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MADRE, The Ladino project’s current performance project is a tribute to the lives of Sephardic women over the ages. MADRE expresses different aspects of women’s lifecycle through Ladino folk-songs of North Africa and the Balkans, woven together with traditional and contemporary music, and interpreted through traditional and ethno-contemporary dance. This project explores the women’s oral song tradition as it evolves over time from past to present, shedding light on the experience of womanhood in the old cultures of the Sephardic diaspora to the present day.
Ladino song has become wildly popular in the last decades, as people are driven to investigate their origins and cultural roots as never before. Ladino or Judeo-Spanish/Judezmo cultures arose as a result of expulsion of non-Christians from Spain by the king and queen in 1492. Jews (and Muslims) fled to many lands – among them North Africa, Balkan countries, as well as Greece and Turkey. Over the years they kept their Judeo-Spanish identity, traditions, language and music alive, but since the mass immigrations out of Arab lands and into Israel and the West, the last generation of native speakers is dying out.
The music has become irresistible to many, even without understanding the lyrics, as the melodies blend together lovely elements of Andalusian, Gypsy, and Balkan/Middle Eastern modes and rhythms. In The Ladino Project, we have taken the folk songs as a base framework around which to create compositions that speak more to the complexity of the issues handled in each song. For example, while many of these songs hint at the underlying frustration of being a woman in a culture in which her role was so defined and circumscribed by the home-hearth, it is for us to take these hints and re-describe them in our own musical and dance terms.
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