New Ladino Music Today
by Eva Broman
Eva Broman frequently contributes posts to to the Jewish-music mailing list about Sephardic, Turkish, and Israeli bands (categories that often overlap). This post seemed to be an especially good summary of interesting bands, so I asked for permission to post it to the Klezmershack. ari
I often explore the israel.music web site, which has a quite amazing collection of Israeli/Jewish music of all genres imaginable. Recently there was a request on this list concerning new Ladino music. Today I came across a Sephardi/Ladino CD which hasn't been mentioned here yet (if I'm to trust the list archives!). My impression from listening to the clips was very positive—however, I'm a real novice when it comes to Ladino music, so it would be interesting to hear other views:
I also found a CD with a young singer doing traditional arab-andalousian songs (if that's the term) that I really liked (and which I already ordered, actually!)
A Mizrahi favourite of mine is Israeli/Kurdish singer Itzik Kalla. Kalla is not really a "traditional"/world music artist (which seems to the style mostly dealt with on the jewish-music list). Like many other Musica Mizrahit artists I've heard his music is a mix of heartfelt ballads, covers of Greek bouzouki hits and Turkish arabesk (Ibrahim Tatlises et al) as well as traditional Kurdish songs. He's got a really distinctive voice and style, however, which makes him stand out from the crowd. On the "Itzik Kalla and friends" CD there are some lovely renditions of his most popular songs, sung as duets. The instrumentation is more traditional than on many other albums in the genre (which use a lot of synthesiser imitations of strings etc.), and he really sings his heart of. Among other things there's a great version of Avihu Medina's "Shabekhi Yerushalayim" (which can also be heard on the "Divahn" CD).
Just a side comment: I sometimes feel that among lovers of world music, there is some kind of distinction between quality "world music" artists, who play the traditional (in this case Eastern) music in a more authentic (or, sometimes, more innovative!) way, and commercial pop "Oriental" artists, who supposedly dilute it in order to appeal to a mass audience (who can't appreciate the real thing!). Although a lot of Israeli music seems mass-produced (like a lot of "ethnic" pop music in general) I personally enjoy many of the "oriental" (as well as some of the pop/rap etc.) tunes played on the Israeli internet stations, which are clearly the hits of today (and yesterday, maybe!). You can hear some fine oud and violin playing on some musica mizrahit CDs, for example violin virtuouso Felix Mizrahi, who has played with Itzik Kalla and Zehava Ben. Or to take an example from Greek music, which is an ethnic music I know quite well-most of the greatest bouzouki players, singers, composers etc. from the forties and onwards worked in the commercial circuit and they adapted their style to whatever was popular at the time (for example, when Indian movies became the rage of the day, many composers lifted songs straight from the Indian film scores and turned them into Greek "laika"). Their primary aim was to make hits with a mass appeal, not to preserve a tradition—and yet they produced a heap of classic songs in the process. And how many people thought that Loretty Lynn, or Johnny Cash were really Nashville corny in the '60s and '70s—and now they've become cult heroes for the alt.country.crowd!;-). I do understand that musical taste is more a matter of gut feeling etc.than of social attitides. However, as a person who likes both "world music" and a lot of so-called commercial music, no matter if it's Jewish/Israeli, Greek or Arabic, I have sometimes wondered about this attitude.
Posted to the Jewish-Music mailing list by Eva Broman, 21 Jan '05