13 Pages

From the Court and Tarikat to the Synagogue: Ottoman Art Music and Hebrew Sacred Songs

The involvement of Jews in Ottoman art music, whether in the secular forms of the court or in the religious traditions of the Sufi orders, emerges nowadays as a major issue in the research of Jewish culture in the Ottoman Empire. Until recently, this phenomenon was given only sporadic attention, mainly by Jewish intellectuals who were active in the performance of this music or who knew about the role of Jews in it. This is the case of the poet and journalist, Isaac Eliyahu Navon (Edirne, 1859-Tel Aviv, 1952),1 the historians Abraham Galante2 and Salomon Rozanes,3 the synagogue cantors Isaac Algazi4 and Moshe Vital, 5, both originally from Izmir, a Jewish reporter from Bosnia6 and others.7 To these sources we may add the contribution by Abraham Zvi Idelsohn8 to the study of music among Oriental Sephardi Jews and the impact of the concept of the Arabic maqam on this tradition. However, Idelsohn had only a superficial knowledge of Ottoman art music. His main sources for the study of the maqam were Arab and Syrian Jewish musicians residing in Palestine, where Idelsohn worked between 1908 and 1921. These musicians were proficient in the Arabic musical styles that by that time had become clearly different from the Ottoman style.