Jablonski, Marek (Michael)



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7. Kurdish Jews.


Most Kurdish Jews inhabited the Iraqi ‘Kurdistan’ (Barazan, Mosul, Amadiya, Zakhu, Kirkuk) with a minority living in the Turkish and Syrian areas. According to ancient tradition these Jews are descendants of the Ten Tribes from the time of the Assyrian exile. They are first mentioned by the traveller Benjamin of Tudela (12th century ce). Solid information about the Kurdish Jews, however, dates only from the 16th century onwards. Emigration to Palestine began in the 1920s, and following the establishment of the State of Israel, almost all Kurdish Jews now live there.

The liturgical music of the Kurdish Jews, as it is now practised in Israel, like that of many other Jewish communities from the Middle East and Central Asia has been influenced by the Jerusalem-Sephardi style, which is close to their Arabic-influenced vernacular musical culture. However, several archaic liturgical traits may still be found in the repertory: various types of Hebrew psalmody are used, ranging from simple styles based on one or two axis pitches to more embellished ones that span over a tetrachord (these are sometimes performed responsorially, which is perhaps a remnant of pre-Masoretic traditions; Flender, 1992); the recitation of the Targum (Aramaic translation of the Bible) in a parlando style; and a particular form of biblical cantillation that does not conform to either the Tiberian system, which is widespread throughout the Jewish world, or the more indigenous Babylonian. The Kurdish Jews have a local tradition of composing and singing religious poetry (piyyutim) in Hebrew and Aramaic. The names and works of about 30 Kurdish Jewish liturgical poets are known from manuscript and printed sources but their poems are seldom performed.



Jewish music, §III: Liturgical and paraliturgical


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