Lily Henley, a singer-songwriter, composer and fiddler, tapped into the ancient traditions of Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews to create her latest work, the soul-stirring Oras Dezaoradas.
Already known for finding the similarities between Sephardic and American folk music and fusing them together, Henley went even deeper for this release. She fully immersed herself into the old ballads of the nearly extinct Ladino tongue, deeply channeling the musicians and storytellers of this bygone culture.
Ladino, a language that contains elements of old Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew and Turkish, was once spoken by the Sephardic Jews that were forcibly expelled from Spain during the 15thcentury inquisitions. When the targeted group fled their homelands, they ventured into the Ottoman empire and Northern Africa, where they kept their culture thriving through music.
Henley uncovered many songs from this period, gave them new melodies, and resurrected them in their original language. To help keep Ladino from dying out, and to honor her foremothers and fathers of whom originated the dialect, Henley even wrote some new songs of her own in the endangered tongue.
The tracks radiate a genuine sense of humanity through Henley’s soulful and elegant vocals and lush instrumentation. So even if you can’t understand what the lyrics are saying, you still understand the emotion that Henley is trying to convey.
Songs like “La Galud” swell with weeping fiddles and rollicking fingerpicked guitars, while tunes like the haunting “Porke Yorach Blanka Ninya” feature droning cellos and Henley’s soaring vocals that seem to be calling out from a distant mountain. Your ears might not be able to decipher the words of every song, but your heart will surely know their intention.
Musically, this album is a melting pot of cultural influences and styles, much like the Ladino language. One moment, you’ll hear fiddle work that is distinctly Celtic in origin, then you’ll be treated to modes or tones that sound more Arabic in origin. No matter what sounds Henley leans into more, she always does so beautifully.
For a truly unique listening experience that will leave you feeling moved, try out this neo-classical folk masterwork.