The Song of the Sea

Jewish music and poetry on the waves of the Mediterranean, between

Tunis and Livorno, Italy and North Africa

A voyage on the Mediterranean Sea, aboard a vessel steered by some of Italy’s best known musicians in the world music and fusion area; following centuries-old currents connecting Italy to North Africa. A voyage on the wave of Italian Sephardic piyyutim, a repertoire that has travelled from Spain to North Africa, to the Middle East, to Italy through the long and rich history of the Jewish Community of Livorno. Italy and the south of the Mediterranean, West and East – as seen through the lens of Jewish music: a program that is an original dialogue, an exchange carried out by the two very different voices of Enrico and Raiz, and a peculiar ensemble featuring the imaginative talents of Frank London and Gabriele Coen, plus an “Italian all-star band” with Stefano Saletti on oud, Arlo Bigazzi on bass, Giuseppe De Trizio on guitar and Matteo Scarpettini on percussion.

The music history of Italian Jews is a rich and complex one.

Every Jewish community in Italy, Beit large or small, maintained its own musical tradition at least up to the early 1900s. The melodies, generally vocally transmitted, show traces of constant cultural exchange. Italian Jews boast their own peculiar tradition, dating back from the communities present in Rome well before the Diaspora even began, before the destruction of the second Temple: but there are also many communities who follow the “rito Tedesco” (Germain ritual) – Ashkenazim – or the “rito Spagnolo” (Spanish ritual)–the Sephardim, who arrived from Spain and southern Italy after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

This concert explores the connection between melodies used in Italian communities, especially for the chanting of piyyutim, melodies used in North Africa and the middle east; concentrating on the role of Livorno as a crossroad between Italy and the Sephardic communities of the Mediterranean – a role the city and its Je wish community have played for centuries, leaving evident traces in all aspects of popular culture, from language, to food, to music, and in particular in the “Livornese” (from Livorno) synagogue song. Today we can still hear the force of this influence by comparing the melodies sung in Sephardic communities in North Africa, Israel, the Middle East to the traditional melodies from Livorno, as they are still sung locally and in other Italian communities, most notably Florence. In many striking cases, melodies that sound strongly local, deeply rooted in their own tradition, and distant as a classical Italian air can be from a Moroccan traditional chanting, show instead a common root and show how an original tune has been modified by generations of use and vocal transmission. Dozens of enchanting piyyutim testify to this long and continuous interchange across the Mediterranean, and constitute in themselves a rich, fascinating “song of the Sea”.


Enrico Fink and Raiz feat. Frank London

Shirat Hayam Project PDF

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