Mor Karbasi-Turkish Melodies, Landino songs

Mor Karbasi, who is bringing her rich repetoire to the Istanbul Culture and Art Foundation (İKSV) venue on the 10th and 11th of October, is known for her distinctive style – interpretations of Sephardic fables from 15th Spain and traditional Ladino songs in a flamenco style. Karbasi, from Jerusalem, whose mother has Moroccan and father Iranian roots, performs Sephardic songs once more on her new album, “La Tsadika.”

The young artist, whose star rose in 2008 with her first album, “The Beauty and the Sea,” took inspiration from such revered performers as Amalia Rodrigues and Mercedes Sosa to create her own, original style, with the 2010 album “The Daughter of The Spring.” She has created a unique sound again in her latest album, bringing together famous names of flamenco music such as Manuel Vallejo, Pepe Marchena, Juanito Valderrama and Niña de los Peines.

Even though very few besides the most famous traditional Spanish and Ladino songs are still known, Mor brings them back to life through her performances. She draws inspiration in writing her own songs from Sephardic fables.

– You bring to life a language spoken by the Spanish Jews 500 years ago in your songs. The Turkish language is in a constant state of transformation, with additions of words from English, Persian, and Arabic. Do you have any advice or messages to Turkish artists on this subject?

There is a great value in keeping traditions alive, I know Istanbul and the richness of your country very well. Of course, we all change, we all become new, but we can do this as well as protecting tradition and laying a claim to our language and culture. To keep tradition and culture alive is, for me, very important..

– How did you choose the songs for your new album, “La Tsadika”?

In most known Ladino songs there is a Balkan melody or Andalucian music. My mother’s side of the family is Moroccan, and in fact there are is an extraordinary wealth of Ladino songs waiting to emerge in the Moroccan Sephardic culture. We tried in particular to choose the songs for the album from my own roots.

– You grew up with the influence of many different cultures, and this is reflected in your music. Which culture affected you the most?

Even if we come from very different cultures, we live with the same excitement, the same pains and the same joys. We all fall in love, and since the day we first draw breath, we all learn about beauty and sorrow. The thing that inspires me most is love, and I love stories of passionate love from any culture. My mother’s side of the family is Moroccan, but I didn’t only grow up with Moroccan Sephardic songs, my mother would also sing Andalucian love songs, and actually Andalucian culture has influenced me very much.

-So what kind of traditional Ladino music that you have sung has influenced you the most?

The stories of exiles are very heavy, and mostly very melancholy, but the beauty of their melodies also affects me a lot. The traditional Ladino songs were in their time not considered appropriate for women to sing outside of their homes, and so they would always sing them at home while working. Or mothers would sing them to their children. Even in mothers’ songs to their children there are really beautiful love stories. I think it is amazing how Ladino songs are passed like this from generation to generation.

– The fact that you assemble your band with members from different countries without a doubt adds colour to your music. While this is an advantage in music, why is it not the same for people living in the same country?

Even when there is the chance to accept and become enriched by differences, most of the time people can behave very cruelly to one another. Yet, whether it is the love that a mother feels for her child or the adoration of a young girl for her father, the language of the heart is the same for us all. Fortunately, music proves in the most beautiful way that we are no different from one another. Whether the one listening to centuries old traditional Ladino songs is English or Spanish, they can embrace that feeling.

– Last year when you came to Turkey for the first time, what kind of impression did we leave with you?

The thing I remember most from Istanbul is the smell of spices, and that I heard music everywhere when I walked around the streets. Actually, I had been to Istanbul once when I was very young. I was about five years old at the time, apparently, but I don’t remember it at all. When I came last year I fell in love with the old streets, and the warmth of the people. There are many Turks who write to me on Facebook, and I am curious about your other cities, especially İzmir.

– What do you think of Turkish music? Are there any songs in particular that you like?

The exiles who fled Spain in the 15th century scattered all over the world, and in the period when they were spreading across the Mediterranean you accepted them in your territory. Because of this, there are Turkish melodies in most of the traditional songs. We are preparing to play Ladino songs with Turkish melodies on 11 and 12 October especially for our Turkish audience. I am also trying to learn old Istanbul songs from the Pasion Turca group.


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