The New Sound of Sephardim


For the past five years, the Sephardic Music Festival has showcased everything from folkdance to electronica to hard rock and reggae. This year, the festival will take place during the eight nights of Hanukkah, from December 1-8, in Los Angeles and New York City.

But what about those of us in the rest of the world?

Fortunately, Diwon–the Yemenite-Israeli Jewish DJ who created the festival–has assembled a CD (and mp3 download) with 18 of the best artists the festival has to offer. The compilation includes Yair Dalal, a virtuoso on the Israeli oud (a sort of half-guitar, half-lute), dance pioneers Electro Morocco, and Matisyahu, who isn’t Sephardic, but still puts on a hell of a show. (The chorus of Matisyahu’s included track comes from an ancient Yemenite song, so it makes the cut.)

Our favorite track, “Ven Hermosa,” comes from Pharaoh’s Daughter. It’s a Ladino song which sounds like a cross between a Spanish bolero and a Hasidic niggun. The CD goes from relaxing to abrasive, soothing to rocking out, but it’s never jarring or uncomfortable. It’s like going to a once-a-year concert festival–except that it starts anew every time you press play.

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