Sarah Aroeste – Monastir / a RootsWorld review


So, on the principle of ?? listening first without reading the notes in the libretto, ?? what do we have here?

The first track begins with muscular percussion and bass drums, a distant reed instrument and a didgeridoo, joined by female vocals and backing vocals in one song, in what turns out to be Ladino, with a meandering melody. I’m drawn, so forward with the album, expecting it to be in the same vein.

But the second track is different; a Balkan melody with a high female voice in Macedonian joined by a mixed choir of men and women and an ensemble of saxophones, lively clarinets and other Balkan wind instruments, with cracklings of darabukka, bass drum and other percussions, the sound being further enlarged by keyboards as it progresses. The third, even more different track has a male voice on a crystal clear Spanish guitar and piano with a throbbing double bass in an elegant and popular Spanish-style love song. Further listening reveals an array of styles, sounds, languages ​​and singers, all impeccably arranged and produced.

So what is going on? It’s time to read the booklet and do some homework on singer Sarah Aroeste and the story she tells in this beautiful album.

Monastir, as it was called until 1912 with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and its occupation by the then Kingdom of Serbia, is a city now named Bitola, in the Republic which after the break-up of Yugoslavia and subsequent long negotiations with Greece, is now called North Macedonia. Not far from the current Greek and Albanian borders, it was for many centuries a meeting place of cultures with a very mixed population, including until the Second World War a large Jewish community of Sephardic origin. During the war, some emigrated to the Americas, then in 1943, the Bulgarian army, which in 1941 had taken the city with the German army, deported almost all of the remaining Jewish population to the extermination camp. Nazi from Treblinka. more than 3000 people. Today the city has no Jewish population.

Sarah Aroeste was born in the United States, but her ancestors were among the Sephardim, Spanish Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century and many of whom settled in the Ottoman Empire, notably in Monastir, where her grandfather was born. . Most of the family were taken to Treblinka and murdered, but her grandfather’s first cousin, Rachel Nahmias, escaped by being smuggled into a car trunk in Albania where she was taken in by a woman. muslim family. The 103-year-old at the time of the album’s recording, she heard a Sephardic finger play recited to one of Aroeste’s daughters as an introduction to a class of non-Jewish children from Bitola in singing, in Macedonian, the anthem of their school? ? Estreja Mara ?? which celebrates a 21-year-old Jewish resistance fighter who died fighting the Bulgarian army in 1944. A photo of pigtail fighter Estreya Ovadya-Mara, and one of Rachel Nahmias with Aroeste, appear among the many members of Aroeste’s family, musicians and more in the album booklet, which also contains lyrics, translations and background notes.

Aroeste’s goal with the album was to select and arrange ten songs to reflect pre-WWII Jewish life in Monastir. For the most part, they are of Macedonian and Sephardic tradition, with some originals from her and others, in Macedonian, Ladino and Hebrew. The more than thirty singers and musicians come from Israel, Macedonia, Spain, Germany and the United States (including Gergely Barcza, leader of the Hungarian group Besh o droM, on saxophone and woodwinds of the Balkans), and Israeli Shai Bashar arranged and produced in collaboration with Aroeste.

Macedonian singer Sefedin Bajramov speaks on ?? Edno Vreme Si Bev Ergen, ?? a rhythmic song of a man trying to convert a Jewish girl in Monastir to become ?? Slavic. ?? Macedonian Jewish opera singer Helena Susha delivers the traditional Ladino song ?? En Frente De Mi Te Tengo, ?? and that’s the Israeli Sephardic singer Yehoram Gaon in the aforementioned love song from track three, ?? Jo La Keria, ?? which, while speaking Spanish (when the title would be ?? Yo La Quería ??), the style and instrumentation are actually in Ladino.

?? Espinelo ?? (video below) opens with a thunderclap and in a very flamenco style transforming into a full Arabic orchestral sound. His lyrics were collected in Monastir in 1927, from a song dating back to the 16th century Spanish romanceiro, set to music by Aroeste and sung with raucous passion by Israeli flamenco singer Yehuda Shveiky. The well-known Macedonian song ?? Jovano, Jovanke, ?? here translated into Hebrew, is sung by the Israelis Odelia Dahan Kehila and Gilan Shahaf; there have been numerous recordings of the song, in its original language, but this loud, atmospheric rendition of moodiness ranks among them.

Aroeste herself only appears on six of the tracks, taking the lead vocals on just four, including the first two tracks, her own emotional ?? Mi Monastir, ?? and the closest, Macedonian composer Ajre Demirovski ?? s ?? Bitola Moj Roden. ?? She says ?? The project is bigger than me. ??

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