can’t wait for eps 2 & 3. Interesting to hear Joel Cohen’s caveat about taking an unproblematic essentialist approach to the subject. . .