Welcome! I am excited to introduce you to The Monastir Project, my newest musical endeavor.
After nearly 20 years of bringing the Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) music of my family to audiences around the globe, I am now setting upon my most personal project yet.
In 2017, I was invited to sing in Bitola, Macedonia (formerly known as Monastir), the birthplace of my grandfather and home to a once thriving Sephardic Jewish population. Sadly, after WWII, no Jewish life remained in the city. And yet, the current citizens-- non Jews -- have demonstrated their respect and love of a Jewish history now lost. I have witnessed it firsthand in subsequent travels to the city (read my article about it in Tablet Magazine here). So I am launching a project to return that love and to record an album of Macedonian Jewish music.
I have spent months researching in archives through the National Library of Israel, and working with friends on the ground in Macedonia to find songs that are unique to the Monastir community that once existed. Some of the songs are in Macedonian and reference Jewish life from long ago, and others are traditional Ladino songs, some of which have never been recorded in song form before.
And here’s the most exciting part: by cultivating friendships and contacts in Bitola, and with my longtime music producer, Shai Bachar, who resides in Israel, the Monastir Project will be a joint effort between myself, Israeli and Macedonian musicians. Half of the album will be recorded in Israel and the other half in the Macedonia.
It is the largest project I have launched in my career—spanning 3 countries and dozens of musicians! It will take about a year to complete. We plan to work with a children’s school in Bitola, a choir in Skopje, and with beloved musicians in greater Macedonia and Israel. On a shoestring budget the project will cost approximately $50,000, which includes recording and production, travel between countries with several musicians, documentation, and more. When we’re done, we’ll have a unique musical homage to Jewish Monastir, and musicians across borders - Jews, Christians and Muslims- who will come together to present the music at various international music festivals (phase 2 of the project!). A portion of proceeds from music sales and concerts will go back to the many wonderful volunteer projects happening in Bitola to preserve Jewish history there (phase 3).
There is still much work to be done to raise awareness of this beautiful community. With your help, we can complete this project that, through music and intercultural dialogue, will bring so many different people together to celebrate Jewish Monastir.
There are a couple of ways to donate to this initiative:
1. You can donate by credit card online at this link here.
2. If you prefer, you can also donate by check. Please send contributions to Aroeste Music LLC, 57 Green River Valley Road, Alford, MA 01230. Checks should be made payable to “Fractured Atlas, with “Sarah Aroeste- The Monastir Project” in the memo line.
The Monastir Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non‐profit arts service organization. (That means your donations are tax-deductible – an added bonus!)
Thank you again for your support of my work, both past and present. I value any help making this project a reality (including spreading the word, or recommending us to family foundations or for matching grants).
You are helping to keep alive the memory of Jewish Monastir.