Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ladino Music


Ethnic music interests me. The more obscure and unique, the better. I've been listening to a variety of "roots" music recently, including David Grisman & Andy Statman's "Songs of our Fathers." Eastern European, Yiddish-roots music that has the haunting melody and energetic Clarinet so idiomatic to the Orthodox Jewish music of pre-pogrom Russian villages and Polish Ghettos. The Grisman/Statman collaboration is a classic. Klezmer bands also are a hoot, the Klezmatics being among the most theatrical and well-known. Reminding new generations of their musical roots is a good thing. Linda Ronstadt's mariachi tribute, Canciones de me Padre also comes to mind in that regard.

The Sephardic Jewish community of Spain and North Africa also provides some very interesting contributions to the ethnic music concordance. Eastern European Jews spoke Yiddish, a dialect that merged German and Hebrew. Spanish Jews spoke Ladino, a similar merging of Spanish and Hebrew. They produced, during their stay in Spain, a rich brew of tunes with roots in the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. During the almost 800 year Moorish/Islamic empire in Spain, the Jews were welcome - some were government ministers and functionaries. Likewise Christians, welcome and integrated. Charlemagne re-took Spain for Christendom and the Holy Roman Church in 1492, the same year that Columbus discovered "The New World." Within a year of what is commonly called the re-Christianization of Spain, 99 percent of all Jews and Muslims had been driven from the country. Can you say "ethnic cleansing?" But we won't go there.

Through some unusual irony of fate and geography, Ladino speakers and musicians ended up in many cases in Macedonia - where there is still a small community and the Ladino language can still be heard. Check out this Shira U'tfila tune. For all kinds of Jewish, roots music, including Ladino tunes, check out hatikvahmusic.com's comprehensive site.

In a future post, I will take a look at the world of Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish ethnic music. For the record, there will never be peace in the Middle East until Palestinians have their own, sovereign state with contiguous borders and East Jerusalem as its capital, with the right of all Palestinians in the diaspora to return to their own homeland. All things can be negotiated.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

Interesting comments and facts, I can't wait to hear more!

Here's a great online resource all in Ladino. I hope you enjoy it:

Ladino wiki browser