In Yasmin Levy’s music there is an undeniable tension between the purity of Ladino (the Judeo-Spanish music of Spain) and the fiery heart of flamenco. As she explained to David Honigmann of London’s Financial Times: ’There’s a very traditional way of singing Ladino. I learnt it…listening to women singing and it’s beautiful, but I missed the passion. Flamenco is nothing but passion.’ She first successfully explored the fusion of these two in her second album La Juderia (Adama Music) but then, with her third album Mano Suave (4Q Records), returned to, deeply and powerfully, rediscover her Ladino roots. For her brand new (and fourth) album Sentir (4Q Records) she has finally found a vision that integrates effortlessly these various musical directions. With Sentir, Yasmin’s music truly becomes ’of the world’.
Produced by the acclaimed Javier Limón (who has worked previously with the likes of Portuguese fado star Mariza), the album’s program draws songs not only from Ladino (’Mi Korason’, ’Londje de Mi’) and flamenco (Javier Limón’s ’Nos Llego El Final’) traditions but also contemporary material (by Javier, Yasmin and her brother Yuval) and even Leonard Cohen (in a remarkable and fresh version of ’Hallelujah’).
An important factor in Yasmin’s life and musical direction has been the legacy of her father Yitzhak Levy, who died when Yasmin was only one year old. ’Una Pastora’ allows Yasmin, by the miracle of modern technology, to duet with him. As she says ”This is one of the most beautiful songs my father ever recorded. His singing is something holy for me and I was afraid to touch it…until I realized that it was my own fears I needed to overcome.”
The North American release of Sentir follows her successful debut coast-to-coast USA tour in Autumn 2009 which saw Yasmin perform sold-out shows in New York and Los Angeles, with additional stops along the way including San Francisco, Columbus, Ann Arbor, Seattle, San Diego and St Paul, as well as Calgary.
Sentir was recently released in Europe where it has been acclaimed by both press and public alike. Writing in London’s Guardian, the highly respected Robin Denselow said: “Her voice is as fine and powerful as ever, especially on her gutsy duet with the Greek singer Eleni Vitaly on the flamenco-tinged Porque, and on an exquisite treatment of the Ladino ballad Una Pastora...” The Sunday Times, Britain’s highest circulation broadsheet, went on to include Sentir as one of the Top 100 albums of 2009 including it as one of the Top 10 World Music releases of the year. Writing in the influential World Music magazine Songlines, correspondent Dennis Marks wrote: “She uses every colour and pitch in her remarkable range and the resulting vocal pyrotechnics are unforgettable.”
The Sentir Tour has already earned Yasmin and her new band rave reviews in destinations far and wide including Germany, Holland, Belgium, Greece, France, Israel, Turkey, United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, Finland and Switzerland. Tour highlights thus far have included sold out shows at Paris’ famous Alhambra club as well as a standing room only concert at London’s prestigious Cadogan Hall. She has very recently played a special show at the Hagia Irene Church in the courtyard of Istanbul’s famous Topkapi Palace which was so oversubscribed the organizers needed to set up an outdoor projection so that fans could sit on the lawns and watch the concert taking place inside. The Sentir Tour continues with additional 2010 dates upcoming in Spain, Turkey, Finland, France, Portugal, Hungary, Korea, Austria and Greece.
For those new to the music and its language and history, Ladino is the collective term for the Judeo-Spanish languages spoken by the Jews of Spain: these languages infuse the original ancient Spanish with other languages including Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Slavic languages, Portuguese, French and Italian. The geographical spread of communities in North Africa, Turkey, Greece and the Balkans, each with distinct dialects and religious customs, is reflected in the musical variety of Judeo-Spanish folk songs carried down to the present day.