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Maqām (musical genre)

(871 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
A maqām is a mode or scale in Arabic music. Sephardi/Mizraḥi communities from the Mediterranean, particularly the Levant, make systematic creative use of various forms of the maqām in their liturgical and paraliturgical music.The term maqām (pl. maqāmāt) can refer to either a simple or a very complex set of phenomena. In its simplest form, it may refer to a specific scale. Defined in greater depth, maqām may refer to a specific scale with a tonic (keynote), alternative directional notes, accidentals, a specific ambitus (range of notes), a specific tetrachordal…

Kassin, Jacob

(302 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
Rabbi Jacob Kassin (1900–1995), born and raised in Jerusalem, was the chief rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York, from 1933 until his death in 1995. The son of Rabbi Saul Kassin (1864–1916), who moved from Aleppo to Jerusalem in 1892, he was descended from Solomon Kassin(b. 1540), who fled from Spain to Aleppo in the sixteenth century, there becoming a leader of the Jewish community and the progenitor of  a long line of religious leaders (see Kassin Family). Jacob Kassin was taught by his father and attended the Yeshivat Porat Joseph. Like his father, h…

Bouzaglo (Buzaglo), David

(238 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
David Bouzaglo (1903–1975) was a renowned rabbi, poet, and singer who lived in Morocco until 1965, when he emigrated to Israel. Bouzaglo was born in Zawiya, near Marrakesh, and studied Talmud and halakha.  In 1919, he moved to Casablanca, where he continued his religious studies and also received instruction in poetry and Arab-Andalusian music.  Poor eyesight kept him from ever assuming a position as the rabbi of a community, but Bouzaglo worked as a teacher of Hebrew, cantorial music, and traditional religious poetry (Heb. piyyuṭim ). In addition to teaching traditional works,…

Obadia, Hakki

(214 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
Hakki Obadia is an accomplished musician, born in Baghdad (no date available), who plays violin and ‘ud (Middle Eastern lute). At an early age, Obadia was trained in both Western classical and Middle Eastern music. Starting his career in Baghdad, he moved to the United States and studied at the University of California, Berkley, in the 1940s. Earning a music degree, he taught for thirty years in public schools on Long Island, New York. In the 1950s and onwards, he was active in the Arab musical life of New York City, playing in night clubs and in recording studios. He performed with Eddie Kocha…

Louk, Haim

(139 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
Haim Louk, born 1942 in Casablanca, Morocco, is a rabbi and  ḥazzan (cantor) who specializes in the Andalusian mode of singing piyyuṭim (liturgical poems). He sang in a children’s choir in his synagogue in Morocco and later studied with the great Moroccan Muslim singer Abdessadek Chkara. Moroccan Jewish music is closely wedded to Andalusian classical music sung in Arabic; many piyyuṭim are adaptations of Andalusian Arabic songs set with Hebrew words. Haim Louk sings both Arabic and Hebrew songs in this style. The tradition is learned orally, and vocal i…

Zrihan, Emil

(225 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
Emil Zrihan was born in 1954 in Rabat, Morocco, and moved with his family to Israel when he was nine years old. A singer in the Judeo-Andalusian musical tradition of Morocco, he began his professional career at the age of thirteen. Since then, noted for his rich, multi-octave countertenor voice, he has performed throughout the Middle East and Europe with Jewish and Arab musicians. He first toured North America in 1999.Known to fans as the “Moroccan nightingale” and “voice of the mockingbird,” Zrihan sees his music as a bridge between two worlds. He incorporates…

Ashear, Moses

(179 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
Born in 1877 in Aleppo, Moshe Ashkar came to New York in 1912.  In New York he became known as Moses Ashear. Ashear had been the official baʿal qore (Heb. Torah reader) and ḥazzan (Heb. cantor) in Aleppo since 1903. Now he became the ḥazzan of the Magen David congregation in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, a post he retained until his death in 1940. Ashear was a rabbi, payṭan (Heb. liturgical poet), composer, ḥazzan, and scholar who had studied with Rabbi Raphael Antebi Taboush (1873–1919) in Aleppo. He was particularly noted for the pizmonim he wrote in the Aleppan Syrian trad…


(641 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
The poetic texts known as baqqashot comprise a category of piyyut im (Hebrew liturgical texts) that embellish religious concepts. Baqqashot were composed from the first century C.E. through the nineteenth century. Some were accepted and incorporated into the standard siddur (prayerbook). The practice of reciting baqqashot seems to have originated in Spain in the fourteenth or fifteenth century as a paraliturgical ritual preceding the Sabbath morning service. It included the singing of poetic texts, some by all present in unison, and some chanted by a soloist. At times the music was …

Pizmon (-im), Pizmonim books

(890 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
The poetic texts known as  pizmonim (sing. pizmon) are a category of piyyuṭim, the genre of poetic Hebrew liturgical texts that embellish religious concepts. Piyyuṭim have been composed ever since the first century, and by the end of the first millennium some piyyuṭim were accepted and incorporated into the standard siddur (prayerbook). The earliest piyyuṭim did not rhyme, but poets such as Eliezer ben Kallir in sixth-century Byzantine Palestine occasionally used rhyme, and the technique was later perfected with the addition of meter by Andalusi poets such as Solomon ibn Gabiro…

Diaspora Communities

(5,672 words)

Author(s): Racheline Barda | Alanna Cooper | Leah R. Baer | Ruth Fredman Cernea | Mikhael Elbaz | Et al.
1. BukharaIn the mid-nineteenth century, after Bukhara came under Russian control, its Jews developed new contacts, both cultural and commercial, with Jewish communities in Europe and elsewhere. Taking advantage of improved conditions for trade and travel, a cosmopolitan nouveau-riche class emerged, primarily engaged in financing, producing, and selling textiles. Between the 1890s and 1920s, small numbers of Bukharan Jews relocated from Central Asia. A thousand or so settled in Moscow, Paris, and London. Another  two thousand at most moved to Palestin…