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Ghetto Music

When Italians fell for klezmer, Francesco Spagnolo tuned them in to the forgotten sounds of their own people

by
Boris Fishman
December 13, 2005

In the late 1980s, klezmer music was making a comeback in the United States, but also on the festival circuit in Europe. It even caught on in Italy, which struck Francesco Spagnolo as strange; klezmer had nothing to do with Italian Jewish culture, a venerable and singular blend of Ashkenazic and Sephardic influences.

Back in Italy, Spagnolo hosted a Jewish music program in Milan, and later, a nightly program on Italian National Radio. He talks about why Italians were more drawn to klezmer than to native Jewish music, and how he worked to introduce other sounds. With traditional music from Livorno performed by Simone Sacerdoti, and a liturgical remix by Enrico Fink.

Editor’s note: Since he spoke to us last year, Spagnolo has moved to New York City and taken a new job as executive director of the American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History.

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Boris Fishman is the author of the novels Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo, A Replacement Life, and Savage Feast, a family memoir told through recipes.

Boris Fishman is the author of the novels Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo and A Replacement Life, and Savage Feast, a family memoir told through recipes.

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