ISRAELI diva Yasmin Levy seems to be on a mission to blur cultural boundaries while guarding the centuries-old tradition of Judeo-Spanish Ladino song that is her heritage. Matching a Turkish Muslim string orchestra with a multi-instrument Jewish band sets her parameters wider than hitherto in Libertad, without straying too far from the formula of her previous five albums. The blend of Ladino and Andalusian flamenco that has become her trademark is still prevalent. But within the confines of three traditional Ladino songs, five of her own poignant compositions and sundry offerings articulating the joys and sorrows of la vida (life), La Levy and her combined crews have effectively created a cosmopolitan hybrid in which emanations of Argentine tango, Portuguese fado, Latin jazz, Persian and even Parisian music can be perceived. Several tracks, unfortunately, are diminished by the singer’s inclination towards melodramatic delivery, as in the disappointingly over-produced title track, which is marred further by clattering cajon (box drum) and cheesy keyboard. Piaf-esque theatricality also taints Tal
Vez and Aman Doktor. Ironically, the guest presence of another Mediterranean siren, the sultrily husky Majorcan Concha Buika, puts an over-emoting Levy in the shade in a duet on
Olvidate de Mi. Perhaps because it is sung in neither Ladino nor Spanish, Shoef Kemo Eved has a tension that is lacking in other works. Adroit dabs of accordion, clarinet, trombone and flute tend to redress any imbalance caused by over-the-top string arrangements. The shimmering Strings Orchestra Istanbul justifiably holds sway in two early pieces, La Nave del Olvido and Firuze.