Tag Archives: Israeli music

Artist Profiles: Yasmin Levy

Yasmin Levy

Yasmin Levy revitalized the ancient art of Ladino singing, the Judeo-Spanish style whose songs reach back to 15th-century Spain. The Ladino singer was born Yasmin Levy in Bakaa, Jerusalem, Israel, on 23 December 1975. A ‘very small, beautiful neighborhood’, Bakaa is filled with narrow alleyways and warrens dating back many hundreds of years. The area is still a vital part of the history of this great city and, for Yasmin, her roots. She still lives in the flat to which her parents moved when they were first married. Family and roots are very important to Yasmin and juggling family and professional commitments made easier by the fact that her husband Ishay works and travels with her, playing darbuka in most of her shows and handling many of the logistical arrangements of touring. Whenever she has time off, she loves to return to Jerusalem and spend time with her mother, brothers, sister and their families.

Yasmin’s musical interests began as a child. At six years of age, she was taught to play piano and she continued with her studies until age eighteen. At twenty, she began singing seriously but it wasn’t until a year later that she made her first public performance as a guest in a concert given by her mother. Other local concerts followed but it wasn’t until world music showcase WOMEX 2002 that she made her international debut and embarked on a singing career.

 

Yasmin Levy

 

Her first album Romance And Yasmin focused on Ladino music and Turkish influences and was greatly influenced by the work of her late father Yitzhak Levy. He was born in Turkey in 1919 and, at the tender age of 3, moved with his family to Palestine. As a grown man he worked as both a composer and cantor.

After the creation of the state of Israel he was appointed head of the Ladino department at Israel’s national radio station. His life’s work was devoted to the collection and preservation of the songs of Sephardic Jews: these songs had been passed down orally from generation to generation over a period in excess of 500 years. During his lifetime he published 4 books containing Sephardic romances and another 10 volumes of liturgical songs. He also recorded many of these same songs for the national radio. Sadly, Yitzhak Levy passed away when Yasmin was little over one year old. Nevertheless she grew up knowing her father’s love for this music and his heritage as he had also taught her mother Kochava the Sephardic repertoire and she, in turn, passed the songs on to their daughter. When Yasmin was preparing her first disc Romance And Yasmin, she said she was ‘helped enormously by the books and recordings my father left behind‘.

The songs and arrangements on this first album came very naturally to the singer, based on what she had learned from home. She says: ‘The choice of songs was easy for me as they are all songs to which I have an emotional attachment’. For her second album, the highly acclaimed La Juderia, Yasmin continued her work with the Ladino tradition but began to experiment more with the flamenco influences that date back to her residence in Spain during 2002. In that year, she was awarded a scholarship by the Christina Herren Foundation to study flamenco in Seville. There she was influenced strongly by the unique singing style that she then added to her own Sephardic one.

Her much-anticipated third album Mano Suave (World Village/Harmonia Mundi) was released in October 2007 and marked a mature return to her Ladino roots. Recorded in London’s Livingston Studios in February 2007, it has Lucy Duran and Jerry Boys co-producing. Continuing Yasmin’s tradition of using the best musicians available, the new album features players from Iran, Armenia, Greece, Paraguay, Israel, Turkey and Spain. Mano Suave also features Natacha Atlas on the title track.

Yasmin’s deep, spiritual singing, passionate vocal delivery and striking good looks continue to entrance fans new and old. She has thrice been nominated for BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards and her appearance on BBC 2 TV’s Later’With Jools in November 2005 was one of the highlights of that particular series.

 

 

In March 2006, Yasmin was presented with the Anna Lindh Award for promoting cross-cultural dialogue, for her work with musicians covering three cultures and her connection with the history of Spain. The award reflects many of her hopes for the future. On a musical level, these have been distilled into the music and songs on Mano Suave. On a more global scale, she desires ‘that people will have more compassion towards each other and learn to live in harmony’.

 

 

Discography:

Romance & Yasmin (Connecting Cultures, 2004)
La Judería (Connecting Cultures, 2005)
Mano Suave (World Village, 2007)
Sentir (World Village, 2009)
Libertad (World Village 450023, 2012)
Tango (World Village 450026, 2014)
Rak Od Layla Echad (The Eighth Note, 2017)

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Shai Tsabari & the Middle East Groove All Stars to Perform at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles

Shai Tsabari
Shai Tsabari

Shai Tsabari & the Middle East Groove All Stars are set to perform on Thursday, August 25, at 8:00 PM at Skirball Cultural Center’s Sunset Concerts.

Born in Jaffa to a family of Yemeni Jews, Israeli singer-songwriter Shai Tsabari accompanied by the Middle East Groove All Stars creates a mix of Middle Eastern music and contemporary rock.

Drawing from the diverse musical influences of Tsabari’s upbringing-his father was a cantor, his grandmother introduced him to Yemenite percussion instruments, and his older brother collected 1960s and 1970s American rock albums – Tsabari’s music combines Middle Eastern instrumentation such as the oud, dumbek, and tar with guitar, bass, drums, trombone, and electronics.

While part of Israel’s recent Arabic-influenced music revival, Tsabari takes this style into a new direction by incorporating traditional Jewish liturgy into his lyrics.

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 440-4500

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A Beautiful Musical Experience in East Jerusalem

East Jerusalem West Jerusalem
East Jerusalem West Jerusalem

East Jerusalem West Jerusalem, featuring David Broza, Steve Earle, Muhammad Mughrabi and Mira Awad (Film Movement, 2016)

The film East Jerusalem West Jerusalem is a documentary about the 8 day creative experience envisioned by celebrated Israeli singer-songwriter David Broza in East Jerusalem.

