Restricted access


Spanish ballads, narrative poems brought to Morocco following the Expulsion from Spain, became one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the cities where the Spanish Jews settled. However, entertainment was not the only purpose of these highly dramatic songs. They often imparted a moral sentiment, with adultery, for example, invariably punished. Although ballads appear to be exclusively a woman's genre, sung in the home and handed down to the daughters who kept this oral tradition alive, all members of the family would have known them as they became an essential part of daily life, being sung as lullabies and during different stages of the life cycle. True to the Spanish ballads’ original purpose of disseminating news, Sephardi Moroccan creations narrate dramatic events in Morocco and closely resemble the early Hispanic poems from which they derive.

Contributor Notes

Hilary Pomeroy completed her doctorate, a study of a collection of Sephardi ballads from Morocco, at Queen Mary University of London. She organised the British Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies from 1995 until 2010 and was co-chair until 2016. Dr Pomeroy has published numerous studies of the Hispanic and Judeo-Spanish ballad. She was guest editor of two issues of European Judaism dedicated to Ladino language and literature (43.2, 44.1) and taught the culture and history of Sephardi Jews in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London from 2000 until 2015.