Sephardic Music Festival Partnership


Move over, “I have a Little Dreidel”–there’s an exciting new sound in the air this Hanukkah. The 8th annual Sephardic Music Festivalwill be lighting up Hanukkah in venues around New York from December 8-12, with a new Festival compilation album scheduled for release on December 11. Founded by American-Israeli producer Diwon, the Sephardic Music Festival is the first Jewish music festival to focus exclusively on Sephardic music and culture and showcase the latest Mizrahi, Yemenite, and Ladino artists from around the world. The festival offers a platform for performers of traditional Sephardic folk music and innovators who fuse traditional Sephardic rhythms, melodies, and motifs with modern musical styles. With an incredible range of artists this year, the Sephardic Music Festival presents a colorful tapestry of music and culture as rich, vibrant, and diverse as the Jewish world itself.

December 8th: The kick-off event will be held at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory featuring Copal, Animal Machine and Pharoah’s Daughter. blending a psychedelic sensibility and a pan-Mediterranean sensuality, Basya Schechter leads her band, Pharaoh’s Daughter, through swirling Hasidic chants, Mizrachi and Sephardi folk-rock, and spiritual stylings.

December 9th: The 2nd Sephardic Story Slam will feature stories presented by Israeli-American artists ISRAMERICA at Lolita Bar.

December 10th: The Sephardic Scholar Series continues this year with a free concert at the CUNY Graduate Center with the NY Andalus Ensemble, accompanied by a lecture by Samuel R. Thomas.

December 11th: The Festival will showcase talented Sephardic and Flamenco musicians at the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. Vanessa Paloma will highlight Judeo-Spanish women’s songs and their connections to women’s spiritual expression. Borders-crossing duo Nadav Lev and Remy Yulzari will explore highlights of Sephardic music with a personal approach that derives from various musical genres.

December 12: Israel’s Mika Karny and the Kol Dodi Ensemble will perform with Zion80, Hasidic New Wave & Yakar Rhythms at (Le) Poisson Rouge. Kol Dodi is a unique ensemble of Israeli Moroccan, Yemenite and Ethiopian musicians and singers, led by one of Israel’s all time favorite female vocalists – Mika Karni. Zion80’s 12-piece band sets the beautiful melodies of Reb Shlomo Carlebach in polyrhythmic Afrobeat arrangements to the flavor of Fela Kuti. Hasidic New Wave will be joined by the very special Senegalese drum ensemble, Yakar Rhythms, to celebrate the release of their CD box set on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records.

The Sephardic Music Festival’s second compilation album, set for release on December 11, includes everything from folk songs to hip hop, electro, and dance music. The album’s tracks incorporate Jewish liturgical and ceremonial texts, Sabbath songs, and classic love poems as well as original compositions inspired by traditional themes.

Cheb i Sabbah, among the most talented world music producers, kicks off the compilation with “Im Ninalou” (If the Doors are Locked), a traditional Yemenite song made famous by the late, great Ofra Chaza.

Israeli club kids Axum blow up the compilation with their energetic “Knowa.” Dunkelbunt remixes Marseille-based Watcha Clan, who combine Balkan brass and Sephardic folk with Gnawa trance and hip-hop.

DeLeon’s distinctive style of rock transforms ancient Sephardic folk music into a sound that is both brand new and centuries old. On Ansi Dize La Novia, DeLeon borrows Manu Chao-esque grooves to convey an ancient tale of a bride being described to a groom. Each of her features is more beautiful than the last, just like each of this song’s verses is funkier than that which preceded it.

Jerusalem native Mor Karbasi chills out the compilation with her beautiful song, “Arvoles.” You’ll feel like you’re floating along on a carpet as Karbasi sings gently to the accompanying piano.

Tel Aviv’s Cohen@Mushon highlights the 90’s golden era hip hop sound. Diwon also throws down a couple of his own tracks, including a Middle Eastern instrumental single and a “Maoz Tzur” holiday-inspired song with an LMFAO feel. The latter track features ex-Hasidic gay rapper Y-Love and Ladino songstress Sarah Aroeste.

Like the Sephardic Music Festival itself, the album highlights the remarkable diversity of the Jewish community. More information about the album, and the entire Festival, including show times and venue details, can be found at The website features a tantalizing musical preview on Sephardic Music Fest Radio and a sneak peak of the festival on the promotional video.