Tales From The Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed
Get ready for an emotionally powerful, artistic voyage awash with warm harmonies, intricate textures and spellbinding rhythms. Starting in ancient Spain and winding through Sarajevo, Salonica and Jerusalem, the award winning Guy Mendilow Ensemble brings to life the adventure, humour and grit of Sephardi songs and legends, sung in the endangered Judeo-Spanish language, Ladino. Epic tales of sailors and love lost to the seas, fantastic dreams and the intrigue of kings abound in arrangements that crackle with rich musical storytelling, seamlessly interwoven with poetic narration and often poignant historical vignettes.
Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed 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.
Step into a new world of Ladino music, re- imagined by a team of internationally recognized players and spearheaded by charismatic Israeli composer/performer Guy Mendilow. The Ensemble connects audiences from many cultures and languages with the captivating magic of Ladino songs. Indeed, Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed cuts across background and generational barriers and is specifically geared for audiences regardless of prior knowledge of Ladino music and culture. “These songs and stories just sweep you away, whatever your heritage” Mendilow says.
"It's a folk 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