Sarah Raz covers Latin standards with the touching warmth of a native speaker of Ladino, the language of the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain five centuries ago
One of the things I miss the most in the English language is the ability to to make things small, cozy, feminine. I know there are plenty of terms of endearment in English, but they all sound so cold and so bland to my ears, like congealed oatmeal porridge.
Languages that excel at this are usually hybrids and bastardizations, like Judeo-Germanic (Yiddish) and Judeo-Spanish (Ladino). I wonder if this is true for other such languages like Creole. There is a reason for this. While men were busy trying to “speak properly” so that they could conduct business, mothers and grandmothers tending to the home hearths wove their own wondrously warm and expressive languages from threads that came from the synagogue, the fruit vendor at the market, and from their own hearts.
These ‘mame lushns”, these literal “mothers’ tongues” warmed our Jewish hearts even when everything else looked bleak and utterly hopeless. From the Jewish expulsion from Spain and Portugal in 1492 to the European Holocaust in 1940, Ladino and Yiddish gave us hope even when there was none. And we survived.
In her disk Colores de Amor, Israeli author, painter, sculptor, curator, and gallery manager Sarah Raz sings in Spanish rather than in Ladino, the language of her family. She covers standards that have made the rounds for many decades and have been recorded by the most famous of artists. And yet her warm voice, with its perfect Spanish pronunciation ever so lightly sprinkled with her Israeli Hebrew accent, makes these songs sound as if she were singing them in Ladino, or, more precisely, as if her beloved grandmother was singing them.
As an Ashkenazi Jew, I do not know Spanish or Ladino and that, now alas all but gone, part of our Jewish heritage is a locked garden to me. But still, listening to Sarah sing the old Latin standards I feel like I can at least take a peek inside, that I am able, for the most fleeting of moments, be a part of her own story.