The powerful and precise Bosnian singer Natasa Mirkovic-DeRo was in New York City with Hurdy-Gurdy virtuoso Matthias Loibner, and this lovely song is excerpted from a program they presented at Joe’s Pub. We don’t generally think of Ladino songs being part of the Bosnian heritage, but it does make sense that many Sephardic Jews would have settled in the Balkans during their forced migrations out of Spain.
“Noches Noches” is one of the most popular of Ladino songs, and many interpretations abound. Ms. Mirkovic-DeRo’s rendition is highly ornamented; perhaps some Balkan melisma has slipped in?
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Ladino is the language of the Jews who lived in Spain for 1500 years until their expulsion in 1492 by Isabella and Ferdinand. After that traumatic separation, the Jews migrated to various areas, and the language incorporated words from countries all across the Ottoman Empire. Yasmin Levy’s father was a Sephardic Jew from Turkey, and Ladino was spoken by her parents. She learned to sing and loved the repertoire from an early age, but her incorporation of Flamenco into her interpretations has stirred controversy among purists. However, Yasmin is a charismatic and passionate advocate for the language and music, and feels that the best way she can help her beloved Ladino to survive is to make the songs more accessible.
When I was a kid going to a Jewish summer camp, we all had to learn a Ladino song, “Los Bilbilicos” (The Nightingales). It was a stately song, and very Spanish sounding to me. More recently, another Ladino treasure that has become popular among the cognicenti is “El Rey de Francia,” a magnificent song worth searching out….but personally, I can’t imagine a Flamenco treatment of it!
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