February 11, 2012

Somerville, MA. March, 2011

When you can’t find the time to travel to other parts of the world, chances are that some of those places have found the time to travel to you. An example: the Yasmin Levy concert I attended on a cold winter night just miles from my home. Backed by a flamenco guitarist from Scotland, an Armenian virtuoso on clarinet, duduk and zurna (flute- and Middle-Eastern-horn-like instruments), an electric bassist from Ghana and her Israeli percussionist husband, the very pregnant Turkish-Israeli Levy charmed the crowd with her mix of Spanish and Ladino songs and her entertaining personal forays into storytelling (in English, Spanish and French) for context. She introduced one number as “the saddest song...ever,” but managed to leaven the playlist with some upbeat takes that had the audience clapping and singing melodically in Spanish at one point. Ladino is the collective term for the Judeo-Spanish languages spoken by the Jewish diaspora forced from Spain in 1492 that absorbed linguistic influences from their new countries: Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Slavic, Portuguese, French, Italian and Hebrew. Levy has assumed as her mission to keep the dying Ladino language alive through song. And judging from the packed house and the line to buy her CDs afterwards, she’s doing just that.

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