Songs from the judeo-spanish sephardic tradition and the associated repertories


Differently compare to other musical traditions, the judeo-spanish songs do not constitute an homogenous and stylistic ensemble. This diversity, owed both by their history, their multiplicity of the geographic areas where they have developped, and the numerous influences which penetrate them, let a large part of liberty to performers, liberty which, however, ask to stay in a consistent and loyal frame to the mind that lead them.


  • To be initiated to the poetical and musical world of the judeo-spanish songs and their diversity, by integrating the historical, sociological and geographical context in which they fit in.
  • To approach the different branches of the repertoir and their specificities : from the romances finding their origines in Mediaval Spain to kantigas born at Salonique or Istanbul in the XXth century, from profane love songs to coplas giving rhythm to religious festivities.
  • To familiarize to some modes among the ones most fequently met in those repertoires : from the arbic-andalousian modes to the oriental and/or ottoman modes.


  • You will learn varied song during the master-class with Sandra Bessis. This work will alternate collective learning times and individual interpretation times.
  • The participants familiar with the repertoire will be able to work (between them) on a song of the choosing. In this case, it will be demanded to send the litle, text and if possible the sheet music before the master-class
  • Some time will be devoted to listening and comparative analyse of various song interpretations from sound extract.
  • The workshop taking place mainly orally, it does not require knowledge of music reading. However, the music sheet corresponding to the studied songs will be hand out as much as possible..
  • You will be able to bring your own recording material, to, for exemple, get to grips with the proposed songs from one day to the next.
  • Possible video recording of the participants so that everyone can analyze their performance (singing, interpretation, quality of presence) in order to improve.


  • Body preparation: relaxation of the body and awareness of possible blocking points, anchoring and gestural fluidity.
  • Listening, availability, internalization and concentration, presence to oneself and to the audience.
  • Vocal warm-up: the different placements of the voice, flexibility and agility, ornamentation and melismas, depending on the songs addressed and in compliance with the modes.
  • Work on some Judeo-Spanish songs of the different branches constituting the repertoire: romances from the Spanish medieval tradition, kantigas coplas.
  • Work on the language: prosody, pronunciation, the words that we want to put forward according to their meaning, and the emotion that we transmit.
  • Rhythmic approach and basic learning of digital percussion accompaniment: singing while accompanying yourself.
  • Work on modes (especially days 4 and 5): continuity and differences between the musical modes of medieval Spain, the Arab-Andalusian modes, the oriental and/or Ottoman modes.


  • The three firt days will be hosted by Sandra Bessis.
  • Rachid Brahim-Djelloul, violinist, singer and musicologist, director of the department of oriental music at the Conservatory of Gennevilliers (92) will join her on November 18 and 19, these last two days being more specifically devoted to the modal approach of the repertoire (and associated repertoires).


  • Good practice of singing and interest in the repertoire approached in its diversity (no theoretical knowledge necessary).
  • Open to amateurs and professionals, readers or non-readers of scores.
  • A familiarity, Even limited, with the Judeo-Spanish language (or Spanish) will save time and give more ease.
  • If possible, come with a percussion (drum on frame like bendir, daf, tambourine)
  • Instrumentalists are also welcome, if they wish to accompany themselves and/or interpret the instrumental interludes of the songs discussed.



Born Tunisian, Sandra Bessis lived successively in her native country and various countries before settling in France, where she has lived since the age of 18.

Parallel to her literary university studies, she studied singing, first with Suzy Sachs, later with Françoise Semellaz.

For several decades, she has been travelling the territory of Sephardic songs and Mediterranean music, performing on many stages and festivals, both in France and abroad, also working on various creations with other artists, on the theme of the encounter between the musical traditions of the Mediterranean basin.

Her first CD, from distant Spain, was released in 1992. With flutist John Mac Lean, she wanders through the repertoire of Judeo-Spanish songs, giving free rein to creativity and fantasy, playing on timbres and instruments.

Her fourth CD, Entre deux rives, is the result of a “live” recording at the Synagogue of Carpentras, with Rachid Brahim-Djelloul and Anello Capuano. Released in 2005, it acts as a kind of return to the roots, crossing Sephardic songs and other songs of the Mediterranean, Arab-Andalusian in particular.

In 2006, she created in Paris, with Rachid Brahim-Djelloul and Noureddine Aliane, a show mixing fragments of tales, Bouqalat, popular poems of the women of Algiers, fragments of stories, history, punctuating romances, kantigas and mouwachahat.

Wandering playing on the registers spoken, sung, played, traveling again the paths of transmission, from one shore to the other of the Mediterranean.

With the ensemble Naguila, she participates in the voyage de Sefarad, a show created in Montpellier in December 2009.

From 2010 to 2013 she was one of the two singers invited to Bratsch’s latest creation, Orient mon Amour, melodies and poems from the Mediterranean shores. The show, which brings together 17 musicians around the poet Salah el Hamdani, was hosted between 2010 and 2013 by many French national stages.

Inhabited by the taste for words, the unveiling of the intimate word, she co-created in 2013 at the Théâtre de l’Epée de Bois, at the Cartoucherie de Vincennes, with Mireille Diaz-Florian and accordionist Jasko Ramic, the reading in music : Tout chose au monde m’est nouvelle, texts and poems by Aimé Césaire, Mahmoud Darwish, Saint John Perse, Anna Seghers, Sophie Bessis, Nancy Huston and Leïla Sebbar, and signs a little later a solo show between words and music, staging, in voice, a woman letting rise in her traces, shadows and perfumes of the Mare Nostrum,  echoes and romances of the exiles, and some figures of women. Since 2015, this show, playing on intimacy with the public, has been hosted more than forty times in France and Italy.

Cordoba 21 – In the footsteps of Sefarad , released in 2014, is his fifth CD dedicated to these repertoires.

She brings around her Rachid Brahim-Djelloul on violin and voice, Noureddine Aliane on ‘oud, mandola, Jasko Ramic on accordion, Yousef Zayed on percussion and bouzouk, Théo Girard on double bass and Araik Bakhtikian on doudouk ; for a new musical journey, free wandering in the Mediterranean Sea, playing with languages and their respective identities.

In December 2022, still at the Cartoucherie, with actress Fatima Soualhia Manet and musician Marius Pibarot, she staged Ce que leur dit les anges, a musical reading she conceived by bringing together the texts of Annemarie Schwartzenbach, writer-traveler who died prematurely in 1944, and singer-poet Patti Smith.

Her concerts are an invitation to travel into the musical universe drawing on the sources of medieval Andalusia, then continuing to walk in the Easts that inherited its decomposition, as it resonates for us, here and now.

Ample voice, shivering declamation, Sandra Bessis carries, in distant heritage, the Judeo-Spanish song of Muslim Andalusia … Its song actually embraces the whole Mediterranean, because it is nomadic and ornamented.” Liberation