The Bride Unfastens Her Braids, The Groom Faints: Ladino Love Songs
Etty Ben-Zaken, voice; Ensemble Yatan: Letita Berlin, Christopher Hanford, Amy Brodo, Tim Fusion, Peter Mound, Eitan Steinberg
Judeo-Spanish folk songs from Medieval Spain
My first encounter with some of the songs in this recording was in my grandmother Esther's kitchen. Back in my childhood town in Israel, I used to help her prepare her famous leek balls. At fifteen minutes to eight my grandmother, who came to Israel from Turkey, would turn on the radio. It was the daily broadcast for new immigrants, the segment for Ladino speakers. Centuries-old Ladino songs then entered the small kitchen, sung by an amazing mixture of pop singers, cantors and old women. My grandmother joined them all, not bothered by the differences of interpretation. The old folk songs were like good red pomegranates: some eat them, some use their juice for cooking, others say blessings on them at the High Holiday table, and everybody praises their beauty.
The origins of the Judeo-Spanish folk songs lie in Medieval Spain, where Jews have lived for more than a millennium. For hundreds of years they had flourished as an influential community, creating masterpieces in the liturgical and secular literature, becoming famous as scientists, philosophers and kings' counsels.
In 1492 the Catholic king ordered the expulsion of all his Jewish subjects who would not convert to Christianity. With this order, about 200,000 Spanish Jews started their journey east to the Turkish Ottoman Empire, south to North Africa, west to Portugal and later to the newly discovered world. Amazingly wherever they went they carried not only their Jewish tradition but also their Spanish culture.
For the next five hundred years they kept identifying themselves as "Sephardic Jews" ("Sepharad" is the Hebrew word for "Spain") and regardless of the languages spoken in their new countries of exile, they kept speaking Spanish. Gradually, other languages influenced their medieval Spanish, until it became the unique tongue we now call "Ladino."
This recording includes songs from the Sephardic communities in Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Israel and Morocco. Creating a contemporary dialogue with this folk tradition, composer Eitan Steinberg set the songs for voice, baroque recorders, guitar, cello/viola da gamba and ethnic percussion.
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New Albion Records, Inc.