The shores of the Mediterranean sea where Sephardic music was born

You have probably heard of Sephardic music. The characteristic chords of its melodies have their origins in the Mediterranean basin. For experts in the Jewish culture of the Middle Ages in the region, Sephardic music is a symbiosis between Arab and Christian music, fusing both cultures at a key moment in the expansion of the Jews throughout history.

Sephardic music stems from the Spanish Jews living in Castile and León, from whose land they incorporated Castilian folk songs into their cultural traditions. However, the anti-Semitism of the Catholic Monarchs knocked on the doors of the homes of thousands of Jews, forcing them to flee from intolerance to the Maghreb and specifically to Morocco.

From this new location for the Sephardic Jews, the particular symbiosis that stands out in Sephardic music was born, where the rhythm and instruments were of Arabic origin and Spanish was the language through which they sang.

In this musically rich world that was created around Sephardic music, stringed and percussion instruments were incorporated by Sephardic music to enrich its rhythms. The Maghreb area, where Morocco stands out, contributed a multitude of musical instruments, which is why it is said that Sephardic music has a clear melodic inheritance from Arab music, due to the use of the same instruments.

Specifically, the bendir is one of the instruments that appeared in North Africa, Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, but above all in Morocco. But what is the bendir? And what is so special about it?

Its origin is prehistoric and it is still used today to celebrate any kind of event. It is one of the most popular musical instruments not only in Sephardic music, but also in the Berber and Arab culture of Morocco.

Made of 40 cm diameter goatskin with two sounding metal cymbals and several gut strings, the bendir has a multitude of different tones. By rubbing the strings or striking the drum with the fingers or the palm of the hand, the bendir produces a humming sound symbolic of Sephardic music. Depending on the waves that collide with the strings and the skin, the bendir produces one sound or another.

It belongs to the instrumental family of the tambourine or the darbuka, percussion instruments that, by producing any sound with them, make you travel to the world of coexistence between the Jewish and Arab culture of the 15th century.

We invite you to delve into Sephardic music by listening to groups and solo singers who keep the essence of Sephardic culture alive, such as Noam Vazana, Liona & Serena Strings, The Gerard Edery or the Spanish Airún.