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Awards for World Music 2007 - Middle East & North Africa
Yasmin Levy

Yasmin Levy album cover
Born in Bakaa, Jerusalem, on 23 December 1975, Yasmin Levy may be a citizen of the relatively new state of Israel yet her music reaches back hundreds and hundreds of years. Levy sings in Ladino, the ancient language (a mix of Hebrew and Spanish) of the Sephardic Jews who arrived in Spain in 711 and lived there peacefully with the Islamic Moorish rulers, Christian Spaniards and Gypsies until the Christian re-conquest of 1492. This lead to the Moors and Jews being expelled from Spain. Amongst Sephardic Jewish communities across North Africa, Turkey, the Balkans and the Middle East Ladino survived as a language until almost vanishing in the 20th Century. Yasmin’s father, Yitzhak Levy, was appointed head of the Ladino department at Israel’s National Radio so fought to record the language and songs of Israel’s Sephardic Jews. He eventually compiled four books of Ladino songs and Yasmin draws strongly from them.

Yitzhak died when Yasmin was only a baby yet he had taught her mother the songs and, in turn, she taught Yasmin. As an adult Yasmin began singing in public with her mother then branched out on her own, releasing her debut album Romance And Yasmin in 2002 and following it with 2005’s La Juderia. Yasmin’s music mixes Ladino verse with flamenco instrumentation: although there is no written documentation to demonstrate what flamenco’s origins sound like Yasmin is certain that the music Andalucia’s Jews and Moors and Gypsies created together hundreds of years ago helped shape flamenco as we know it. For her efforts Yasmin was awarded the Anna Lindh Award (www.euromedalex.org) for promoting cross-cultural dialogue between musicians from three cultures.

“I am proud to combine the two cultures of Ladino and flamenco,” says Yasmin, “while mixing in Middle Eastern influences. I am embarking on a 500 years old musical journey, taking Ladino to Andalusia and mixing it with flamenco, the style that still bears the musical memories of the old Moorish and Jewish-Spanish world with the sound of the Arab world. In a way it is a ‘musical reconciliation’ of history.”

Garth Cartwright

Yasmin Levy's website
Album Review on bbc.co.uk/music
Read other people's comments then Tell us what you think:

jose abolafia,miami beach
I was missquoted.It is common knowledge that the sefardim arrived in sefarad long before the destruction of the temple.It was the Moslems who arrived on the 7th Century and were welcomed by the sefardim communities.

Firoz, Canada
You're beautiful. Wow and what a voice. Listening to you transforms me to another world.

Sawas Khaled Turkey
Very interesting and Impressive voice

Chenque - Rotterdam
I saw Yasmine on the North Sea Jazz festival this weekend in Rotterdam. Never heard of this woman before, but she overwhelmed me with her presence, voice and cultural luggage of the Ladino. One to be watched closely.

Another María, Spain
María Spain!! ya nos gustaría tener por estas tierras, o sea Spain, a una tía como esta!!! Y una pena, penita , pena que no se haya llevado este año el premio!

Adria, London
Mark, couldn't have said it better. Maria, I think you do not know much about Flamenco, because she doesn't insist in it. As it says on her album, it is fused with other elements. Besides, if you watch a performance by one of the greatest flamenco dancers in the world - Sara Baras - you will know that Flamenco is changing.On a positive note, Yasmin Levy is amazing! Intentalo Encontrar and La Alegria are out of this world. So good.

Tarek Madkour
7-7-2007 Is Coming The Best Album Of The Arab To Artist (Amr Diab)Wating .....

Z (U.K.)
An extremely beautiful voice indeed. Although I was unable to understand the literal translation of her music, I was taken aback by the beauty of Yasmin's music and her powerful voice. Bravo.

Mark Ives, Manchester
Maria shut up, you have no idea about flamenco. And even though it is the music of spain, I don't care because I have an afro

Linda and David
We saw Yasmin in Bourges France in 2006 - It was an outdoor concert and as we travelled towards Bourges from the Loire we drove through a really bad storm thinking several times that we should turn back. We carried on. As Yasmin came on the stage the storm stopped and she sang a mesmerising rendition of Ladino and flamenco songs. We love her!

John, England
Maria from spain I LOVE U

Mickey B
To imply that the Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together as equals is historically inaccurate and an insult to the hardships suffered by Asian and African Jews. You should not bend the truth because it might help with the situation today, please read Memmi's 'Who is an Arab Jew' for furhter info, then investigate more.

Tim Whitworth, London
of all the nominees this is the sound that grabs me most this year - truly demonstrating how cultures and sounds travel and weave into each other. great!

angela wales
i found a review in our local paper and have now found this site; haunting there is no need to understand the words the passion and soul rendering voice and emotion takes me to another level of inner being.

