Form and Structure of Sephardic Music
The texts of Sephardic music are written in an umbrella language referred to Judeo-Spanish. In Morocco, this language is called Khaketia. The music is typically strophic, and the verses are normally quatrains. The subject matter of Sephardic songs can be divided into 6 principle categories:
- Romances and narrative songs
- Love songs
- Topical and recreational songs
- Life cycle songs
- Calendar cycle songs
- Songs on religion and morals
Sephardic music is characterized by a short vocal range and fixed dynamics, and is typically in 6/8. Music is typically monophonic, and if not monophonic then heterophonic. Women are the main carriers of Sephardic music, and they perform mainly a cappella, in domestic settings. When Sephardic music is accompanied by men, it is always heterophonic. Music is more likely to be accompanied when it is performed in a secular context; in religious settings it is almost always a cappella.
The Eastern and Western Sephardic traditions differ in a few primary ways. Moroccan Sephardic music occasionally uses microtones, but it is mostly modal, whereas Eastern Sephardic music commonly uses microtones. Vocal ornamentation, called floreo, is much more common in Eastern Sephardic music, although some Moroccan singers also make use of the technique.
Moroccan Sephardic women have also adopted the barwala, or ululation, used as an expression of joy at the end of Sephardic songs.