A Jewish Musical Trip

Evolution of Jewish Music, Y-Studs, Arranged by Ben Bram, 2017.

Jewish music is one of the most diverse genres in the world. This is due to the fact that the people haven’t had a country to themselves for a long time. Jewish music can be divided into three sects; Ashkenazi (Western), Sephardi (Mediterranean), and Mizrahi (Eastern) (Denburg). Since Jewish music has been many places, it doesn’t necessarily have to be composed by a person of Jewish descent (Silver).



Mazal Tov Wedding Songs Medley, Various Authors.


Ashkenazi music has it’s roots in Europe and spread to North America (Denburg). This gives it a lighter polka feel with instruments not native to Israel, the current Jewish country, prominently the clarinet. The chords chosen give an urgent sense to the music.


The pace of the song is rather quick with emphasis on the off beats. This creates a song that generates a lot of “toe tapping” (Denburg). There is almost no deviation in the accompaniment which makes the melody stand out.


Sephardic Music, Unknown Author.


The Sephardic music has most of its influence come from Spain and other Mediterranean countries. Most instruments play a series of staccato notes rather than prolonged legato notes. There is no apparent melody that ties it all together yet the group plays in a controlled chaos.


There are myriad rhythms in this music, not one defining beat as in the Ashkenazi music. This music was based in “medieval Spain” which is why it has a folk rhythm (Denburg).


צלילי העוד-חנהל’ה התבלבלה, Unknown Date


Mizrahi music claims most influence from middle eastern countries. This song has a more smooth accompaniment and is sung in Yiddish. The vocals are drawn out and sound like they are remembering something from the past.


This music is a bit more fast paced like Ashkenazi. The background is used less and a couple instruments take more intriguing rhythms in intervals. Since there are vocals, more of the rhythm is toned down to keep the focus on them.

Personal Reaction: 

I personally like the Ashkenazi music best, it is the interesting and catchy. The upbeat and fun melody makes for a fun song, funny that my favorite sect is influenced by western culture. Mizrahi is my least favorite sect, it seems to have no direction and has a random pattern.


Denburg, Moshe. “Jewish Music: An Overview.” Jewish Vitrual Library, www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/an-overview-of-jewish-music.

Silver, Rivki. “What Makes Jewish Music ‘Jewish?”.” Rivki Silver ~ Thoughts & Music, 18 Mar. 2013, lifeinthemarriedlane.com/2013/03/18/what-makes-jewish-music-jewish/.

4 thoughts on “A Jewish Musical Trip

  1. What a great choice. I can honestly say that before I saw your blog, I never, ever thought about what defined Jewish music. I was intrigued as soon as I saw the title of your blog post. I found it very interesting that there are three distinct sub categories within Jewish music. The one I found most interesting is the Shepardi. My first thought was that it would be the traditional music of the shepards of centuries ago, then I realized I was misreading it, and it was actually Sephardi. I was still equally intrigued because it was an unknown genre to me. I was surprised to find that “The name Sephardic comes from a reference in the Bible (Obadiah 1:20) to the Sepharad region, which was early identified as the Iberian Peninsula”. (Zorzal). The music is polyphonic, with seemingly random elements added, making the entire performance seem at first, like a random mashup of unrelated tunes. After listening several times, it is obvious that there is a complicated polyphonic texture that is not apparent at first. The timbre is raucous, and empowering. A small sampling of Sephardic music could easily replace the need for several cups of coffee to start the day. Sephardic music is proof that sometimes music with roots going back centuries seems to be more complex and purposeful, than modern music. Thank you for broadening my knowledge of music.

    Works cited:

    “Zorzal Music Ensemble .” Sephardic Music, 2014, http://www.lynngumert.com/sephardic-music.html.


  2. I agree with you that the Ashkenazi song was interesting and catchy, but I liked all the songs you included because they are so different from what I am used to listening to. I noticed that all three songs have so many different things going on in pitch. They like doing a lot of half steps and playing both high and low notes. I was especially intrigued by how many different instruments they could play and be able to blend together to create one song.


  3. I really enjoyed your whole post. I never really thought of Jewish music as being something distinct and I definitely learned something about the history of it. I think one of my favorite things is how you included a video on the evolution of Jewish music. I thought that it was fun and gave a good idea of the progression. You laid out the musical elements in a way that I could clearly distinguish them.


  4. Evan, this is a great post on Jewish music! I have never looked into Jewish music before, so I’m glad you chose this as your topic. I feel like I got a good like inside as to what it is all about. I agree that the Ashkenazi music is the best as it is the most joyful to listen to. The songs you chose in general all seem to be catchy and easy to tap your foot along to. Besides the clarinet and violin, are there any other staples to Jewish music that you know of? You should look into that if not; it might be interesting! Great job distinguishing between the musical elements. Thanks for this informative post!


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