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(Illustration by India Amos, based on photo courtesy of Altaras Recordings.)
 

Among the small but respectable repertoire of songs available for Hanukkah celebrations, ranging from “Rock of Ages” to “The Dreidl Song,” is the lesser known, but also popular, children’s counting song, “Ocho Kandelikas.”

Written in Ladino (or Judeo-Spanish, as some call it), the song sounds as if it had been passed down over many generations. In fact, it was written just 25 years ago by Sephardic folk singer Flory Jagoda. The song’s Old World sound reflects her musical training, which began in the small village of Vlacenica, in Bosnia, where she grew up singing along with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins.

Jagoda, who now lives in Virginia, has made it her life’s work to revive the music and language she grew up with, and which were virtually extinguished during World War II. To date, she’s produced four CDs featuring traditional and original compositions (many of them performed with her children and grandchildren). This is her story.





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