Sephardi Wannabe

The excerpts below are from an article, An Explosion of Jewish Women's Popular Music, by Rahel Musleah. It appeared in the Winter 1995-96 issue of Lilith Magazine. Judy was one of thirteen musicians featured, and the article is well worth reading in its entirety, although, sadly, the issue is no longer in print. It is, however, available online to the magazine's subscribers.

NB: These extracts are reproduced here by kind permission of the Assistant Editor. If you wish to use any part of the material, you must apply to Lilith for permission.



Even when women sing of home, hearth and unrequited love, there is often a feminist subtext. San Francisco singer Judy Frankel, 49, a specialist in medieval and renaissance music, makes sure to talk with her audiences about how women were responsible for passing down the legacy of Ladino tunes (called "romances"): "They transmitted the songs to their children while peeling potatoes, sweeping the floors and making the beds, while drinking coffee and looking at their fortunes in the dregs of the cups. We can be thankful for how much we've grown and evolved, but had the women been corporate executives, they wouldn't have created and passed down these songs."


JUDY FRANKEL: Sephardi Wannabe

The Sephardic community of San Francisco has adopted Judy Frankel, playfully calling her "Joya Franco". Frankel knows her family is from Lithuania, but her attraction to Sephardic music is so strong that she wonders if her roots somehow go back to Spain. Interested as well in international folk music, Frankel sings in 20 languages!

As a vocal soloist with the San Francisco Consort (a chamber ensemble specializing in medieval and Renaissance music), Frankel performed much Christian early music — which got her interested in whether there wasn't a Jewish counterpart. Traveling to Israel in search of "old" Jewish music, she found scraps of lyrics in archives and introduced this music to her ensemble. Frankel also gathered repertoire when a Jewish organization awarded her a grant to take down the oral musical-tradition of Sephardic Jews living around San Francisco. "Ladino is rapidly dying," Frankel says, "and may only survive through songs."

Frankel's voice is warm and graceful, assured and unpretentious; perfect for the romances she sings. Don't be daunted by the foreign language — it's not distracting, and Frankel's pronunciation is accurate and easy on the ear. There's something ancient and moving about this music.

La mujer nunca manca de su taría