Thirty years from now, no one will speak Ladino. I see it as a holy mission to sing the songs and to save them from disappearing.
-- Yasmin Levy [sfgate.com]
What is Ladino? You might call it the Spanish Yiddish. A romance language spoken by Sephardic Jews, it incorporates bits of Old Castilian with Hebrew (much as Yiddish sprinkles some Hebrew into German). But while some 3 million people speak Yiddish today,
The Ladino-speaking world is diminishing. In Israel today there are an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 people with varying degrees of passive Ladino knowledge. Actual Ladino speakers are many fewer. ... [T]he future of Ladino as an active language is bleak. The shuls where Ladino was lingua franca in Jerusalem's Yemin Moshe and Ohel Moshe neighborhoods are but memories of the past. Only in Istanbul is a Ladino newspaper still published. [jewishworldreview.com]
Some seem to think that Ladino is being kept alive through music more than everyday speaking. Musicians working in Ladino include Gerard Edery, Yasmin Levy, Fortuna, Yale Strom, Yuval Ron, even experimental NYC girl group Charming Hostess. Several other artists I'm less familiar with offer Ladino-laced albums at CDbaby.com.
That Ladino is from a very different cultural background is evident in today's flamenco-flavored song. (This album does not appear to be readily available, by the way, even from Levy's own website.)
[mp3] Yasmin Levy "
from the album La Juderia (ADAMA Music, 2004) -- yasminlevy.net
Learn more about this album and how it angers some Jews in a 2005 interview with Levy.
There's a good article on Yasmin Levy with audio at the BBC Awards for World Music 2005.
You can read more about Ladino at myjewishlearning.com.
Check out the large Ladino Songs Database.
Get your own Ladino-English dictionary.
Thanks to SoundRoots reader Ripper for the cultural request.
Remember to leave a comment (or question or suggestion or elaboration) to be entered into SoundRoots' June CD giveaway!