Ladino music is a multicultural experience. A unique blend of Spanish and Hebrew lyrics, Mediterranean instrumentation and Arabic rhythms, it originated in the Jewish communities of medieval Spain in the years preceding their expulsion. When Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Spanish Jews in 1492, the musical tradition continued to grow and change under various new cultural influences.
Island local Ljuba Davis and her ensemble will bring the lively sounds of Ladino music to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Monday, July 22. The Ljuba Davis Ladino Ensemble features six musicians playing a variety of instruments. Ms. Davis sings the multi-lingual lyrics that accompany the diverse instrumentalists. Her ensemble is composed primarily of traditional stringed instruments, such a classical guitar, bass and cello. But it also incorporates the Mediterranean oud and bouzouki — stringed instruments that resemble the mandolin — as well as Spanish and Arab percussion.
Ms. Davis, a cantor of Sephardic descent, said she was raised to recognize and celebrate her heritage.
“My grandmother told me, ‘never, never forget that your family came from Spain,’” she said. “For me, this is a way of sharing a little bit of my tradition and my culture.”
While Ladino instrumentals can vary in style from Greek to Moroccan, Ms. Davis will sing in a mix of Hebrew, Arabic and Castilian Spanish. The language, like the music, is called Ladino and was spoken in Spain during the so-called Golden Age, a time when Jews, Muslims and Christians coexisted more or less peacefully. The Golden Age ended in 1492.
“The music evokes the feeling of the Mediterranean,” Ms. Davis said. “It’s lovely, with nuances of Arabic beats and Spanish lyricism. What I love about the music is that it’s celebratory. It’s very alive.”
The Ljuba Davis Ladino Ensemble performs at 8 p.m. at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center , 79 Beach Road, Vineyard Haven . Tickets are $25, $20 Film Society members, and available online at mvfilmsociety.com or at the door. For information call Abby Hirsch at 508-693-6407 or visit Ljuba Davis website LDLensemble.com.