Sarah Aroeste

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Sarah Aroeste
Sarah Aroeste Red Dress.jpg
Background information
Washington, D.C.
GenresLadino music, Sephardic music, world fusion, indie rock
Years active2001–present
LabelsAroeste Music
Associated actsFrank London
Tamir Muskat
Shai Bachar

Sarah Aroeste is a Manhattan-based[1] Judaeo-Spanish musician.[2] Her music is often referred to as “feminist Ladino rock.”[3]

Early life[edit]

Aroeste grew up in Princeton, New Jersey.[1] Her family roots can be traced to the formerly vibrant Greek Jewish community of Thessaloniki, which was almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust. In 1927, her family built a synagogue in Thessaloniki, which today remains one of the only synagogues there. Her family immigrated to the United States from Yugoslavia/Vardaska and Greece in the early 20th century.[4][5]

Aroeste trained in classical opera singing at Westminster Choir College and Yale University.[6][7] She attended the Israel Vocal Arts Institute in 1997, first learning traditional Ladino songs while studying with Nico Castel.[8]


Ladino beginnings[edit]

In the late-90s, Aroeste was working for the Foundation for Jewish Culture in New York, where she created The New Jewish Musics Initiative. She was disappointed that, while there was a revival of Ashkenazi klezmer music, there was no similar revival for Sephardic music.[4][7] Unable to find any modern Judaeo-Spanish ("Ladino") music, she started her own Judaeo-Spanish rock band in 2001.[4] At the time, there were very few people playing Ladino music.[9] Born Sarah Silverman, she adopted her mother's maiden name when she began performing as a Ladino musician.[10] Her goal was to obtain a wider, younger audience for Ladino music, by rearranging the traditional music of her ancestors to give it a hip, modern spin.[4] Aroeste has been at the forefront of the contemporary Ladino music revival.[11][12]

Developed by Spanish Jews following their expulsion from Spain, the Ladino language dates back to the 15th century.[13] Because it is rooted in the dispersal of its people, Ladino music is not from one particular region, but rather from a variety of geographies and ethnicities.[8] Its origins lie in Castilian Spanish, with shades of Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Turkish, Greek and other languages.[7][9] As of 2012, Judaeo-Spanish is spoken by fewer than 100,000 people, the majority of whom reside in Israel.[2]

A la Una and Puertas[edit]

Aroeste's first two albums, 2003's A la Una: In the Beginning and 2007's Puertas, were primarily Ladino updates of traditional Sephardic standards.[1] Produced by Frank London, Puertas features standard rock instruments like guitar, bass and drums, along with Middle Eastern ones like the oud and dumbek.[14] It was described as “traditional Ladino music updated with rock, funk and jazz.”[12]


Aroeste's third album, Gracia, is named after Gracia Mendes Nasi, a 15th-century Jewish woman who helped Jews who had converted to Catholicism in order to flee the Spanish Inquisition.[8] Produced and arranged by Shai Bachar,[15] it features the rapping of poet Vanessa Hidary, and its opening track samples from a 1971 speech by Gloria Steinem.[8] Unlike her first two albums, many of the Ladino songs on Gracia are originals written by Aroeste.[15] She has stated that it is her most experimental album to date.[16] With this release, she “developed a style that borrows liberally from all sorts of unexpected places, from Santigold fusion-pop to gothic metal,” while taking care to insure that “during these genre experiments the Ladino influences don’t disappear, but are integrated.”[2] Gracia has been labeled “the strongest case around for the ongoing relevance of Ladino music.”[2]

In 2012, music from Gracia was featured on Alt.Latino on NPR,[3] Transpacific Sound Paradise on WFMU[16] and WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.[17]

Ora de Despertar[edit]

Aroeste's fourth album is an all-original Ladino children's album, the only known contemporary recording of its kind.[18] The songs teach simple concepts in Ladino and range in themes from learning about mealtimes to body parts to animals on a farm. With this recording, Aroeste has been credited for helping to perpetuate Ladino culture for a new generation.[19]

Ora de Despertar (Time to Wake Up)[edit]

In July 2017 Aroeste released a bilingual illustrated children's book in Ladino and English. The book teaches about morning rituals and what to be grateful for upon waking up. It is considered to be the first of its kind.[20]


Aroeste's fifth album is an all-original bilingual (Ladino/English) holiday album that cycles the Hebrew calendar.[21]