Jane, Swansea
I heard Yasmin in Pontardawe last Saturday and was spellbound. She had the audience eating out of her hands in a stunning performance - well done to her and her superb musicians!

Lambros Karavis
Yasmin Levy performed at Womadelaide 2007 in what has to be one of the standout performances. She had strong competition from Mariza who also has a strong haunting fado voice. Both women have the power to use their vocal chords to stir emotion in the soul, each in their own special way.Yasmin Levy performed in an almost quiet and underplayed way in the beginning, letting her voice capture the audience first. Like a patient fisherman drawing her shoal of fish towards the net, she first taught us the elements of her song, then showed us the almost raw emotion in her voice before leading the audience to sing along with her. An amazing performance.

Maria, Spain
I'm very sorry. This lady's singing is cheesy and works with clichés. She insists in Flamenco without having much idea about it- i will not say more.She's very far from deserving any prize.

Norka, Venezuela
Deep and sad emotions mixed with bright and reflexive sounds...A piece of history that's coming back...where three cultures could live together in peace.. Bravo Yasmin...

Michael Becker - Los Angeles
Having the privilege to hear Yasmin in person would allow you to be thrust into antiquity, into the center of a universe that existed, but was for the most part silenced or nearly forgotten. Yasmin performed LIVE in Los Angeles in an outdoor, informal yet formal natural setting. Every heart beat to the rhythm of each note in not only her voice but accompanying musicians. The ney flute sometimes intertwined and toyed with Yasmin to the point it was impossible to tell who was who. In the Los Angeles performance this Ney flute was a spiritual awakening, with the artist not only playing the introductory and bridging melodies but exhaling at the same time to evoke a snake hissing or a slight shaking of a tambourine. If I remember correctly his first name was either Amir or Hassan and had come from Persia to Israel some 17 years ago. (Someone correct me or supply his full name.) In any event, at this live event there were no engineering miracles, just pure heart and melody from Yasmin. My only regret is that more of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle could not have been at her performances, it was not televised or captured on tape. Our youngest, Melinda, a classically trained and educated operatic soprano was so very taken by Yasmin, that she was ready to abandon her budding opera career and run to the next Ladino Workshop. That still may happen!! Yasmin and voices like her speak to us in feelings and emotions our relatives from nearly 800 years ago would understand. As she joins together influences the various cultures and religions, I wonder if music might not be the medium for more understanding of each other. After all, good conversations whether verbal or musical can bring many diverse groups together. Thank you Yasmin, we have been blessed by your influence.

James UK
very very good

Jose Abolafia,Miami Beach,Fl.
On Yasmine Levy's article it says that "the Sephardim arrived in Spain in the 8th century (710?)or so.Please check your records.The Sephardim arrived in Roman-Pre Christian times and were an old well established community when the Moslem conquest of Spain took place.Respectfully yours Jose Abolafia

Priscilla. Italy
What an amazing piece! A wonderful voice and a fascinating language: the combination of the pulse and the many rhythms makes you dizzy.

rabih Gh, Lebanon
Expressing humanity's passion and suffering through screaming notes using multi-cultural influences, celebrating differences in a unified artistic expression...great artist...

Simon / Toulouse France
Great artist!

Sita raman boston
She is beautiful like Anoushka and I would like to see them together

Sizen, London
Yasmin sings with extraordinary power and vibrance, but most of all with incredible sincerity.

Ron White
A fine, haunting voice (but helped by the recording engineer?). Ladino music has a fine exponent.

Andrea L. Minneapolis, USA
I love Flamenco music, which makes me emotional in itself, but Ladino music takes emotion to another level-her mixing of Ladino and Flamenco is beautiful. Her voice and emotion in her voice is stirring and makes me incredibly emotional; I love that. She's powerful and exquisite.


bravo!!!!!Yasmin Levy

Isa from Madrid
Yasmin Levy I thing she is very good

Nirupa Hoffman, NSW Australia
This music stirs deep within the soul, igniting, inspiring, extremely passionate and courageous, Thank you.

Kelly, London
She is amazing, a true talent, with a voice which is timeless, so beautiful.

Lida Denamrk
Nice face, voice and music

Go for it!

Iris Avital
Wow !!! what a singer !!

Tikva Sandman, Israel
Yasmin Levy is a most extraordinary singer. Her amazinginly beautiful voice is rich and deep with emotion. It comes from the heart and goes to the hearts of those who listen to her. Combined with her striking beauty and natural grace, it makes her unique and unforgetable. A real star.

lapin blanc, France
Yasmin rules !!!

gorgeous voice and lovely face,plus good combination of music and sound

hamushan TURKEY

Liman C, California
This is a wild voice calling from the past with a mingled flavor of dates and olives. Her phrasing pulses with an amazing life force that often seems to burst the constraints of the music's rhythmic ground. Exquisite and unique.

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