Ladino: Language, history, and music

Carey Averbook
Moroccan Music Mini-term 2008
The Language
• Judeo-Spanish in essence
•Ottoman Empire
• Spoken primarily by
Sephardic Jews (Modern Day)
•“preserves many old words,
proverbs, songs, legends, and
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006
Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Various Names of
•Called Ladino in Balkans
and Turkey, to distinguish
from Latin
•Known as Yahudice
(Jewish language) in the
Ottoman Empire
•Called Haquitiya in
Tangier and Tetuan (both
cities in Spanish Morocco)
•Northern Africa
This is a map of the Ottoman
Empire, early 1920s:
Comprised of N Africa,
Mediterranean, Balkans, and
Middle East
Who are Sephardic Jews:
The primary speakers of Ladino
 Originally referred to Jews living and expelled from
Iberian Peninsula from 1492-1496
 Expelled from Spain in 1492
 Expelled from Portugal in 1496
 Iberian Peninsula is present day Portugal and Spain
 It now refers to the Jewish exiles and their descendants
who settled in the Ottoman Empire as well as
indigenous Jews who already lived in the countries.
 Some of these Jews fled to the New World
History- Origins
• Origins in 1492, when
Jews were expelled from
Spain; they took their
language with them:
To the Ottoman
•Regional dialects
•It was the common
language of Salonika (a
city in Northern Greece)
during Ottoman rule.
Ladino remained
widely spoken
History- 20th Century
Carey averbook
Number of speakers declined due to the
Ladino is in danger of extinction
However, there has been a minor revival
in Sephardic communities
Various countries in Latin America still
use the Ladino language
History- Modern
• Some Sephardic families
have lived in Jerusalem
for centuries, preserving
Ladino, even though
they use Hebrew in
everyday life.
The Language Today
 About 200,000 speakers in the world, mostly in Israel
 Number of speakers has diminished:
 Pre WWI: 770,000 spoke Ladino in Greece alone
 Other countries with native speakers include Turkey,
Bulgaria, Israel, Romania, Greece, Morocco, and Latin
American Countries
 The borrowing of other languages is so heavy;
about 30% Ladino is of non-Spanish origin.
The Writing of Ladino
 Written using the Hebrew alphabet
 Retains much of 15th Century Spanish vocabulary and
Spanish spellings
 Mediterranean influences
Ladino Literature
 Focused on religious services and philosophy up to the
18th Century:
 Literature in Ladino appeared in the 18th century
 Three major categories:
 Translations of sacred texts
 Rabbinic literature
 Folk tales, fables, proverbs, poems, and short stories
Examples of Ladino Literature
 Translations of Hebrew Bible, High Holiday prayer book,
Passover Haggadah
 Poetry of Shmuel HaNagid (993-1056), Shlomo ibn Gabirol
(1021-1058), and Yehuda Halevi (1075-1141), and treatises by
Yehuda Halevi, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), and Hasdai
Crescas (1340-1410/1411)
 Me'am Loez
 Ejoha, otherwise known as Joha
Ladino Literature Today
• In 2001, the Jewish
Publication Society
• Matilda Koén-Sarano
• Writers are struggling
to keep Ladino literature
• Ladino is not usually
published alone, but
with a Spanish or
Hebrew work
Ladino Music
• Songs are divided into
•Romansas/ ballads (dramatic
narrative poems)
•Kantigas (lyric songs,)
•Muwashshahat (poetical
•Survived for centuries
• In The Sephardic Experience,
there are many “references to
foods which were staples of the
Ottoman Sephardic diet”
• The Ladino music embodies
themes of “Sabbath food, tragic
births in the royal palace, joyous,
wicked, seductive, rejected and
spiritual love, and mischievous,
intoxicated, boisterous pre– and
post–nuptial hijinks.”
• This audio clip is a Ladino version
of the Mourner’s Kaddish/ Yitgadal
 The Mourner’s Kaddish:
Hebrew Text
• Try to hear the Hebrew
English Translation:
Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world
which He has created according to His will. May He establish His
kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of
the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored,
adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He,
beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that
are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace
for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
 Una Matica De Ruda:
 Una matica de ruda
Una matica de flor
Hija mia mi querida
Dime a mi quen te la dio
Me la dio un mancevico
Que di mi s'enomoro
Hija mia mi querida
No t'eches a la perdicion
Mas vale un mal marido
Que un mancevo de amor
Mal marido, la mi madre
Un pilisco y la maldicion
Mancevo de amor, la mi madre
Una mansana y el buen limon
 A sprig of rue, a flowering sprig
My dear daughter, tell me, who gave
it to you
It was given me by a lad who fell in
love with me
My dear daughter, don't fall into
It's better to have a bad husband
than a young lover
A bad husband, mother, is a pinch
and a curse
A young lover, mother, is like a
(ripe) apple and a (fragrant) lemon
 Por Una Ninya (For One
Beautiful Girl)
 Por una ninya tan ermoza
l'alma yo la vo a dar
un kuchiyo de dos kortes
en el korason entro.
 No me mires ke'sto kantando
es yorar ke kero yo
los mis males son muy grandes
no los puedo somportar.
 No te lo kontengas tu, ijika,
ke sos blanka komo'l simit,
ay morenas en el mundo
ke kemaron Selanik.
 For a beautiful girl
I would give my soul
a double-edged knife
pierced my heart.
 Don't look at me singing,
crying is what I want to do,
my sorrow is so great
I can't bear it.
 Don't hold your sorrow, young
for you are white like bread,
there are brunette girls in the
who set fire to Salonika.
 Includes a typical musical ABA form, intricate
melodies that are based on traditional rhythmic
modes, and performance by a chorus, with or without
 Information and Music
Popular Song:
Cuando el Rey Nimrod
 When King Nimrod walked through
the fields
Looking into the skies, reading into
the stars,
He saw the good star shining onto
the Jews
They where to give birth to
Abraham Avinu...
 Abraham Avinu, beloved father,
Blesssed is thy name, light to
 Terachs wife knew she was pregnant
day to day he would ask her
- Why do you have such a full
blessed face
She was well aware the good she was
 “is a Ladino song that celebrates the
birth of Abraham. It incorporates
many elements taken from the
Nimrod midrashim. This song is
sung as a Shabbat z'mira (table
song) and at circumcisions. The
exact date of its origin is unknown
but it probably dates from the 16th
or 17th century.”
 Romansa
Example of Sheet Music
 Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft
Corporation. All rights reserved.
Bibliography Cont.