Aroeste has performed all over the world, including the Balkans,[1] Cuba,[22] Sevilla for International Women's Day,[23] the Sephardic Music Festival in New York[24] and the Gibraltar World Music Festival in the Rock of Gibraltar.[8]

In 2008, she was a finalist in the Festiladino, the international new Ladino song competition. As a part of the competition, she performed at the Jerusalem Theater with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.[25] In 2014, Aroeste won the Sephardic Prize at the International Jewish Music Festival in Amsterdam, and in 2015 she represented the US in the International Sephardic Music Festival in Cordoba, Spain.[26]



  • A la Una: In the Beginning (2003)
  • Puertas (2007)
  • Gracia (2012)
  • Ora de Despertar (2016)
  • Together/Endjuntos (2017)


  • Sephardic Music Festival, Vol. 1 – “Hija Mia (Tamir Muskat Remix)” (2010)
  • Sephardic Music Festival, Vol. 2 – “Gonna Light” (feat. Y-Love) and “La Comida La Manana” (2012)


  • Ora de Despertar/Time to Wake Up (2017)


  1. ^ a b c d Elissa Strauss, “Sarah Aroeste, keeping Ladino music alive,” New York Daily News, November 11, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d Mordechai Shinefield, “Monday Music: The Face of Ladino Dream-Pop,” The Forward, May 21, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Felix Contreras and Catalina Maria Johnson, hosts, “Latin Music That Breaks Barriers And Pushes Boundaries,” NPR, June 21, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Dmitri Ehrlich, “’Jewish Shakira’ Gives Her Songs a Sexy Spin,” The Forward, August 15, 2003.
  5. ^ Children of the Inquisition, “Sarah Aroeste - Children of the Inquisition” childrenoftheinquisition
  6. ^ “Sarah Aroeste – Biography,” All About Jazz. Accessed November 12, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c Aaron Cohen, “Sarah Aroeste’s modern spin on tuneful tradition,” Chicago Tribune, April 9, 2004.
  8. ^ a b c d e Mordechai Shinefield, “For Ladino Musicians, World’s A Stage,” The Forward, July 2, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Emma Alvarez Gibson, “You Just Don’t Do That: Sarah Aroeste and Ladino Rock,” Jack Move Magazine, September 13, 2012.
  10. ^ Sandee Brawarsky, “Vows: Sarah Silverman and Jeffrey Blaugrund,” New York Times, July 8, 2011.
  11. ^ Seth Rogovoy, “Sarah Aroeste: Where Ladino Lives – and Rocks,” Berkshire Jewish Voice, May 15, 2012.
  12. ^ a b Renée Montagne, host, “Morning Edition,” NPR, December 19, 2003.
  13. ^ Howard Reich, “Middle East fest a unique celebration, artistic treat,” Chicago Tribune, August 30, 2004.
  14. ^ Margaret Teich, “The World in My Voice: Jewish Music Goes Multiethnic,” PresenTense, Issue 4, April 2008.
  15. ^ a b Aaron Howard, “Aaron Howard reviews Two Ladino CDs,” Jewish Herald-Voice, June 7, 2012.
  16. ^ a b Rob Weisberg, host, “Transpacific Sound Paradise,” WFMU, May 19, 2012.
  17. ^ Jerome McDonnell and Catalina Maria Johnson, hosts, “Global Notes: Retrofitting traditional sounds for a modern fit,” WBEZ, March 28, 2012.
  18. ^ “Sarah Aroeste Brings Ladino Music To A New Generation,” Rural Intelligence, March 28, 2016.
  19. ^ “Jewish mom perpetuates Ladino with kid-friendly music,” The Times of Israel, April 3, 2016.
  20. ^ [1], July 19, 2017.
  21. ^ [2] M Music Magazine, Sept 19, 2017.
  22. ^ Margaret Teich, “Notes to Cuba: A Musical Project,” The Forward, March 6, 2009.
  23. ^ “La Fundacion Tres Culturas dedica a la mujer un ciclo de musica y cine,” El Pais, February 24, 2005.
  24. ^ Ben Jacobson, “Spreading the Hanukka Spirit,” Jerusalem Post, December 18, 2006.
  25. ^ “The 5th Festiladino (The International New Ladino Song Competition) is on its way,”, January 2008.
  26. ^ "La cantante americana Sarah Aroeste, mañana viernes, en el XIV Festival de Música Sefardí," June 11, 2015.

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