Latin Times Magazine Interview with Talya G A Solan Singer, Songwriter, and Producer
Latin Times: Talya, tell us about yourself and your family history.
Talya: I am an independent musician, songwriter and producer based in Israel. I was born in Rehovot, known as the city of science, but my heart was deep in music. In my work I’m attracted mostly to ancient times, tribal singing, sacred and secular Jewish chants, natural singing, warm Middle Eastern sound with exotic flavors.
I’m fascinated by the Hebrew language which is my mother tongue but I have a special place in My heart to Ladino, the language of my grandmother, the language of my roots. Until 10 years ago I have worked full-time as a researcher for TV and media productions. The music had a daily place in my life but still not wide as I wished and dreamed it to be.
Since then I am focusing mainly on music with Yamma Ensemble (Original materials mostly), The Israeli Ethnic Ensemble (Sephardic music) and Kedem Ensemble (members of various countries). However I still work from time to time in researching when an interesting suggestion appears. Next to these activities I also founded a not-for-profit organization named Music Port (www.musicport.org.il) with the aim of helping Israeli musicians to perform much more out of Israel.
On my mother side the family emigrated from Bulgaria to Israel in 1947. The ancestors were expelled from Spain in 1492 and then went to Bulgaria, which was at that time part of the Ottoman Empire. My father’s family comes from Yemen. They came to Israel in 1943 and they are a traditional Yemenite family. Nevertheless, I was much more influenced by my Mother side. My look is Yemenite but my voice and the color of it is Bulgarian. It comes to me more easily to sing in the Bulgarian style than the Yemenite. Singing Ladino feels home to me.
Latin Times: When did you know you wanted to be a performing artist/Singer?
Talya: I was passionate about being a singer since I was 5 years old. I dreamed and imagined being a singer every day of my life. I’m happy that I didn’t know it will take so long to fulfill my dream. If I would know how much the process is demanding and long, I would probably quit my dream.
Latin Times: Tell us about the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble and how it was created?
Talya: I have established the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble with double bass player, Gilad Ephrat in our first purpose was to have a music group that performs the Balkan, Gypsy, Sephardic music materials that keep our spirit lifted and brings us lots of joy and happiness. Luckily it was a nice success and We have toured so many festivals all over America and Europe and even released an album named ERGA (yearning) in 2009. After the first album we made a turn to Sephardic Jewish music only and decided to focus on this music tradition more deeply. It’s an old, appealing very moving music more than five hundreds years old, there is so much to explore there and so many treasures to find. In this Ladino Time project, we bring out our family heritage as descendants of Spanish Jews who were exiled from Spain and settled all over the Balkan area, Turkey, Lybia etc. We aim to maintain this musical tradition that has been preserved for centuries. We perform the captivating repertoire of diaspora Jews that lived in Turkey, Greece, Bulgari, Morocco, etc. We are about to record our second album, We hope to raise enough support for this mission.
Latin Times: What is the type of music do you like to perform and why?
Talya: I enjoy so many types of music. tribal, Arabian, Mediterranean, Jazz, blues, soul, however for working and performing I must focus and present a solid music personality. So mostly I perform my original music and the music of my roots (Sephardic, Yemenite). As mentioned before: In my work I’m attracted mostly to ancient times, tribal singing, sacred and secular Jewish chants, natural singing, warm middle eastern sound with exotic flavors. When I find one of these characters in a song, than it’s mine. My music is a niche, not the music of the stars and celebrities. The music I am singing is my real myself.
Latin Times: What current projects are you working on?
Talya: With Israeli Ethnic Ensemble we are in pre-recording process, selecting music materials, writing arrangements, and of course try to raise support. Yamma Ensemble Will play in Cyprus in upcoming July. We will also be in Vienna in November. Regarding Kedem, the group with musicians from Teheran, Palermo, Bern, I’m just back from a wonderful tour in Switzerland. We had our first CD launching (Which half of it is Ladino). We will have also a tour in Germany and Switzerland in January 2016.
Latin Times: Tell us about Ladino and the significance of this language?
Talya: Ladino first cast its magic spell on me in childhood. It always struck me as a graceful, rolling language, one of emotion and longing, filled with desire. It was a secret language that my mother spoke with her mother, my grandmother, of blessed memory. My grandmother immigrated to Israel from Bulgaria, arriving as Ladino-speaking Tanya and eventually becoming Hebrew-speaking Shoshana. But when my mother and grandmother wanted to speak without us girls understanding, they spoke Ladino. And so Ladino took root for me as the language of women.
In 2004 I founded the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble, which appears around the world with a rich and fascinating program of Sephardic music. Sephardic musical culture has been preserved for hundreds of years. Ladino songs originated in the 9th-13th centuries, when Jewish life flourished in Spain. It continued to develop after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. And it is this music that inspires me and my ensemble. As a professional, delving into magical musical materials preserved in Ladino, I discovered that the preservation of this tradition by women was not unique to my family. When the Jews were expelled from Spain and spread across Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Morocco, etc., it was the men who worked outside the home, mingling with the locals and the language of the place. By contrastwomen rarely left their homes, did not integrate into the local population and continued to exclusively or dominantly speak Ladino. Women continued to create songs and melodies in Ladino expressing their feelings, difficulties, joys and grief. The vast majority of Ladino songs are songs “feminine;” wedding songs, lullabies, love songs, etc. Through women, the language has been preserved as it was spoken centuries ago.
Latin Times: Latin Food and Sefardic food are very similar, what is your favorite Latin Food?
Talya: I’m a vegetarian so I love all vegetables dishes like artichoke fillings, Mexican rice, Veggie Tortilla Roll-Ups, etc. Latin food is fantastic.
Latin Times: What advice can you give young performers who are trying to succeed?
Talya: To believe that everything is possible, to be highly targeted, dedicated and consistent. Never spend a day without doing something (even tiny and little) for your dream. Sometime we tend to be critical and hard we ourselves, it is essential to let it free. Art must be released and free. The whole path and way must be enjoyable and fun as the achievements.
Latin Times: Who has been your hero and has had the biggest influence in your life?
Talya: My vocal coach, Mrs. Rachel Hochman has the biggest influence in my life. I wouldn’t call Her a hero, but a significant educator and kind of close mentor. I studied at the Tel Aviv University but I did not take any operatic studies there, though I studied the theory of music. I took private classes with Rachel. I feel myself privileged that she, who is considered Israel’s greatest voice productions teacher accepted me and became my voice coach. I am working with her more than 10 years now. She is the best teacher because she teaches not only voice and breathing techniques but she coaches me on a journey, on my inner Tao. Thanks to hear I have experienced various music styles like pop, musicals, jazz, blues, even classic…
She taught me among others things that sincerity is the most important one in an artist’s life; that I need to understand myself. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to sing, but I did not know what. I was at that time raw material. It is a false myth that one can become an instant star. And she helped me with this process. With her guidance I realized that as a teenager I was more screaming than singing. She taught me to be controlled, civilized, how to build up a performance. How to bring up the energy that each song carries. She has had the greatest influence on my musical personality.