Songs Her Father Taught Her

In 1492 their Catholic Majesties Ferdinand and Isabella weren’t just busy financing Columbus’s treasure hunt to India they were also arranging for an “ethnic cleansing” of their Kingdoms of Aragon, Castille and Granada. The Alhambra Decree gave the Jewish population of Spain four months to either convert to Christianity or leave their homeland – taking with them anything they owned that was not of gold, silver or minted coin. And with that edict the Sephardi began their wanderings in North Africa, Europe and the Near Orient.

Though Ferdinand and Isabella may have gained much financially – monies, treasures and land reverted to the crown – Spain lost much of a culture that had existed within it borders since before the birth of Christ. A culture that had flourished under Roman and Muslim rule but was destroyed by Christian zeal – and plain old fashioned greed. A culture that was rich in learning, art, crafts, music and history. And a culture that had its own language, Ladino, that was on the verge of extinction just a few years ago.

One of the reasons that both the language and the music have survived was the work of Turkish-born Issac Levy (1919-1977) – a musician and synagogue cantor who spent a lifetime collecting thousands of Sephardic songs from Balkan, Turkish and Moroccan singers who had immigrated to Israel. His daughter Yasmin Levy has continued in his footsteps, singing traditional songs, composing new songs in Ladino and adding a flamenco flourish to much that she sings.

Nani Nani is a traditional Sephardic cradle song or lullaby in the form of a dialogue. I haven’t been able to get an exact translation but the Mother sings: Sleep my soul, my life, sleep peacefully and dream that your father comes back to us in happiness. There have been suggestions that it is the song of a deserted woman who’s husband has been unfaithful.

This is the title track from her album Mano Sauve. I find the combination of modern and traditional instruments and the mixture of the Sephardic with the Flamenco fascinating – almost hypnotic. Her passionate love of this music is almost palpable. Its incredible to see the various cultural influences in this song – Sephardic, Turkish, Spanish – a mix of Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultures!

27 febbraio – San Leandro

Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

9 thoughts on “Songs Her Father Taught Her”

  1. Trippy music. I liked it..I’ve actually read a lot of books about how the “christians” were so evil to the people who didn’t think their way…interesting stuff. There is a great book about Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz. Called Second Dream ..good interesting stuff about the Spaniards when they came to Mexico.

  2. <>Doralong:<> I am really blushing here. Thank you but its more like a man with a totally unfocused mind – if it takes my interest I’m off.<>Sageweb:<> Yes the incursion of Europe into North American is a particularly bloody and violent story be it Spanish, British, French etc. Frances Parkman’s France and Britain in North America – written only 150 years after the facts makes for some uncomfortable reading.<>Auld:<> There really is something viseral and unsettling about that music. Perhaps because it comes from a Disporatic culture?

  3. Willym that was fascinating, you’ve made me want to find out more about this. the music was beyond what I can describe, so I won’t try. thanks for posting this.

  4. Thank you so much for this and all that you share (and that I learn from you). I love living in Spain but am regularly reminded of that ugly history. Our town erected a statue a few years ago to ¨The Catholic Kings” Ferdinand and Isabella. They brought wealth to Spain and, especially, to the Crown. Too bad so many people died, were displaced, or suffered horribly in other ways to make that wealth possible. Thanks for introducing me to this singer and music!

  5. Reblogged this on Willy Or Won't He and commented:

    Over a year ago I transferred the blog from BlogSpot to WordPress and not everything migrated in the format it was originally published. So when the mood strikes me I go back and “tidy” things up. Reformat and resize pictures, realign captions, change links, reinstate videos etc. However there is one draw back to this: it appears that when I fix up the categories and tags on an entry the system sends out a message signalling a new post to anyone who is following me.

    I worked on today’s Throwback earlier in the week and if you are getting this as a second notification I do apologize. I have asked the good people at WordPress if there is a workaround and await an answer from them.

    I was reminded of this post from 2008 when I read a recent review of a play at Britain’s National Theatre. Singer/Songwriter/Cultural Historian Yasmin Levy is appearing in Salome, a new play based on the Biblical story as re-imagined by popular director Yaël Farber. It led me to reread this post and to spend some time listening to her on YouTube beyond the two songs I posted.

    On this day in 1495: A monk, John Cor, records the first known batch of Scotch whisky.

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