(Israel/UK/USA - Musical Director / Vocals, Overtone Singing, Berimbau, Guitar)
Guy Mendilow is quickly developing a reputation as a leader in a wave of young musicians sparking fascination with traditional Ladino song. His gift is in connecting diverse audiences with the adventure, humour and grit of old Sephardi songs from Sarajevo, Salonica and Rhodes, sung in the endangered Judeo-Spanish language, Ladino. Springing off traditional interpretations and historical contexts, Mendilow’s emotionally evocative arrangements bring to life epic tales of sailors and love lost to the seas, fantastic dreams and the intrigue of kings and queens. His ensemble’s show, Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed crackles with rich musical storytelling, interwoven with witty narration and poignant vignettes.
A citizen of Israel, Great Britain and the United States, Mendilow grew up in what seemed like a global game of hopscotch with homes in Israel, the United States, South Africa and, later, stints in Mexico and Brazil. He began his professional stage career at age ten, touring internationally and domestically with the American Boychoir and singing some two hundred concerts a year in venues like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.
Mendilow grew up listening to Ladino songs in his boyhood Jerusalem home and attended school in one of the area’s larger Ladino communities. Yet it wasn’t until later that he started listening through other artists’ interpretations to the traditional songs themselves and their tales — and got hooked.
Today, Mendilow’s creative process with Ladino song begins with ethnomusicological field recordings, followed by research into the songs’ traditional function and context. Most of these songs were sung primarily by women, in the home or life-cycle events like weddings, unaccompanied except perhaps for a drum. The themes may be dark, but the songs were normally sung in a familiar way, without being taken overly seriously and certainly lacking much of the theatricality in which they are commonly presented today. Mendilow’s next steps often lead him away from tradition, knowingly and deliberately. He asks compositional questions: “What can I imagine the mood of the story, or the emotions of some of the characters, to be, despite the traditional ways the song would have been sung? Was I to create a soundtrack for this story, how would I use the musical tools available to me, and the expertise of the Ensemble members, to bring these tales, moods and emotions to life in a way that will feel personally real, and that will give audiences a powerful emotional experience?”
The result is a vivid, often daring recasting that springboards from tradition and into modern imagination. Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed has been bringing listeners to their feet, with moving embrace from a spectrum of listeners. Especially meaningful to Mendilow has been recognition from native Ladino speakers from Salonica, Sarajevo and Rhodes who grew up with these songs and lived through some
of the historical drama highlighted in the show. “Of all the connections we make through Tales, these are without a doubt among the most stirring encounters,” reflects Mendilow.
Alongside performing, Mendilow is invited to present in universities across the U.S. including Harvard University, University of Washington, Emory University, Cornell University, Brandeis University and Hebrew Union College. He earned his Masters in Music, as well as International Certificate in Dalcroze Eurhythmics, from the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA.
Sofia Tosello (Argentina - Vocals)
From Cordoba, Argentina, vocalist Sofia Tosello is part of an exciting group of young transnational artists advancing change in Latin American song. She brings her expertise in such Latin American Cancion traditions as Tango, Chacarera, Bolero, Son and Zamba into the broader “world” jazz scene, including Bossa Nova and Funk. Ms. Tosello has performed, recorded and toured worldwide with renowned bands and artists such as Horacio “El Negro Hernandez”, Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra, Aquiles Baez, Julio Santillan, Alex Cuba, Pavel Urkiza, Marta Gomez, La Cumbiamba eneye, Thalia. She is on the voice faculty at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in India and is a guest artist-educator at universities and schools throughout the U.S., Peru and Argentina.
Learn more about Sofia at www.sofiatosello.com
Keita Ogawa (Japan - Drums & Percussion)
Percussionist Keita Ogawa grew up in Nagasaki, Japan and began his career on the drums at age fifteen. After performing regularly in Tokyo for several years, Keita deepened his musical studies overseas: First at the prestigious Berklee College of Music where he studied with the likes of Manuel "Egui" Castrillo and Jamey Haddad, and in Rio de Janeiro where he worked with leading musicians like Jorginho do Pandeiro, Celsinho Silva, and Marcio Bahia. Keita regularly tours with Yo Yo Ma, the Assad Brothers, Christian McBride, Danilo Perez, Cyro Baptista, and performs as a guest artist with orchestras such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Tareq Rantisi (Palestine - Drums & Percussion)
Percussionist Tareq Rantisi was born in Jerusalem and raised in Ramallah, Palestine. While in Palestine he performed internationally with the Edward Said National Conservatory and the Franco-German Cultural Centre in Ramallah and appeared on such acclaimed recordings as the feature film soundtrack to Bird on a Wire. Tareq was awarded a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee School of Music. He regularly collaborates with such artists as Simon Shaheen, Majazz, Kudsi Erguner and Mangred Leuchter, performing on stages from the Lotus Education and Arts Foundation in the US to Montreal's Royal Conservatory of Music and the Chabada Festival in France.
Andy Bergman (USA - Woodwinds, Jaw Harps, Electric Mbira, Saxophones)
Andy Bergman is a composer and multi-instrumentalist involved in a variety of world music, jazz, classical, theater, and dance projects. Alongside woodwinds and saxophones, Andy is continually developing his own unique and progressive style of jaw harp playing. Other performance credits include: sound design for Kinodance Company's multi-media work "Denizen", CRASHarts "Ten's the Limit" with Oneon Dance, work with New Repertory Theatre, Devil Music Ensemble, ImprovBoston, and the Newton Symphony Orchestra. Andy has studied theory and composition at Boston's Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory.
Tomoko Omura (Japan - Violin)
Tomoko Omura's passion for jazz violin and improvisation led her from her home in Shizuoka Japan to Boston MA's Berklee College of Music, where she was the first string student ever to receive the prestigious Roy Haynes Award, and from which she graduated summa cum laude. Tomoko's gift at improvising exquisite melodic lines and harmonic depths, building on her initial classical training, irresistibly draws in listeners. Her teachers have included Hal Crook, Ed Tomassi, Jamey Haddad and Matt Glaser.
Aubrey Johnson (Vocals)
A member of the vocal faculty at the Berklee College of Music, Aubrey Johnson is a soulful vocalist, gifted in using her voice like an instrument, singing intricate horn-like lead lines and in improvising in a wordless vocal technique. She is the winner of Best Jazz Vocalist and Jazz Vocalist Outstanding Performance in Downbeat Magazine's Collegiate Student Music Awards and performs at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and recorded and shared the stage with industry icons, Bobby McFerrin, Janis Siegel, Fred Hersch, Darmon Meader, Roger Treece, and Jimmy Cobb. Originally from Wisconsin, Aubrey holds a Masters of Vocal Jazz Performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA.