I love to listen to music in languages I don’t understand; the voice becomes another instrument. It’s a complex instrument, more evocative than the sustain of a plucked string. I know enough Spanish to find the local supermarket, order the meat I want, and ask the butcher to cut off the fish’s head.
But this isn’t Spanish…it’s Ladino, an endangered Sephardic Jewish language.
Nani performed Puncha Puncha (from her 2021 album, Andalusian Brew) a cappella at the Folk Alliance Song Circle hosted by Dan Navarro. She joined Zoom from Amsterdam, where she’s a professor at the London Performing Academy of Music and the Jerusalem Music Academy, and knocked us over with her strong, clear vocals – all across the globe.
She explained that the songs she recorded were all written by women, that Ladino is a matriarchal language. Both in scripture and in literature, you can find many mother-daughter dialogues and they are directly connected to Mediaeval Jewish culture. Here’s an article Nani published about Ladino: The Spanish Yiddish
Some of the songs on her new album Ke Haber (which means What’s New in Ladino) are poems from ancient texts, like the homoerotic El Gacela – written by Shmuel Hanagid, a Jewish saint from the 11th century. Nani set it to her own musical composition and plays piano on the track. Sin Dingun Ijo Varon (Without Any Sons) comes from a text she found from the 13th century about a teenage girl coming out to her parents, a transgender transformation.
“When I saw the text, I just KNEW I had to write music to it,” she said. “So I did. This is probably my favourite song on the record.”
Please enjoy Fada de Mi Korazon, one of Nani’s original compositions. “This song is about a ritual hosted by the parents of newborn girls to protect them from the bad fairies of the underworld. The video description also contains info about the ritual.”
Nani (Noam Vazana) – Feminism and Nonbinary Love in Ladino Song
Ke Haber is Nani's latest CD, and she'll be touring North America this year
Looking for the Crossroads Number 11