Yasmin Levy a voice which does strange things to you

Yasmin Levy (b. 1975) an Israeli-Spanish singer songwriter is one of the world’s most heart-rending interpreters of Sephardic music.[1] I use “heart-rending” in this place to signify affectively moving. Her intensely soulful and emotional interpretations of this genre, inspired by the Ladino and flamenco cultures with its mix of Middle Eastern influences, is for Levy herself a way towards a “musical reconciliation of history”.[2] The key word here is “reconciliation” not only in terms of the singer’s philosophy (she is a goodwill ambassador for the charity Children of Peace), but also for her fusion of musical styles and instruments. The mistake some admirers of her music have made is to argue for one musical influence over the other. Ultimately, this is music and a voice without borders and that is why it travels deep. It is universal and so expressively symbolic [think on Andrés Segovia’s or Paco de Lucía’s timeless guitar playing for example] that it matters little whether you understand the words. When Yasmin sings her songs in the same way when you read a great poem, you become little by little silent and enter into the hard to define realm of joyful-sorrow.[3] You could feel crushed for a while, yet at the same time grateful that you might cross the threshold into that interior space of pulsating emotion.

The British musicologist and author of The Sound of the City Charlie Gillett said that after Yasmin Levy stops singing, “I unwillingly open my eyes and face reality.”[4] And it has proven true, that which Ivan Chrysler writes in the same BBC Radio 3 article, “[s]he has a voice that does strange things to audiences and critics alike.”[5] What is happening here? We are engaging in what philosophers who write on the aesthetics of music might describe: inner listening.

“I give you the song of my life forever until the day I die alone, walking the roads of this world…” (Lyrics from La Alegria).