The musical traditions of Ethiopian Jews

The oral tradition relates the Ethiopian Jews to the descendants of Menelik, son of the Queen of Saba and King Salomon…

The oral tradition relates the Ethiopian Jews to the descendants of Menelik, son of the Queen of Saba and King Salomo

There are today three different theses concerning the origin of Ethiopian Jews. One of them consider these Jews called Beta Israel (house of Israel) or Falashah (pejorative word which means “without roots” or “exiled”) as the descendants of a Jewish population that would have found a haven in that place after the destruction of the first Temple. Later on, there could have been emigrations, from Egypt in particular. The 2nd assumption speaks of a conversion to Judaism from an Ethiopian Christian community. Finally, the 3rd hypothesis says that the people called Beta Israel come from various local groups who step by step would have become Jewish.
There are no longer any Jews in Ethiopia. Their massive emigration in Israel took place in three different waves: the Moses Operation (1984), the Saba Operation (1985), and the Salomon Operation (1991).

After the process of Israeli integration, the ethnomusicologist Simha Arom started in 1986 gathering researchers in order to save and study the traditions of Ethiopian Jews.

The Ethiopian liturgy is composed of spoken and sung prayers, exclusively performed by men, in Gé’ez language.
It’s important to notify how the music of the Beta Israel, though it is original, is enrolled in a geographical context. The atmosphere that comes out reflects of an African originality. Here again, Jewish music show its faculty to integrate and absorb language elements from surrounding civilizations. [1]

Ce texte est tiré de l’ouvrage Musiques liturgiques juives : parcours et escales - Hervé Roten -
Actes Sud et Cité de la Musique, 1998, Paris.

Listen to the radio show: The Ethiopian Jewish singing
Listen to the show : Le carnet de voyage de Simha Arom - France Musique
Read Simha Arom’s biography

[11. : Extrait de l’ouvrage Musiques liturgiques juives : parcours et escales - Hervé Roten -
Actes Sud et Cité de la Musique, 1998, Paris.

Listen to

In case the music player doesn't open, you must allow the opening of pop-ups for the website iemj.org in your browser settings.

  • Wafetsemo - Liturgie juive d’Ethiopie

  • Wanevivo Egzee’aviher Limusye - Liturgie juive d’Ethiopie

  • Baruk’ ata Adonay - Liturgie juive d’Ethiopie

  • Wi’itu Amlakeeye Isebho - Liturgies juives d’Ethiopie

  • Chants Pour la Circoncision - Liturgie juive d’Ethiopie

  • Prieres Pour la Ceremonie du Mariage - Liturgie juive d’Ethiopie

  • Yitbarek - Liturgie juives d’Ethiopie

Lire tout

You may also like

Jewish Music: When Singular is Plural

Wednesday November 6, 2019, 6 pm a lecture by Hervé Roten, Director of the European Institute of Jewish Music, at the Pontifical Gregorian (…)

Jacques Offenbach and friends - From the Synagogue to the Opera

NEW RELEASE AT THE EIJM’S PUBLISHING HOUSE. This CD makes us discover the original Hebrew works of Isaac and Jacques Offenbach, Giacomo Meyerbeer, (…)

Symposium in Hannover : Magnified and Sanctified, The Music of Jewish Prayer II

From the 9th to the 12th September 2019 at the Hannover university (GERMANY), international symposium on Jewish liturgical music. Hervé Roten, (…)

Musica Judaica Symposium : Jewish music between oral and written traditions

On the 14th & 15th of July 2019 in Oxford (ENGLAND) will take place an international symposium in which Hervé Roten, Director of the European (…)

The EIJM’s Gala Concert - 5th edition - From the synagogue to the opera : Jacques Offenbach and friends

Buy your tickets on the online shop Original Hebrew works by Jacques and Isaac Offenbach, Jacques Fromental Halévy, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Jules (…)