Australian Archive of Jewish Music

The Australian Archive of Jewish Music is located in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, in the Performing Arts Building of Monash University.

The Australian Archive of Jewish Music was jointly founded by Professor Margaret Kartomi, Head, School of Music, and Professor Bernard Rechter, Founding Director of the Centre, following the visit of folklorist Professor Dov Noy to Monash University in 1994.

It is the only archive in the world concerned exclusively with collecting sound, visual and bibliographic materials on the musical cultures of the Jewish peoples of Australia and South, East and Southeast Asia.

The aims of the Archive are:

  • to collect selected records, tapes, CDs, videotapes, films, field recordings, musical folk history recordings, oral histories, journals, costumes, scores, ritual items, personal collections, and musical instruments, especially related to Australia and South, East and Southeast Asia;
  • to present lectures, seminars, study groups seminars and musical events featuring live performers for the community;
  • to encourage and provide a focus for research and performance of Jewish music in Australia, especially folk and cantorial music and encompassing contemporary Australian Jewish music; and
  • to strengthen links between all those interested in Jewish music in Australia and abroad.

In 2002 the Archive launched its first CD, based on its collection.

The Australian Archive of Jewish Music focuses on the following kind of music as found in Australia and Asia:

  • Yiddish folk and Klezmer music
  • Liturgical and paraliturgical music encompassing Ashkenazi, Baghdadi and Sephardi cantorial traditions
  • secular music of Jewish Oriental communities
  • Chassidic music
  • Holocaust songs
  • Jewish popular and art music and popular and art music performed by Jews

The Archive has accumulated around 1,000 records, over 200 audio-cassettes and approximately 50 video-cassettes. The collection is representative of the rich and varied musical styles and traditions brought to Australian shores by Jews from numerous waves of migration over the past two hundred years and thus provides valuable substance for academic scholarship. The collection is also a window to the Jewish music cultures that developed along trade routes to Asian cities such as Bombay, Rangoon, Singapore, Penang, Jakarta, Surabaya, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Books and articles relating to the Jewish music in these areas are currently being written by top-ranking academics for a world-wide readership.

Although there are Jewish music archives in other parts of the world, the Australian Archive of Jewish Music is unique because of it focus on Australia and Asia. Examples of unique materials include field recordings of liturgical music in traditional Babylonian-Baghdadi style from Singapore, music from the now defunct Shepparton Jewish community in Victoria, and music from the discontinued Australian Chassidic Song Festivals.

For more information about the Archive, contact: