Simha Arom (1930)

Ethnomusicologist, musician

Simha Arom is a musician and a world-known ethnomusicologist, specialized in traditional music, especially from Central Africa. He also collected music from Ethiopian Jews when they arrived in the land of Israel.

Simha Arom is born in 1930 in Düsseldorf. After the Crystal Night in November 1938, his family was forced to leave Germany to go to Belgium and then France.
Interned in the Rivesaltes camp until 1941, he finally gets out. Without any news from his parents, he leaves for Palestine at the age of 14. Wounded in 1948 during the war of independence of Israel, Simha starts music studies and becomes 1st horn player in the Jerusalem symphonic orchestra.

During the 1960’s he is sent by the Israeli government to create a brass band in Central African Republic, where he becomes fascinated by the traditional music of this country, especially the vocal polyphonies of the Aka Pygmies. He enters the National Scientific Research Council in 1968 and obtains a Silver Medal in 1984. He goes back to Central Africa every year from 1971 to 1991, accompanied by ethno linguists and students to record the music in a goal of study and conservation.

1st prize of horn in the National Music School of Paris, ethnomusicologist, it became important for Simha Arom to make know the implicit music systems and the ways a culture builds its cognitive categories through its music, with interactive experimentations. His work is based on the fact that data collected on the field must, to be valid, be in accordance with the cognitive data of the studied culture.

His research concerns the temporal organization of the music, the musical scales, the polyphonic techniques, the music in the social environment and the elaboration of concept tools for categorization, analysis and re-creation of traditional music. Basically, from a descriptive field, he tried to develop a specific science, with all its attributes: experimentation, verification, validation, simulation, conceptualization and reconstitution by synthesis.


Collecting Jewish music

  • Furthermore, in 1994 Simha Arom, with Israël Adler and Hervé Roten, Director of the European Institute for Jewish Music, participated in a mission, organized by Yuval organization and Jerusalem’s Research Center on Jewish music, of recording the Jews of Djerba.


Mission to Djerba, in September 1994

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Left, S. Arom, Synagogue of Ghriba

Middle, S. Arom and I. Adler, hara kebira street (grand quartier)

Right, I. Adler and H. Roten



Simha Arom is a distinguished research director at the National Scientific Research Council, member-founder of the French Society of Ethnomusicology, of the French society of music analysis, of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM) and of the European Seminar in Ethnomusicology; he is also member of the French Society of Musicology and of the Board of Directors on the project The Universe Of Music (UNESCO).

His musical archives have been deposited in 2011 at the French National Library..

Simha Arom received in 2014 the Antoine Bernheim Award given by the Foundation of French Judaism.

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