La alegría de Jako: A Judeo-Spanish song as a reflection of linguistic and cultural syncretism
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Traditional songs have always held a particularly prominent role in the daily life and celebrations of the Sephardim, the descendants of Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, or Sepharad, in 1492 and beyond. The Sephardic diaspora, which from the end of the fifteenth century expanded across the Ottoman lands of the Mediterranean basin and parts of Western Europe, saw the consolidation of a unique supra-national space where Jewish, Hispanic and local cultural elements converged to give way to a remarkable example of cultural and linguistic syncretism. It was within this environment that Salonika (Thessaloniki) established itself as City and Mother in Israel and became an unprecedented example of an urban settlement where Sephardic Jews represented, until the first half of the twentieth century, the most numerous demographic group. In this article, I choose a traditional Sephardic song from Salonika, 'La alegría de Jako' (The Joy of Jako) in order to illustrate how its hybrid textual and musical characteristics reflect the diversity of life in a city which became a symbol of the vitality of Sephardic culture in the Diaspora.