It’s not easy being a musician today. It’s also not easy being a Jewish woman in the music world. That’s a whole other conversation— happy to have with anyone off-line! So to be both a musician, and a female Jewish one to boot, I’ve often been told takes ‘cajones.’ But I believe so strongly in the mission to keep Ladino culture alive, and I also believe that I, as a woman, have a unique artistic perspective to be heard. I am proud of the fact that this new album is dedicated to my Sephardic heroine, Dona Gracia Naci (see blog post "Recording Gracia" to learn more about her), and I’m proud that I’ve incorporated some strong feminist inspiration in many of the songs.
When I started my career 10 years ago, Ladino “Rock” was a seeming oxymoron. It wasn’t often one would hear an oud paired with an electric guitar on a traditional Ladino song. Somehow I’d like to think I’ve made it work. Well now I present you with some “Feminist Ladino Rock!” That’s a combo you really don’t hear too often...
Before I talk about the new song I'm recording, I want to share with you a picture of one of the most remarkable women I know. This is my cousin Rachel:
She grew up in Bitola, Monastir (Northern Greece/Southern Yugoslavia— now present-day Macedonia) where much of my extended family is from (my grandfather was born there, too!). On March 11th, 1943 Rachel’s family, along with all the Jews of the town, were rounded up and taken away. Rachel survived. She hid in a neighbor’s house and when the time was ripe, and with the help of a chauffeur from the Italian consulate, she was transported to Albania in the trunk of a car. There, she changed her identity and lived in a stranger’s house until war’s end. She never saw most of her family again.
Rachel’s strength and joyful spirit in all the time I’ve known her is an inspiration. She is also the last remaining Ladino speaker in my family. She is a treasure all around. It is Rachel, along with Dona Gracia, my own mother, and many other strong, powerful women who have inspired me, that I had in mind when I put together many of the tracks on this new album, including the one I'm finishing up today.
This song includes one of my dear friends, an incredibly talented spoken-word poet and feminist I have the honor of featuring on this album: Vanessa Hidary (aka the Hebrew Mamita). I’ve taken a traditional Ladino song “La Comida la Manana”-- which for you Spanish speakers, is really not about tomorrow’s meal. It’s actually an amusing tiff between a daughter and a mother about the role of women in society (and specifically dating mores of the time). I weaved in a poem of Vanessa’s called “Wild Women” to enhance my interpretation of the song. As Vanessa writes at the end of the song (which you’ll hear in the full version on the album):
My wild, crazy, unruly, artsy, fiery, sweet, smart, talented sisters-
I am you.
You are me.
We are not for everyone.
But We Live.