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Varon, Ishak (Isak)

(296 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Born in Gallipoli in 1884, Ishak Varon (1884–1962) moved to Salonica with his family and studied law. He became a clerk, first in Kavala, and later in the office of a prominent lawyer in Salonica, then relocated to Istanbul when his patron, Refik Bey, moved there. Upon Refik Bey’s death, Varon returned to Salonica, where he managed a succession of record companies: Pathé, Polydor, and the Ottoman affiliate of His Master’s Voice . He later returned to Istanbul to work in the insurance industry. His business activities supported his true passion, Turkish classical music and the Jewish mafṭiri…

Maftirim Choir

(477 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
mThe term mafṭirim designates both a special repertoire of pizmonim (hymns), or paraliturgical sung poetry, from the Ottoman Turkish Jewish tradition, and the choir of male singers that performs them. The tradition of singing poems modeled on the court traditions of Ottoman music originated in Edirne (Adrianople) in the seventeenth century. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it spread to Izmir, Istanbul, and other Ottoman cities. The genre of mafṭirim stems from medieval Spanish and Levantine Jewish sung poetry. Religious poems were collected and publishe…

Shikar, Shem Ṭov (Hoca Santo)

(262 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Shem Ṭov Shikar (b. ca. 1840) was perhaps the most famous composer of Jewish liturgical song from Izmir (Smyrna). He was also known as Hoca Santo (Turk. hoca, teacher or master; Jud.-Sp. santo, equivalent to Shem Ṭov), Şikẩr Efendi, Şemtov Şikẩr, and Izmirli (Turk. from Izmir) Hoca Santo.  About 150 compositions in the maqām system of classical Turkish music are attributed to Shikar, but few of these works were published. Apart from an opus transcribed by Isaac Algazi, most of these works existed in oral traditionby the late twentieth century. They were lovingly preserved by Sh…

Faro, Moses

(238 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Not much is known about Rabbi Moshe Faro other than his fame as one of the leading musicians during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I (1730–1754). Faro was a Turkish rabbi whose ancestors were of Portuguese origin. An accomplished tamburi, or player of the tambur, a long-necked lute used in Turkish classical music, he is believed to have been the teacher of Tamburi Isaac (Isak) Fresco (Fresko) Romano . Rabbi Faro was known to Turks as Haham Musi (Rabbi Moses). He was active as a composer in the mid-eighteenth century, a time of great Jewish scholarship and cultural achievement in the…

Lonzano, Menahem Ben Judah De

(453 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Menahem ben Judah de Lonzano was a religious scholar and poet who died in Jerusalem in 1608. His origins are unknown but it is believed that he was from Italy or Greece. His life was replete with difficulties and poverty despite his importance as a midrashic scholar. He pursued a peripatetic path, marrying in Jerusalem, relocating to Istanbul, living in Italy, and finally returning to Jerusalem. Lonzano was known to Ottoman Jews for his poetry, such as Derekh Ḥayyim (Way of Life; Istanbul, 1574), a moral poem of 315 verses. His hymns for synagogue and home, pizmonim (songs) and baqqashot (su…

Aboud (Abut), Avram (Misirli Ibrahim)

(331 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Misirli Ibrahim Efendi (1872–1933) was a famous Turkish oud player ( udi) born into the family of a merchant in Aleppo, Syria. His real name was Avram Levi, but he was called Misirli Ibrahim (Egyptian Abraham) because he lived and performed in Cairo for many years and first became famous there. Gradually building his career in Aleppo, Damascus, and Cairo, Ibrahim finally went to Istanbul. Upon establishing himself there, he studied classical Turkish music, the music of the Ottoman court and urban elite, with Haci Kirami Effendi, Hoca Ziya Bey, and the famous…

Algazi, Salomon

(293 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Salomon Algazi (d. 1930), today, is probably best known as the father of the greatest cantor in twentieth-century Turkey,  Isaac Algazi (1889-1950).  Salomon Algazi also shared his name with his illustrious ancestors,  Solomon Nissim Algazi, a seventeenth-century rabbi and Talmudist in Izmir (Smyrna) and Jerusalem,  and another Solomon Algazi who was a famous rabbi in eighteenth-century Egypt. The Algazi family produced many important rabbis, scholars, and cantors in the Ottoman Empire for three centuries. Our late nineteenth-century Salomon Algazi, be…

Longo, Saʿadya

(307 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Saʿadya ben Abraham Longo was a scholar and poet during Salonica’s Golden Age of Sephardic life in the late sixteenth century. He was a contemporary of the poet Israel Najara, as well as a close friend of Don Joseph Nasi, at whose funeral he delivered a eulogy he had composed for the occasion. Longo was the author of a collection of eulogies and poems, Shivre Luḥot ( The Fragments of [the] Tables), published in 1594 in Salonica. Joseph Nehama considered Longo to have been one of the most important poets of Salonica, the famed “Jerusalem of the Diaspora,” a city whose cul…

Fresco Romano, Isaac (Tamburi Izak)

(281 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Isaac Fresco (İsak Fresko) Romano was born in the Ortaköy district of Istanbul in 1745. Known to Ottomans as Tamburi İsak Efendi because of  his mastery of the tambur, a bowed or plucked long-necked lute used in Ottoman court music, he was perhaps Turkey’s most famous composer of both Jewish synagogue songs and classical Turkish music. He also played the keman, a traditional Turkish violin. He became a teacher of the tambur in 1795, and the sultan at the time, Selim III, was his star pupil. He also taught Kuyumcu Oskiyam, Zeki Mehmet Ağa, and Tamburi Mehmet Ağa, and he coll…

Ariyas, Abraham

(338 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Rabbi Abraham Ariyas (Arias) was a poet and musician in nineteenth-century Izmir (Smyrna). He was a contemporary of the Jewish composer Shem Ṭov Shikar, and a colleague of Rabbi Abraham Pallache (1809–1899). According to early-twentieth-century historians of the Sephardic world, he wrote eighty pizmonim (hymns) and piyyuṭim (paraliturgical religious poems), including sections of the mafṭirim tradition of Ottoman Turkey. Abraham Ariyas, not to be confused with his relative Behor Arias, chief rabbi of Izmir in 1915, was admired not only by Jews but by music-minded…