Etty Ben-Zaken

Ladino Love Songs: Bride Unfastens Her Braids, the Groom Faints

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Here, Israeli Etty Ben-Zaken makes use of old Ladino (Sephardic Jewish) love songs, set to new musical backings in her quest to make additions to the musical culture. Eitan Steinberg (an Ashkenazi, actually) provides the new musical modes. The songs are beautifully sung, despite the seeming cultural problems with arbitrarily adding instrumentation and scores to the background. The real focus in almost every piece of Sephardic music is going to be the powerful and relatively deep vocal work of a female singer. This is showcased to good effect here. The use of additional Moroccan (or Moroccan-esque) instrumentation does add a nice effect, with more of the cultural ties that one would hope for (the diaspora from Spain during the Inquisition led a large contingent of the Sephardic Jews across the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa). Pick this one up as a generalized introduction into the Sephardic sound, knowing ahead of time that it's not perfectly true to the traditions. Instead, it attempts to build upon them to a small degree, and succeeds in such very well. As a special feature, the liner notes are quadri-lingual (English, Hebrew, and two forms of Ladino).

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