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Proclaimed ”powerful, passionate and intriguing” by The Guardian, Israeli Ladino singer Yasmin Levy’s album, Mano Suave, was released September 1st in the U.S. on Four Quarters Records following its charting success in Europe and Levy’s sold-out shows abroad. Levy and her band will also launch their first-ever national U.S. tour in support of the CD, traveling to ten cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and San Diego beginning October 27th. Mano Suave is Levy’s third international release, but first album release in America.
”Here surely is the next world music superstar” proclaimed Robin Denselow of The Guardian. Noted Phil Meadley of The Independent, “Aside from her stunning looks, Levy’s biggest asset is her voice, which is versatile, sensuous, and brimming with emotion.”
Levy is a champion of Ladino, an ancient language facing extinction, which was spoken by the Sephardic Jews who fled Spain in 1492. As Ladino speaking communities spread to North Africa, Turkey, Greece and the Balkans, they encountered many cultures, beliefs and languages which helped to shape the language and Judeo-Spanish folk songs. Together with the members of her band, who embrace a diversity of faiths and cultures, the spellbinding singer interprets traditional Ladino songs with emotive vocals and modern arrangements.
Levy has a unique connection to her music, as many of the Ladino works she performs were catalogued by her late father, Yitzhak Levy, who died when she was an infant. A composer and cantor born in Turkey, he was a musicologist devoted to the collection and preservation of Sephardic music passed down from generation to generation for over 500 years.
”If I can manage in some small way to help keep these beautiful Ladino songs alive, I will be the happiest musician imaginable. My greatest fear is that the Ladino language may die out and if we don’t save these songs, then nothing will remain from this beautiful and ancient culture,” says Levy.
Mano Suave’s title track features guest vocals from Arabic sensation Natacha Atlas. ”Our duet is a message of hope,” Levy explains, adding ”I want people to pay attention that a Jew and an Arab can make music together that comes from a place of mutual love and respect.”
Recorded in London’s Livingston Studios in February 2007, Mano Suave has Lucy Duran and Jerry Boys (Buena Vista Social Club) co-producing. The album features many traditional songs (complete list below) Levy views as ”young, passionate, beautiful works,” which, throughout time, have thrived in many countries where Jews and Muslims have lived peacefully together. Levy is inspired by honesty, aiming to communicate the universal human emotions of love, pain, sorrow and happiness which are featured in these songs from hundreds of years ago.
The CD also includes a cluster of original compositions influenced by her culture and studies. “In Jerusalem, we are living with Arabs and their music is very much a part of our lives. It too is part of my heritage and I am proud of it,” she states. ”Mano Suave is what Jerusalem sounds like,” Levy adds. “That mixture of sadness, the past, sorrow; the smells of food; the three religions in the Old City, where you have a church, a mosque and a synagogue all together.”
In October 2008, Mano Suave was nominated for Holland’s prestigious Edison Award, the Dutch equivalent of the Grammys, in Best World Music Album category. Highly praised by critics, the CD was also a commercial success, hitting the Top 30 in Holland and the Top 10 on Sweden’s mainstream pop music charts with strong sales in Europe, Australia and Israel.
Described by Clive Davis of The Sunday Times as ”one of the most passionate vocalists at work today.” Levy’s deep, spiritual singing, passionate vocal delivery, charismatic sense of humor and striking good looks have mesmerized audiences and media around the world. Equally at home singing in Ladino, French, Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic, the magnetic musician has performed to standing-room-only shows at New York City Zankel Hall and Joe’s Pub, as well as at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles in 2005. Last year Levy played her first national tour of Australia culminating in a sold-out performance at the Sydney Opera House. She has also performed throughout England, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Poland, Holland, Germany and France as well as dates in Bulgaria and Montenegro last year. In January 2008, Levy sold out Israel’s National Opera House in Tel Aviv. She has appeared at WOMAD Festivals in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, UK and Canary Islands as well as at New York’s Carnegie Hall. ”Me Voy” a new composition by Levy, won ”best of” in the world music song in the 2008 USA Songwriting Contest.
A native of Israel, Levy is the recipient of the Anna Lindh Award (2006) for promoting cross-cultural dialogue and serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace, a UK-based charity fighting to alleviate the plight of all children caught up in the decades-old Middle East crisis. Her touring band is comprised of Yechiel Hasson from Israel on guitar, Vardan Hovanissian from Armenia on flute, duduk, ney, and clarinet; Miles Danso from Ghana on electric double bass; and Israeli percussionist Ishay Amir.
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