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 (London, 1999).
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 centuries.
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.
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