London Jewish Cultural Centre
Ivy House, 94-96 North End Road
The Burning Bush was formed after Lucie Skeaping was invited to make a BBC documentary to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and to explore her own Jewish roots. Since their debut at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the group has performed to packed houses at major festivals and cultural events throughout the world.
The group plays the music of the traditional repertoires of the Jewish communities from many parts of the world. Since the Middle Ages, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean have been the respective homelands of the two main branches of European Jewery - the Ashkenazi and Sephardi.
The Askenazim - or Jews of German origin - migrated eastwards during the Medieval period, often escaping persecution in Germany, and settled in Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe. Their German language developed in exile into Yiddish, a distinctively Jewish language preserving various German archaisms and incorporating elements from the Slavonic languages and Hebrew.
The Sephardim - or Spanish Jews - took their identity from their long and culturally distinguished residence in Spain and Portugal which lasted from the Arab conquest of the 8th century until their collective expulsion from Spain in 1492, and Portugal in 1507. A substantial proportion of the exiled Jews migrated south into North Africa and eastwards along the Mediterranean, moving through Italy to the religious tolerance of the Turkish Empire. During their wanderings their Spanish language developed, like the German of the Ashkinazim, into a separate and recognisably Jewish dialect known as Judeo-Spanish, or more frequently today as Ladino. As with Yiddish, this is the language of Sepharditraditional culture and of their songs.
The Sephardim suffered alongside the Ashkenazim during the holocaust and many communities were exterminated, although others were spared through living in countries which did not pass under German control. Since the Second World war many Sephardic Jews have migrated to Israel and this is now their principal home, although substantial communities remain in Turkey, the Americas and parts of Europe.
Both communities seem to have had a genius for traditional culture and both have handed down a vast wealth of oral literature folklore and music: proverbs, folk tales, admonitory and comical stories, songs for every conceivable occasion and, in the case of the Ashkenazim, an abundance of instrumental music.
‘A celebration of Jewish culture - flair and infectious gaiety’ The Times