Undergraduate & Postgraduate Courses

Based in the School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London, we work closely with the SOAS Music Department on their Ethnomusicology programmes. We are also committed to providing learning and development opportunities to as wide an audience as possible through our programme of Summer Schools and year-round workshops which cater for all ages and abilities.

JMI has helped to develop a compelling Jewish music strand at Undergraduate level and a full programme at Masters and Postgraduate level. We also support the Joe Loss Lectureship in Jewish Music at SOAS as well as offering a flourishing scholarship scheme for studies in Jewish music at Masters and PhD level, sponsored by the Mildred Loss and Sir Jack Lyons Studentship Scheme. PhD projects can be practice-led, fieldwork-based, or theoretical. Please contact the Joe Loss Lecturer in the first instance to share your research interests and discuss options.

The following courses are offered as part of the BA Music Studies and MMus Ethnomusicology programmes:

Focus is placed on an analytical understanding of the musical structures and forms of traditional klezmer music, and upon the exploration of issues of diaspora, identity and musical change. This course aims to provide in depth knowledge and understanding of the Jewish klezmer music tradition, including its roots among the Jewish diaspora in pre-World War II Eastern Europe, its transformation in early twentieth century America and its revival and contemporary trends in the USA, Israel and Europe. Via this subject matter, this course seeks to develop students’ music analytical skills, critical thinking and understanding of wider issues in the study of world musics, including the concept of diaspora, insider/outsider status of performers, and the transformation of functional performance traditions for the “world music” concert stage.

Popular music and politics in Israel addresses the development of popular music in Israel from pre-State days to the present. Several songwriters and bands are studied to build up a picture of different approaches to the expression of national and ethnic identity in music. Particular focus is placed upon the relationship between national infrastructure (radio, TV, recordings, army ensembles) and popular music and on recent developments including growth of expression, since the 1980s, of minority ethnic identities in the mainstream Israeli popular music scene, and musical responses to recent political events.

At Undergraduate Level, Music can be combined with Development Studies, Anthropology, Languages and other academic disciplines. BA Music Students have the option of taking Klezmer Performance and embarking on independent study projects on Jewish music themes.  Jewish Music is also covered within survey courses such as Sounds and Cultures, and Gender and Music.  Single-subject BA Music students have the option of taking courses from other departments, which include Hebrew language, and courses on Judaism and Jewish texts and courses on Israeli culture and history.

MMus students specialise either in ethnomusicology or performance.  As well as completing taught courses, the student will prepare a dissertation and/or performance(s) in an area of their choice.

To find out more, click here.

Dr Ilana Webster-Kogen, Joe Loss Lecturer in Jewish Music

Ilana Webster-Kogen’s research focuses on transnational networks of Ethiopian migrant musicians. In each of her research projects, she examines the dynamics of diaspora and citizenship across a variety of musical styles: Azmari performance, Eskesta dance, hip hop, and the fusion and neo-soul projects sweeping the Ethiopian diaspora. In each local case study, Ilana looks to the music scene for insight into how Ethiopian migrants adapt to their host society.

She is currently completing a book manuscript, based on ethnographic fieldwork among Ethiopian migrant musicians in Tel Aviv, which analyzes the subtleties of marginality and challenges of integration. She argues that while Ethiopian-Israelis maintain the social taboo against criticizing state patrons, musicians encode cultural critique into music in a way that is readily recognizable to their audiences through the Ethiopian literary device of “wax and gold.” Musicians negotiate communal feelings of marginality through choices of musical conventions that are inaccessible to outsiders because Ethiopian culture remains isolated in Israel. Her time in Israel-Palestine has yielded additional research interest in nationalism and conflict, which she teaches about with the support of the JMI (Jewish Music Institute).

For her next project, “Musical Networks of the Ethiopian Diaspora,” Ilana examines the multidirectional flows of musical influence across six Ethiopian diaspora cities. As the Ethiopian population expands, women in particular are traveling to Europe, the Persian Gulf, and North America to work for remittances. Over the next five years, she is conducting participant-observation-based fieldwork across the transnational circuit of Ethiopian performers, analyzing how contextual shifts in the practice of particular musical conventions (such as the influence of new religious movements like Pentecostalism) frames debates over citizenship rights.

Contact Ilana to find out more about her courses and to discuss options at Masters and PhD level.

 The Joe Loss Lectureship in Jewish Music is currently being partially supported by the Simon Richard Marks Charitable Trust.

Dr Abigail Wood, Previous Joe Loss Lecturer in Jewish Music

Abigail was the Joe Loss Lecturer in Jewish Music at SOAS 2007-2013. She specialises in contemporary Yiddish song and klezmer, music among minority and immigrant communities in Israel and music and religion. She is particularly interested in urban and internet-based fieldwork. Her research includes soundscape field recordings in relation to identity, music and place in Jerusalem.  She regularly contributes to publications on popular Jewish music in Israel, and contemporary Jewish music and modernity.

Contact Abigail