Chasing the Andalusian Ideal Nostalgia and Sephardic Self-Image in Andalusian Music in Israel


by Xavier Sayeed, 20C Music Research and Jewish Studies
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

Being a Global Research Fellow with the Halle Institute and Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry has been a tremendous honor. With the help of the Halle Institute, I was able to travel to Israel to complete a short ethnographic study in Andalusian and Sephardic communities of musicians. This included observing several concerts and performances, participating in local cultural events, attending Shabbat services at Sephardic synagogues, and interviewing local musicians and affiliates of the Ashdod-based Israeli Andalusian Orchestra.

The opportunity to conduct research abroad has significantly enhanced my project and made a salient impact on both my personal and academic growth. The most poignant effect of my Global Research Fellowship was the fulfilment of a lifelong wish – the wish for freedom to think, wonder, and discover. The prospect of this was what drew me to apply to the program. Never could I have imagined the utter joy I would feel to have this freedom. I have been longing for to rejoice in it once more since returning from my research trip.

My experience with a sense of in-flux cognitive freedom had a deep impact on my aims and approach as a life-long learner and aspiring academic. Through navigating this revelation, I have discovered aspects of my process for synthesizing ideas and been able to devote serious thought to areas in which I can improve. It also prompted an ongoing process of discovering my strengths and preferences as a thinker and creator and analyzing where they might be useful to humanity. I am forever grateful to the Halle Institute and the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry for the wonderful scholarly community and the opportunity of a lifetime.

Xavier Sayeed is a fourth-year undergraduate student studying Music Research and Jewish Studies. His project will culminate in the completion of an honor’s thesis focusing on how the evolution of Israeli society and culture impacts the positionality of those from Sephardic and Mizrahi backgrounds and in what ways that shifts the approach to Andalusian music.

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