Cohen, Judith (1949)

By Hervé Roten

Singer, performer on medieval music instruments and traditional folkloric music instruments, ethnomusicologist and teacher in the university, Judith Cohen is born on December 9, 1949 in Montreal (Canada).

In the 1970’s, she travelled many times (francophone Canada, Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Turkey…) which gave her the opportunity to hear and learn various music repertoires, such as music and dances from the Balkans, regional music from Spain and Portugal, French songs from Canada, Yiddish songs (spoken by her grand-parents), Judeo-Spanish...

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During the 1980’s, she sings traditional Judeo-Spanish songs from Morocco, and plays several string instruments with the band Gerineldo, led and created by Oro Anahory-Librowicz in 1981, with Kelly Sultan Amar and the legendary Solly Levy. Afterwards, the violinist, ud player and percussionist Charly Edry joined the band and they toured all over the world.

In 1980, Judith Cohen supports her Master thesis on The role of women-musicians in Medieval Spain in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities (University of Montreal), and in 1989 a PhD thesis on Judeo-Spanish songs in the Sephardi communities of Montreal and Toronto (University of Montreal).

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Each summer, she continues to travel, mainly in Spain, Turkey, Greece and Israel, along with her daughter Tamar Ilana who started singing on stage at the age of 4 or 5.

From 1977 to 1982, Judith Cohen taught at the Concordia University, and in schools of Toronto, as an itinerant teacher ; she leads several workshops, seminars and special courses for children and adults. In 1991, holder of a research grant from the Univeristy of Toronto, she starts post-doctoral studies on the Judeo-Spanish singing, while teaching at the York University of Toronto. A part of her research focuses on the role of music by the Crypt-Jews of Portugal. This is how she had the opportunity to meet and record the rezadeiras, the Crypto-Jews Sacristan women, vanished since then..

Since the years 2000, she continues ethnomusicologic studies, in particular with theme comparison of Yiddish and Judeo-Spanish songs. She is also an associate searcher to the Universities Carlton (Ottawa), Concordia (Montreal), Haïfa (Israel) and INET (Portugal).

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Excellent performer, Judith Cohen continues to sing on stage, and to give illustrated lectures on the various traditions, Judeo-Spanish, Yiddish, Spanish, Canadian, French, Balkanic and medieval, by playing on the vielle, ud, darbouka, mountain dulcimer and other old string and wind instruents.

Judith Cohen gets her inspiration from the many travels she did in her life. « I travelled a lot, for many years. We never get bored while we travel », as she says.

Visit Judith Cohen’s website
Browse Judith Cohen’s archives

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