It is impractical, as some have suggested, to look at the music of Middle Eastern Jewry as if it were produced by a single community that has remained unchanged over time. Instead, reviewing the Jewish liturgical and paraliturgical (informal rituals of a religious nature) music reveals a range of influences both musical and cultural: Spanish, Andalusian, Arabic, Turkish, and Western. The music of Jews in the Mediterranean, like the music of Jews throughout the world, is as diverse as the music of the surrounding culture. Therefore, the music of Jews from Spain and Portugal shows a good amount of Spanish influence, and the music of Jews in the Levant shows a good amount of Arab influence. The music of Jews from Morocco and Turkey shares aspects of both Spanish and Arab influence but to differing degrees.
For Middle Eastern and North African Jews the musical influence of the surrounding culture took different forms: in some cases Jews adapted Spanish, Arab, Turkish, or European melodies with Hebrew lyrics; in other cases the music's aesthetic and style guided its use within liturgical and nonliturgical contexts. The innovative adaptation of music for new contexts provides a useful description of the music of Jews in the Middle East. Such song genres as Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) songs, bakkashot (supplications before prayers), and piyyutim (Hebrew poems) may have origins in or similarities to non-Jewish contexts, but these genres accompany Middle Eastern Jewish life and are important representations of Jewish life within the region.
Because of the diversity of music made by Jews in the Middle East, its study presents significant difficulties. The problem is compounded because the majority of Sephardic musical practices are still maintained orally; only a limited amount of the repertoire has been notated and collected in