Dr Sara Manasseh is an ethnomusicologist, performer and
researcher in the musical traditions of the Jews of Iraq.
She is the founder director of the musical ensemble, Rivers of Babylon
Sara Manasseh was
born in Bombay (now Mumbai), and moved to London in 1966. Her family,
originally from Baghdad, settled in Bombay during the 19th and 20th
Her publications include articles on music in religious and life-cycle
events, in the Babylonian (or Iraqi) Jewish tradition, the role of
Iraqi Jewish women in music performance, music in the Bene Israel
Indian Jewish tradition, and with her mother, Rachel Manasseh, a
historical and social account of the Baghdadian Jews of India. Her doctoral dissertation,
Women in music performance: The Iraqi Jewish experience in Israel
(London University, 1999), surveys the historical, social and musical
life of Iraqi Jews in Iraq and Israel, noting the significant change in
women’s musical participation, and the continued preference for Iraqi
Jewish musical traditions at religious and life cycle events, and for
Arab music – particularly of Egypt and Iraq – at social events.
diplomas in the piano (LRAM) and in specialist music teaching, Sara
Manasseh began a teaching career in music. She was Head of Music at
London Comprehensive schools for a number of years, during the 1970s
and 1980s, and following a master’s degree in ethnomusicology, she was
appointed Senior Lecturer in Music at Kingston University, Surrey. She
has also lectured in Jewish Music at SOAS (School of Oriental and
African Studies). She played trombone for a number of years in the London
Vintage Jazz Orchestra and in the Astoria Jazz Band.
She is currently actively involved in research in the Baghdadian and
Bene Israel Jewish traditions, and has recently co-produced two CDs of
remastered vintage recordings of early twentieth century Jewish music
from Baghdad (1920s) and Bombay (1930s).
Her book Shbahoth – Songs of
Praise in the Babylonian Jewish Tradition: From Baghdad to
Bombay and London (October 2012) is published by Ashgate: http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9780754662990