Tales From The Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed

 

Embark on a musical trek to kingdoms long forgotten and bustling towns now vanished. Follow the stories of vagabond queens, pauper poets and lovers lost to the sea, all set to spellbinding arrangements of old Sephardi songs worthy of symphonic film scores. Wrap these tales up with lush soulful harmonies evoking Flamenco's gutsiness and the longings of Fado, all combined with heart-pounding percussion and intricate soundscapes.

Journey through the Balkans to the Mid-East beginning in Sarajevo and winding through Salonica and Jerusalem. Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom is a sonic adventure masterfully brought to life by the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, an award-winning sextet of world-class musicians with members hailing from Israel, Palestine, Argentina, Japan, the UK and the USA. This ensemble of internationally savvy world musicians delivers a richly textured global experience of haunting beauty.

Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom is more a show than a concert: A narrative arc threads throughout, and there is a cinematographic quality to the music. Close your eyes and you can see the stories play out, movie-like, through the presentation. Mendilow’s finely crafted interpretations innovate even as they preserve the songs, stories and traditions in which they are firmly grounded.

Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom cuts across background and generational barriers and is specifically geared for audiences regardless of any prior knowledge of, or even interest in, Ladino music and culture. “These songs and stories just sweep you away, whatever your heritage” Mendilow says.  

"It's a... music of hope and affirmation, sophisticated in its delivery but easily accessible to listeners anywhere.—Chicago Tribune

When the Sephardi Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, they eventually settled in communities from Northern Africa and the Middle East to the Mediterranean and the Balkans. In each adopted home, their language, food, customs and songs retained their identity and also began soaking in local flavors of the new cultures. Musically, this resulted in a rich, deep and fascinating blending of rhythms, modes, melodies and, of course, legends.

Though some of the lyrics featured in the project pre-date 1492, the music itself is primarily from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This is because these songs are a true folk music, preserved aurally and not written until recently (when dealing with Ladino music, the 1800’s are recent). “We’re fairly certain that some of these songs were sung hundreds of years ago,” says Mendilow. “But we have little idea as to the melodies, rhythms and ornamentations used back then, and with a long history of adapting to homes across borders and languages we can hardly even guess.” One thing is for certain: many of these songs were sung by women, unaccompanied except perhaps for a drum.

“That’s largely because women’s hands were so busy with other things while they sang,” laughs Mendilow. “Like so many household chores, or caring for children.”  Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed does not aim for ethno-musicological purity, a troublesome concept when dealing with music that has recreated itself again and again in different homes, tinged by the musical styles and tastes of each location, from Arabic maqam to the Foxtrot.

"There’s a greater responsibility when we work with music that is so old and rich," he adds. "We must be careful to respect the tradition, even as we use a modern musical tool box to bring these songs to life in an artistic way that will capture the imaginations and hearts of listeners today."

 

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble is an award winning sextet comprised of world-class musicians representing a variety of national backgrounds: the USA, Israel, Palestine, Japan and the UK. Formed in 2004, the Ensemble has been enthusiastically received in venues ranging from world and traditional music festivals to performing arts centers, progressive Jewish organizations and universities.

Alongside touring with the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, members are on the faculty of leading music schools like the New England Conservatory and Boston’s Berklee School of Music and tour/record with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Yo Yo Ma, the Assad Brothers, Christian McBride and Simon Shaheen. The Ensemble is currently based in Boston, MA and Brooklyn, NY.

"Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom tenders an incredible gift; a resurgent force of musical settings that explode with artistry, refinement, and excitement. This project is living proof that the power of art will always triumph.—Cantor Yvon F. Shore, Director of Liturgical Arts & Music, Hebrew Union College

"... a great evening of beautiful music and exceptional musicianship!"  
— John Chicero, Huntington Arts Council, NY/ Huntington Summer Arts Festival, NY 

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