“Yasmin Levy, born on December 23, 1975 in Jerusalem, is an Israeli singer-songwriter of Sephardic music. Her late father, Isaac Levy, was a composer and cantor, pioneer researcher into the long and rich history of the Ladino music and culture of Spanish Jewry and its diaspora, being the editor of the Ladino language magazine Aki Yerushalayim. With her distinctive and emotive style, Yasmin has brought a new interpretation to the medieval Ladino/Judeo-Spanish song by incorporating more “modern” sounds of Andalusian Flamenco and Turkey, as well as combining instruments like the darbuka, oud, violin, cello, and piano. In her second album, La Judería (Sp: “The Jewish Quarter”), she also covered the popular songs Gracias a la Vida by Violeta Parra and Nací en Alamó from the film Vengo, directed by Tony Gatlif, which in its original version won the 2001 César Award for Best Music Written for a Film. Her debut album was Romance & Yasmin in 2000, which earned her a nomination as Best Newcomer for the fRoots / BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards 2005, followed in 2005 with her second album La Juderia. In 2006 she was nominated again, then in the category Culture Crossing. Yasmin’s work earned her the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation Award for promoting cross-cultural dialogue between musicians from three cultures. In her own words”: I am proud to combine the two cultures of Ladino and flamenco, 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.
Written by Cathy Riches “Israeli singer Yasmin Levy has been performing since 2002 and for her latest release, “Sentir,” has somewhat cast herself in the role of musicologist. Taking up the mantle of her father, who was a cantor and Ladino preservationist who died when she was just a baby, Levy has collected and reinterpreted a handful of folk songs from that ancient culture. Ladino is a Judeo-Spanish language dating back to the 1492 diaspora that has been gradually dying out but is enjoying a bit of a renaissance as young musicians, such as the respected Israeli jazz bassist, Avishai Cohen, and local singer Aviva Chernick integrate these songs into their modern repertoire. Historical stuff aside, this is an album that can be enjoyed purely from a musical standpoint. And since the liner notes have the lyrics translated into English and French, we even get to understand what the songs are about, which, for the most part, is love and loss. The album has a pan-Latino/Middle Eastern feel to it as Levy and producer Javier Limon have fused many of the songs with flamenco attributes. Also there’s a lilt to much of the music that reminds me of Argentinean tango and the more passionate moments veer into Portuguese fado territory. There’s even a Canadian component on “Sentir” as Leonard Cohen’sHallelujah gets reworked with Spanish lyrics and flamenco-esque touches, which, rather than adding fire, render it bland and easy-listening. In general, the instrumental work on the album is precise and pretty, so what gutsiness there is comes from Levy as her warm, emotive voice alternates between a purr and a plea.”
Written by Cathy Riches