The selichot in the Turkish rite

A selection of selichot performed by Isaac Algazi, Haim Effendi, Izzet Bana and Hadass Pal-Yarden


The selichot are penitential prayers in which the worshipper implores forgiveness to God for the sins committed. This tradition is based on the thirteen attributes of mercy which have been, according to the tradition, passed on from God to Moses. (Exodus 34, 6-7).
In the beginning, the selichot were read during Yom Kippur service and for fasts. Then this tradition took place during the 10 days (yamim noraïm) between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Ashkenazi communities and the Chasidim start reciting the selichot on saturday evening preceding (for at least four days) Rosh Hashanah service. The Sefardi communities read it at dawn before the morning prayer for forty days, starting on the first of Elul.

The following playlist features a selection of selichot that come from the Ottoman Empire, performed by famous singers, such as Haïm Effendi (1853-1938) and Isaac Algazi (1889-1950).
Haïm Effendi was born in 1853 in Edirne (historically known as Adrianople), one of the most important cities for Sefardi religious music in the Ottoman Empire. The growing record industry in the beginning of the 20th century kept traces of his incomparable voice.
Son of the cantor Salomon Algazi, Isaac Algazi was born on April 24, 1889. After having studied religious and secular music, he became the cantor of the Beit Israël synagogue in 1908. he moved to Istanbul in 1923 and was appointed cantor and music teacher in the Sefardi “Italian” synagogue of Galata (Istanbul) in 1929. Between 1909 and 1929, Isaac Algazi recorded many Sefardi tunes for important music labels (Columbia, Favorite, Gramophone, Odeon and Pathé). In 1933, he settled down in Paris where he worked for the great synagogue of la Victoire. Then in 1935, he moved to Montevideo, in Uruguay, where he stayed until his death in 1950.
Apart from these two renowned performers of Ottoman cantorial art, this playlist features field recordings done by the musicologists Edith Gerson-Kiwi et Jean-Claude Sillamy. Finally, you can hear several modern versions of selichot from CD’s or audio cassettes by Izzet Bana who was born in Istanbul in 1950 or from the singer Hadass Pal-Yarden.

Read the feature article on Selihot

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