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Urban Ladino Music from Istanbul, Thessalonica and Jerusalem

Hadass Pal-Yarden
Published by Kalan Müsik
£12.99 / $16.86 / €15.45 ($/€ approx)

Anyone interested in Turkish music will know the Kalan label, founded in 1991. Their remarkable catalogue ­ ranging from historic 78s to tango, from protest and ethnic, jazz, rock, film and fusion to European divertissements at the Ottoman court - is impeccably documented and packaged.

Hadass Pal-Yarden’s passionate tribute to the urban Judaeo-Spanish music of Istanbul, Izmir, Thessalonika and Jerusalem compares in importance with Jordi Savall’s Diaspora Sefardi initiative. But whereas Savall and his wife, the Catalan vocalist Montserrat Figueras, are spiritually trance-like, Pal-Yarden is intimately present. She offers the fourteen tracks as ‘a gift to lovers of traditional music’ who want to know more about the stories behind the songs ­ to see through them the world those songs once represented.

Over the past hundred years Ladino ­ the dialect brought to the Ottoman Empire by Spanish Jews in the fifteenth century - has progressively been relegated to a lower-status dialect, “the language of fishermen”, as Pal-Yarden describes it. “Today,” she says, “Ladino hardly functions as a daily-life language, but I can still hear it in Istanbul - on Büyükada and in the streets of Kurtulus and Sisli.”’
Pal-Yarden describes herself as “a Ladino singer ‘madly in love with the Turkish singing style”. Gifted with a magical voice, atmospherically accompanied and recorded, she puts us in her debt. The CD comes with a 160-page book (in English, Turkish and Hebrew) of notes, song texts and archive pictures.

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