Sacred Music in the Holy Land

Jerusalem skyline
Jerusalem skyline

Earlier this month, the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival presented a week-long program of musicians from around the world exploring the spiritual power of music both ancient and contemporary.

Staged at historically significant venues throughout the city, highlights included Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead premiering his world music project Junoon with a Sufi ensemble from India, as well as a super group of masters of the Maqam, a traditional genre of sacred music from the Middle East.

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Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead premiering Junoon live with Israeli singer Shye Ben-Tzur and a Sufi ensemble from India. A Paul Thomas Anderson film documentary of the making of this album premieres at the New York Film Festival this month.

As an Angeleno visiting Israel for the first time, the trip was an entirely unique way to experience a complicated region through the lens of music and culture.

Jerusalem holds some of the most important historic sites for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and the city is charged with the energy of it’s own religious significance. I was constantly reminded of people’s absolute devotion to God, and the uneasy coexistence between ideologies.

In that respect, a music festival set in the holy land that embraces different spiritual traditions plays a special role in bringing people together for a greater understanding.

While the programming of The Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival doesn’t feature much in the way of familiar names from the West, the opportunity to hear something exotic and mysterious performed at an ancient amphitheater, climb the Tower Of David between performances, or get lost wandering the streets of the Old City makes this festival an unforgettable week.

— Jason Bentley

The Tower Of David. The ancient fort in Jerusalem's Old City hosted concerts and an all-night celebration as part of the Sacred Music Festival. Imagine watching the sun rise over Jerusalem from these fortress walls after a night of performances staged all over this unique venue.
The Tower Of David. The ancient fort in Jerusalem’s Old City hosted concerts and an all-night celebration as part of the Sacred Music Festival. Imagine watching the sun rise over Jerusalem from these fortress walls after a night of performances staged all over this unique venue.
Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival Artistic Director Itay Mautner.
Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival Artistic Director Itay Mautner.

 

Festival performer Mark Eliyahu. Young master of the Kamancha, the Middle Eastern violin.
Festival performer Mark Eliyahu. Young master of the Kamancha, the Middle Eastern violin.

American music industry attendee Binta Brown
American music industry attendee Binta Brown