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December 26, 2003 - Image 73

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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housands of years ago, Jews
left Egypt against the
Egyptians' will. But in
1492, Jews left Spain,
which they called Sepharad, at the
demand of the Inquisitors. They scat-
tered worldwide, taking their culture
with them.
More than five centuries later, their
descendants still carry that heritage in
ritual, prayer, story and song. There
are several excellent recent recordings
that reveal Sephardic song in all its
multifaceted, world-spanning glory.
First up is The Sons of Sepharad
(Sefarad Records), the self-titled
debut CD from the new supergroup
of the same name.
The members of the Sons of
Sepharad all enjoy independent
international recognition, and
include renowned chazzan Alberto
Mizrahi and award-winning
Moroccan guitarist Gerard Edery,
who balances Mizrahi's brassy tenor
with his bronze baritone.
Edery also lends the group his

Shara," and, of course, "Avram Avinu"
("Abraham Our Father").
The band charges through these
standards with verve and aplomb,
sounding like an ensemble one might
stumble across in the shuk — either
yesterday or 300 years ago. The Sons
clearly revel in their heritage, making
their debut release a joyous introduc-
tion to Sephardic music for the first-
time listener and an authentic pleasure
for longtime aficionados.
Like Mizrahi, Savina Yannatou is of
Greek origin. Her latest release,

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Songs a the

ri.teditcm- wan

own ensemble's percussionist, the irre-
pressible Rex Benincasa. Another tenor
voice is a fellow Moroccan, cantor and
oudist Aaron Bensoussan. Also fea-
tured is a special guest, oud (Middle
Eastern lute) virtuoso George
Mgrdichian.
In their debut, they run through
what might be termed "Sephardic
Music's Greatest Hits": "Scalerica de
Oro" ("Ladder of Gold"), Los
Bilbilicos ("The Nightingales"): "Fel

A4editerranea (Sounds True), is a
journey around the Mediterranean,
from Spain to Israel, with stops in
Provencal, France; Italy and its
islands; Cyprus; Albania; Lebanon;
and her homeland. While only a
few of the songs relate directly to
Jewish experience, all are from
regions Jews have inhabited, and it
is fascinating to see Jewish song in
this larger context.
But what makes this CD a
must-listen is Yannatou's gossamer
voice. Like that of Enya or Judy
Collins, it is weightless to the
point of being otherworldly.
Sometimes presented a cappella,
sometimes backed by ancient instru-
ments, her voice is a timeless instru-
ment itself, soaring and swooping
with the powerful grace of an eagle.
Yannatou studied with dialect
coaches to ensure the authenticity of
her pronunciation, but her transcen-
dent artistry makes these songs per-
sonal expressions of faith and love.
Although they are both female

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