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Yasmin Levy: Sentir — Feel The Beating Heart Of Ladino Music [5 Oct 2009, World Village]

United States
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 the 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 but then, with her third album Mano Suave (World Village), returned to, deeply and powerfully, rediscover her Ladino roots. For her brand new (and fourth) album Sentir (World Village) 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 programme 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 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 realised that it was my own fears I needed to overcome.”


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.

Musicians on :

Javier Limón: flamenco guitar, producer
Charlie Mendes: bass
Sonny Pasos: piano and keyboard
José Vargas “El Búho”: percussion
Abdul Sharif: bouzouki
Carlitos Sarduy: trumpet
Amir Shahsar: ney and clarinet
Special Guests: Vocals: “Una Pastora”: Yitzhak Levy
Vocals “Porque”: Eleni Vitaly


Mi Corason

This is an old Ladino song that has a particularly beautiful and unique melody as compared with many other Ladino songs. Thanks to the very beautiful light Cuban Jazz-influenced arrangement, it grew into this song that introduces the spirit of this new disc of which I’m so proud.

El Amor Contigo

This song was born in France, through an experience I had during an interview with a local journalist. I must say that Javier was the only person who believed in this song, and I am so grateful for what he created with it. I hope others will love this song as much as I do.

Nos Llego El Final

When I first heard this song, written by Javier, I fell in love with it immediately and I could already hear myself singing it. It takes me back to the Flamenco world that I love so much.

Londje de Mi

I learned this song, as my entire Ladino repertoire, in my mother’s kitchen helping her with her chores. Londje proves yet again how one can take a very old song and present it to a modern world with a young, romantic feel. I feel it is my duty to introduce young people all over the world to these songs, because sadly they are all that will survive from this beautiful tradition in 50 years time.


When I first heard this beautiful song, I understood it comes from a completely different world of music than my own and had to think of a way in which I could bring it into my own style. In the end all I had to do was to open my heart, and when I did a whole new world opened before me.

Una Pastora

This is one of the most beautiful songs my father ever recorded. It was the most exciting experience to imagine singing with my Dad, but also the most frightening one. He passed away when I was only one year old. His singing is something holy for me and I was afraid to touch it. I also wondered long and hard if he would be happy with me doing this, until I realised that it was my own fears I needed to overcome.

Triste Vals

I fell in love with this composition that was written by my brother Yuval. This kind of chanson is an idea I’ve long harboured to include on an album. All my life I’ve had so many girlfriends who were older than me and who shared with me their difficult life stories. This song is a story of some of these women, but also of many women in this world.


My nature always takes me to the saddest songs, yet I feel it is my duty to also show the happy and funny side of the Sephardic tradition. Jaco is a great example of this.

La Hija de Juan Simon

Antonio Molina is my guru. I was introduced to his music when I was 17 years old and since then I promised myself that one day I will record an entire album of his songs, which isn’t easy to do when you adore and appreciate a singer as I do him. Both my Mom and Javier gave me the confidence to record this beautiful song. In my opinion it is the most difficult song to perform on this album, but I am happy to have made this small step on the way towards realizing this dream.


I wanted to write a song that could serve as a bit of a wakeup call; a song that might encourage us all to reflect on ourselves and how we act towards others each; a song that will help us remember to try to be better people, to help each other, to bring good to the world and to avoid inflicting hurt and pain on others. For many years, I dreamt of the opportunity to sing with Eleni Vitaly, an amazing singer who influenced my own singing. I am happy to have found in her a kindred spirit.


This is a beautiful exciting song that I heard performed by two Ladino singers from Turkey. They sang it so beautifully that I felt I must include it amongst my own repertoire. Through Javier I learned that this Ladino song is also a Spanish children’s song that many people in Spain grew up with.


I grew up listening to Jewish liturgical songs from both my parents, and as someone who believes in God, I end all my albums with a prayer. This is my tradition, and my way to thank Him for all the goodness He gave me in this life.

“the next world music superstar” THE GUARDIAN****

”Aside from her stunning looks, Levy’s biggest asset is her voice, which is versatile, sensuous, and brimming with emotion” THE INDEPENDENT
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