Kol Tof Duo / Camino en Mano

Album cover: Lovely leaf print. Good English/Hebrew type mix Kol Tof Duo
Camino en Mano
, 2003
Jerusalem Municipality Culture Department

Album available in the US from Hatikvah Music

A couple of data points. A few months ago, a family friend, Francesco Spagnolo, was staying with us here in Boston. He kept mentioning this singer from Israel whose trio I had reviewed (Kol Oud Tof) and said that I must listen to her duo album. He promised to send one. Then I wrote to the Jewish-music mailing list talking about how much I had enjoyed the very contemporary sound of Sarah Oroeste. Among the albums people told me that I must listen to was the one at hand, Esti Kenan Ofri's "Kol Tof Duo" album. Of the several interesting albums of traditional (or, like Sarah Aroeste's album, non-traditional) Sephardic music, this is the one that sticks in my ears and haunts. This is the one that stands out.

The album opens with a duet, primarily a capella, which also mixes two versions of "En este mundo" (In this world). It is achingly beautiful. And, really, that is the tone of the album: a wide diversity of Sephardic Jewish music performed primarily unaccompanied, or accompanied by discreet drumming. Percussionist Oren Fried does one short solo piece of his own composition. Rarely, as on "Si este niño," there is dialogue between drum and voice. Occasionally, the two musicians simply drum together. Some arrangements, as in the intro to "Un lunes" seem quite contemporary. In fact, rather than a recreation of "authentic" sephardic women's song, this, like Aroeste's dance-focused album, is very much a contemporary production. The result is spare, haunting, and astonishingly beautiful.

Not all of the pieces are traditional. Some, like the opening song, are merged from two traditions. Others, such as the setting for Shmuel HaNagid's "Kakh Matzbiyah" (Take the crystal) are by Ofri. Some of these pieces are prayers, some are women's songs. As noted, a couple are authored by Ofri. The whole, held together by Ofri's amazing voice, and by the percussion that rings it when appropriate, is quietly stunning. It is, as the booklet says, music as it once sounded, "in the kitchen, around the home, and during celebrations", and yet, at the same time, it is also music as it sounds best today. I'll repeat: stunning.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/1/04

Personnel this recording:
Esti Kenan Ofri: vocals, riq, milk-pot, shakers
Oren Fried: bendirs, doyra, bongos, drumset, dahol, congas, udo drums, kaxixi, shakers, gong, bells vocals

Armond Sabach: saz (track 2), clave (track 17)


  1. En este mundo--In this world (trad., Spain, Turkey) 2:20
  2. Este chiko nene--This little boy (lullaby, Balkan) 1:32
  3. I durmete--Sleep (lullaby, Turkey) 4:08
  4. Bendir solo (Oren Fried) 1:32
  5. Si este niñio--If this boy (based on lullaby from Morocco) 3:13
  6. Un lunes--On Monday (trad., Turkey) 2:31
  7. Bordjula (trad., Sarajevo) 2:41
  8. Take the crystal (lyrics: Shmuel HaNagid; music: E. K. Ofri) 1:59
  9. Manyanika--My path in hand (based on Greek, Turkish versions) 4:14
  10. Los bilbilikos (based on trad. Turkish) 1:47
  11. Ya Nigun--O melody (lyrics, music: E. K. Ofri) 3:31
  12. Lord, do not judge me (prayer by Yitzhak ibn Mar Sha'ul; music based on versions from Tangier, Jerusalem, Italy) 4:57
  13. As a servant longs (lyrics: Shlomo ibn Gabirol; music: trad.) 3:03
  14. En frente di mi balkon--Before my porch (based on trad. Turkish) 3:21
  15. Ay ke buena--Ah, how sweet (wedding song, two versions combined, Balkan) 1:50
  16. La mujer de Terah--The birth of Abraham (based on versions from Turkey, the Balkans) 3:12
  17. Viva Ordueña--Hurray for Orduenya (trad., Morocco) 2:43

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