In early 2013, David Broza fulfilled his dream to record songs in the Palestinian side of Jerusalem with musicians from Palestine and Israel. The8-day sessions took place in the studio of Palestinian band Sabreen. The idea was to create a space for peace and to listen to each other with the hope that this will have a ripple effect.

Broza invited award-winning American singer-songwriter and activist Steve Earle as producer. Even though Steve Earle wrote a song called “Jerusalem” in the 1990s, he had never visited Jerusalem before.

Other guests included Israeli Palestinian singer, actress and activist Mira Awad; Palestinian cinematographer Issa Freij; Muhammad Mughrabi, Palestinian hip hop artist from the Shuaafat refugee camp; Israeli musicians Jean Paul Zimbris, Alon Nadel and Gadi Seri, along with other American, Israeli and Palestinian participants.

At the beginning of the film, David Broza sets the context for the project, showing the two sides of Jerusalem, and fascinating interviews. Broza sits on a rooftop with Issa Freij where they discuss their different experiences. Broza greets Steve Earle at the airport and later talks, jams and rehearses with him. There is also an interview with American record producer David Greenberg and several segments with Broza himself.

Some of the most noteworthy footage includes the shots of the musicians (and the filmmaker) rehearsing and having fun in the studio as they prepare for the recording sessions.

Broza chose to record in English, as a universal language, and the two local languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Although I don’t have the album, it is evident that that album has a mix of American folk music influences along with the Middle Eastern nuances of the ud, darbuka and kanun. Broza also adds a little flamenco spice that he picked up in Spain.

The film follows David Broza as he takes a night drive to the impoverished Shuafat refugee camp, the home of the two Palestinian rappers who collaborate on the album. It’s surprising that despite all the security measures nearby, the camp itself is pretty much on its own, without police or emergency services.

There are additional interviews with the Israeli and Palestinians where they describe their experiences. Many of them had never visited each others neighborhoods.

Broza also brought the new generations into the project, recording the voices of young singers representing the various communities.
Sadly, near the end of the film, Broza and Freij encounter a demonstration of Israelis who trade insults with the Palestinians, demonstrating that it’s hard to get away from politics and there is much more work to do.

David Broza grew up in Israel, Spain, and England. His musical influences range from flamenco to rock and Americana. He is also recognized for his commitment and dedication to several humanitarian causes, mostly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since 1977, Broza has released over 30 albums in Hebrew, English and Spanish, many of which have become gold and platinum albums.

In the year 2006 David Broza received the “In Search for Common Ground” award along with Palestinian musician/composer Said Murad, and in 2009 the Spanish King, Juan Carlos I, decorated him with the Spanish Royal Medal of Honor for his longtime contribution to Israel-Spain relations, and his dedication to promotion of tolerance and conflict resolution.

In 2015 Broza recorded the album “Andalusian Love Song” with the Andalusian Orchestra of Ashkelon.

East Jerusalem West Jerusalem is a remarkable project that shows how we can all get along through the language of music.

Buy the East Jerusalem West Jerusalem DVD in the Americas

Buy the East Jerusalem West Jerusalem CD in the Americas

Buy the East Jerusalem West Jerusalem CD in Europe

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Beguiling Gulaza

Gulaza - Gulaza (Gulaza Music, 2015)
Gulaza – Gulaza (Gulaza Music, 2015)

Gulaza – a word that conjures images of longing and despair under a scorching desert sun.

The first time I went to listen to this fairly newly formed band, I went out of intrigue. I came out mesmerized. I never expected them to have such an impact on me. With Igal Mizrahi on vocals, Ben Aylon on djeli n’goni and percussion, Ian Aylon on guitar and Hilla Epstein on cello, Gulaza takes you on a journey deep between Yemen and Africa as it tackles a (hopefully first) collection of centuries-old Yemenite songs, originally transmitted orally from mother to daughter. The album, which bears the same name as the group, includes a hypnotic set of five songs, which are sung for the first time by a man.

Throughout the album, Igal stamps his personality on his sources; his voice being almost erotic as it suddenly drops in range. Whether on the album, or on stage, he brings a fiery passion to these ancient texts, making them sound like poems.

Although unfamiliar with the language, I do not believe the songs’ lyrics are very elaborate. They are simple, yet full of colors, and they often include a repetitive chorus, like the beat of the heart. It is, however, the melodies, unrivalled in grace and sorrow, and the combination of instruments used on each piece which make the album so appealing. The band’s instrumental multitudes, which are cleverly combined together from an indigenous instrument like the djeli n’goni, to the cello and guitar, make these timeless songs, which are raw in nature, suddenly sound contemporary and urgent.

Whether through the djeli n’goni’s gentle or crisp and rapid melodies, the cello’s poignant use of vibrato and pizzicato, the mellow and sensuous guitar or the trance-inducing beat of the percussion, each song’s individual feel is captured. Whether it is the magical and soulful “Al’Chaiba”, the hauntingly beautiful “Salam Ya’bint”, the lyrical and playful “Pisaila”, the uplifting and more modern “Ganantani” or even the warm and soothing “Ayini Bakat”; they all convey images of longing, despair, but hope too.

With each melody, you can imagine nature’s elements veiling distant parched, sand-covered lands and through Igal Mizrahi’s soaring voice, the songs become laments for freedom and yearning for love.

Gulaza – a real little gem of an album and a name to watch out for. You will simply be beguiled by it.

Buy the digital version of Gulaza

Buy the CD edition

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