Harriman Institute

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La Convivencia: Exploring Sephardic Music’s Traditions of Peace and Coexistence

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

The Kupferberg Holocaust Center, the Department of Music at Queensborough Community College, the Queensborough Performing Arts Center (QPAC), and the Harriman Institute at Columbia University present a performance by Merima Ključo, accordion, and Jelena Milušić, voice, with guest artist Mirna Lekić, piano.

The musical project, La Convivencia, is inspired by the powerful message of coexistence. It is based on Sephardic traditions of different countries visited by Sephardic Jews, traveling through history after the expulsion from Spain. La Convivencia contains three parts:

  • A cycle of five songs based on traditional Sephardic melodies and lyrics.
  • A cycle of five songs dedicated to Flory Jagoda, the Bosnian expert in the field of Sephardic music.
  • Movements from Ključo’s acclaimed composition, “The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book,” with guest pianist Mirna Lekić.

Used to peaceful coexistence, Sephardic Jews observed the traditions of their home countries, and infused Jewish culture into the music of their adopted lands. This resulted in musical similarities. For example, Bosnians and Sephardic Jews use the same scales and rhythms. They share the same emotion in their songs, the same pleasures, and the same pain. In the end they share the same country, the same customs, the same food… and they learn from each other. La Convivencia reminds us that we need to do more in emphasizing the values of respect across all faiths, and it inspires us to be peaceful ambassadors of its message of acceptance for all.

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