Mizrahi Jewish music
Boston, Massachusetts

After embarking on a musical journey in search of his Iraqi-Jewish roots, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer Yoni Battat is successfully revitalizing Arab music within the soundscape of American Jewish life. By performing traditional and original Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) Jewish music, Yoni hopes to broaden perceptions of Jewish cultural identity.

A self-defined “music nerd,” Yoni Battat grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, in a Jewish family with Iraqi and Polish ancestry. Yoni’s paternal ancestors had lived in a thriving Jewish community in Baghdad for centuries, and his grandparents brought that strong sense of Iraqi identity to Yoni’s upbringing. However, in the wider American Jewish community, he had more opportunities to connect to his Ashkenazi roots. As a young teen, Yoni began immersing himself in Eastern European Klezmer music as a way of expressing himself as a young Jewish musician. A few years later, his grandfather gave him an oud and a whole new world of music opened to him, grounding Yoni in his Arab Jewish musical roots. That day, he took his first lesson on Arab music. “It was earthshaking, learning maqam [the microtonal modal system of Arab music],” he explains. “There were suddenly more options for expression and a new way to connect to my family’s Iraqi Jewish ancestry.” 

In college, Yoni dove deep into Arabic classical music, and he has since incorporated Arabic modes and rhythms into his own original music. He now lives in Boston and performs with a variety of traditional ensembles. His debut album Fragments came out in 2020 and was supported by Boston’s Jewish Arts Collaborative and Combined Jewish Philanthropies. His newest ensemble Kedmah, co-led with Rabbi Yosef Goldman, reinterprets Middle Eastern and North African piyyutim. They just released their first album, entitled Simu Lev.

 In addition to traditional music and some of his original compositions, Yoni will perform songs from the piyyut tradition at the Lowell Folk Festival. Piyyutim are devotional poetry dating back to the 10th century. They are sung all over the Jewish world, especially in the Middle East, both as part of prayer and to mark and celebrate lifestyle events. Accompanied by percussion, bass, and traditional Arab instruments at the festival, Yoni will perform on oud and violin, singing lyrics in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

Website and Social Media: yonibattat.com

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