YASMIN LEVY (ISRAEL)
What you might call 'pan-mediterranean' music is often soaked in nostalgia. Its delicate weave of Arabic, Jewish and Christian influences seems to lament that golden age when the cultural arteries of the region were open and vibrant, and music flowed alongside science, religion and ideas like the tides and currents of the sea itself. Nowhere was the charm of that era felt more keenly than in the southern Spain of medieval times.
It was there that the roots of Jewish Sephardic culture and the Ladino language were established. After the explulsion of 1492, Jewish refugees took their language and their songs to the far corners of the Europe and their music continued to evolve in ports and cities from Tlemcen to Thessaloniki and beyond. The eminient ethnomusicologist Yitzhak Levy was the internationally recognised authority on Ladino songs, which he collected avidly all his life, but it is his 28 year old daughter Yasmin who has managed to bring them alive. For twelve years the classically trained Yasmin was the accompanist to her mother Kochava Levy, an accomplished singer in her own right. Mother and daughter left their home in Jerusalem to tour the world on a regular basis. Then one day, with the encouragement of her flamenco teacher, Yasmin began to sing.
She has a voice that does strange things to audiences and critics alike. Normally phlegmatic hacks find themselves melting into rivulets of tears and effusive praise. Sephardis the world over experience the electric pull of history and a renewed fascination with their Mediterranean and Ladino pasts. Some say that Yasmin Levy has saved the language itself from what might otherwise have been academic mummification or even outright extinction. Charlie Gillett wrote with characteristic eloquence that when Yasmin Levy stops singing, 'I unwillingly open my eyes and face reality.'
Levy has also provoked a minor revolution in the international Ladino song scene by ditching the folksified accompaniment of Spanish guitars and returning to 'original' instruments like the Arabic oud, violin, cello, percussion and piano. She also spices up her interpretation of the songs with oriental trills and slides, thus 'Arabicising' what was once stubbornly 'Europeanised'. This has stirred the blinkered ire of purists, but fans have found that their appetite for her music continues to grow exponentially. In short, they just can't get enough of her. Her two albums 'La Juderia' and 'Romance and Yasmin' encapsulate that magical mix of memory, nostalgia, tender beauty and hope, to perfection.
Hear Yasmin's concert from WOMAD 2005
A4WM 2005 nomination
BBC Music review
smadar , NY
Yasmin is AMAZING, this is how I feel.
Hiram Sarabia (USA)
One of my favourite songs from VENGO...truly beautiful
B'SD YASMIN'S EXPRESSION AND INTERPRETATION OF LADINO MUSIC IS NOSTALGIC OF SEFARAD. THE FUSION BETWEEN FLAMENCO AND TURKISH RHYTHMS IS ALSO BRILLIANT.
I saw her at Jewish Book Week singing some of the orginal Sephardi ballads. In spite of saying _less_ than anyone there -- patronizing academics running the show (I'm one, I'm afraid. . though not I hope patronizing), she was the most culturally intelligent and open. Just read what she has to in the sleeve notes to La Juderia. This is what the ache in her voice carries for me: a moment -- a reality -- when Muslims and Jews lived side-by-side, in love and friendship, as well as squabbles. She sings with so much longing. . . Bless her high aims.
I think this wonderful music
She sticks a spear into your soul - then pours in tears of joy and sadness. So many thanks.
Was lucky enough to see her on her recent London visit. An achingly beautiful set, words cannot describe how good she is live!
Elena Goulding, Hereford
God, this woman is amazing. beautiful. just...mesmerising. Gorgeous, sweet voice. I just can't get enough of it...
Sarah Butler, Beckenham
Absolutely wonderful. A beautiful voice singing fantastic music.
John Wildman, Stockport
Just watched her on Jules' Later - only one spot, can't wait for more, on the strength of one song, I'll by the whole catalogue. El toque no estava mal tambien!
I think this is wonderful!
Chris Buitendijk, Rotterdam
She deserves to win the award!!!! Heavenly music.
J.F. Ljungberg London
Yasmin Levy; her voice and her music not only fills your mind - it takes you to a new level of musical experience. The intensity and the feeling with which the songs are sung underscores the narration tradition and certainly brings it in good light.