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

Early life

Aroeste grew up in Princeton, New Jersey.[1] Her family roots can be traced to the formerly vibrant Greek Jewish community of Salonika, which was almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust. In 1927, her family built a synagogue in Salonika, which today remains one of the only synagogues there. Her family immigrated to the United States from Macedonia 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

In the late-90s, Aroeste was working for the National 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 Ladino music, she started her own Ladino 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, the Ladino language, also known as Judeo-Spanish, is spoken by less than 100,000 people, the majority of whom reside in Israel.[2]

A la Una and Puertas

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 Dona 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

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]


Aroeste has performed all over the world, including the Balkans,[1]Cuba,[20]Sevilla for International Women's Day,[21] the Sephardic Music Festival in New York[22] 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.[23] In 2014, Aroeste won the Sephardic Prize at the International Jewish Music Festival in Amsterdam, and in 2015 she represented the USA in the International Sephardic Music Festival in Cordoba, Spain.[24]



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


  • 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)


  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. ^ Margaret Teich, “Notes to Cuba: A Musical Project,” The Forward, March 6, 2009.
  21. ^ “La Fundacion Tres Culturas dedica a la mujer un ciclo de musica y cine,” El Pais, February 24, 2005.
  22. ^ Ben Jacobson, “Spreading the Hanukka Spirit,” Jerusalem Post, December 18, 2006.
  23. ^ “The 5th Festiladino (The International New Ladino Song Competition) is on its way,”, January 2008.
  24. ^ "La cantante americana Sarah Aroeste, mañana viernes, en el XIV Festival de Música Sefardí," June 11, 2015.

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