New York -
Ljuba Davis speaks of her ladino and sephardic musical influences with Sahil Sharma.
Some ballads, lullabies, and a few prayers in the Hebrew liturgy style. They reflect the dedication and respect for music that Ljuba Davis has . In her latest album – East and West , Ljuba has revived the Jewish mainstream music with a touch of Sephardic beauty.
She has performed at venues that were quite remarkable, to even small nightclubs. But little did she know, that when her grandfather said sing her heart out , she would adopt it as her mantra. The mantra has parallelled her journey in to music , as she dabbled with Jewish folk, Spanish, sephardic and ladino music. Her songs have a good deal of Mediterranean and Greek influence, with varied hues of sephardic life and contemporary elements reflected in it. We asked her about it , and she exclaimed “I am a “song catcher!”
And I travel internationally -a lot! Wherever I am I try to remember the music I’ve heard-be it in Turkey, Greece, Africa and yes, China! But I’ve also researched the music of the Sephardic community and have been particularly inspired by sessions with people who remember the songs of their youth and recorded their versions of the Romanceros .
I specially remember one dear man, a chazzan, Isaac Sevi from Rhodes, who taught me a bit of the melodies, that he used to chant in the synagogue before World War II”
Ljuba’s life in the San Francisco Bay area, offered her many chances to access stored libraries, and digging up archival material, from the likes of the Judah Magnes Museum of the West (Berkeley) and the library of the University of CA, Berkeley,. The extensive research helped her in understanding the sounds of both east and the west with finesse.
Vision and researching over other forms of music, and trying to understand the other worlds, entwined with musical roots, are at the core of the inspiration that form the foundation of Davis’s music. Her powerful yet subtle voice evoke a melange of emotions.
Davis honours Ed Levitch, her 86 year old Sephardic Jew friend, whose words she feels always stay with her. “He had said to me, Ljubichkoo (a pet name he had for me) when you sing my eyes can’t stop crying…” The memory of those words, support and continue to warm my heart”, said Ljuba.
Talking of collaborations with different musicians from explicit genres, Ljuba Davis celebrates creative outsourcing in music. “There is nothing more exciting for me than collaboration – be it a musical one or a fabulous pot luck meal!!
Everyone brings something special to the table, be it an incredible melody or musical style. And when we can “spark” each other musically, THAT is where the magic comes in!”
Ljuba never forgets to treasure the Sephardic liturgical music and relishes any opportunity to sing it .She finds an element of joy in the music, as well as majesty , in the synagogue music composed by Solomone Rossi, Ebreo. She has also composed a piece for the words of a well known prayer for the Torah procession , inspired by the music of Rossi.
The turnabout came for her when she went to Barcelona, and her son David encouraged her to record her musical treasures. Davis ended up making an album of her heartfelt renditions and the musing Ladino melodies.
Davis’ mesmerising vocals are supported by some of New York’s top Greek, Arab, and Jewish musicians like- Bouzouk maestro Avram Pengas, Rachid Halihal on Oud, Nadav Lev on Spanish Guitar, Ossama Farouk on Hand Percussion, Marty Confurius – String Bass with the chorus vocals of Sebastian Lopez, Anthony Cuccia and Chad Ryan.
Written by: Sahil Sharma