Los Desterrados, from not-so-exotic north London, have produced an album of underground Judeo-Spanish re-imaginings, slipping skilfully between epochs and musical traditions
1492, or the year 7000 in the Byzantine calendar, as every schoolchild knows was the year that Columbus ‘discovered America’ and the genocide there began, it was also the year that the Jews were expelled from Spain and 500 years of peaceful co-existence between Jews, Muslims and Christians came to a bloody end. Traces of that terrible year remain in all of us but for some like north Londoners Los Desterrrados, they provide the source of their musical adventures.
When one thinks of Jewish music, the swirling sounds of Klezmer come to mind — the music of the Ashkenazi Jews. The Sephardic tradition, explored by Los Desterrados could not be more different; it is the deep undercurrent of the Mediterranean — a sound that bears witness to the travels and travails of the Jewish people expelled by the Reconquistas of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella. Absorbing and contributing to flamenco, Turkish, Greek and Balkan musical styles, it is music as psychic survival.
This is not a field, thankfully, that Los Desterrados have to themselves. Yasmin Levy is perhaps the best known Sephardic singer, she too employs the Ladino language, while her sound is more sedate than the more contemporary sensibilities of these north Londoners. A better comparison might be Radio Tarifa, who draw on similar influences and like to rock the stage at the same time.
The twelve songs on Tu are mostly drawn from a traditional repertoire but re-imagined by an impossibly diverse set of influences the various band members bring to their music. Musically speaking, partly by design and partly because of a lack of historical musical documentation, the band take the freedom to interpret the music as they want to. Beautiful ballads of yearning give way to energetic and trance-like sounds familiar to fans of bands like Ojos de Brujo on tracks like ‘La Komida la Manyana’.
As Daniel from the band puts it, “We are modern people and, living in London, we’re doing what Londoners do best: taking something and investing it with what we’ve heard around us and creating something fresh.”
Los Desterrados are playing their home turf on 16 November at the Arts Depot, North Finchley, so catch them there and invest in a copy of this passionate album.
Los Desterrados — Tu is out now on Crusoe Records CRU001CD
1492: a timeline from Wikipedia
- January 2 – Boabdil, the last Moorish King of Granada, surrenders his city to the army of Ferdinand and Isabella after a lengthy siege.
- March 30 – Ferdinand and Isabella sign the Alhambra decree expelling all Jews from Spain unless they convert to Roman Catholicism.
- August 3 – Christopher Columbus sets sail on his first journey across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas
- August 3 – The Jews are expelled from Spain.
- Sultan Bayazid II of the Ottoman Empire, learning about the expulsion of Jews from Spain, dispatched the Ottoman Navy to bring the Jews safely to Ottoman lands, mainly to the cities of Thessaloniki (currently in Greece) and Izmir (currently in Turkey).
- October 12 – Christopher Columbus’s expedition makes landfall in the Caribbean. The Italian explorer believes he has reached the East Indies.
- October 21 – Christopher Columbus lands on San Salvador Island.
- October 28 – Christopher Columbus lands in Cuba.
- November 7 – The Ensisheim meteorite, a 127-kg meteorite, lands in a wheat field near the village of Ensisheim in Alsace.
- December 5 – Christopher Columbus becomes the first known European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola.
- December 31 – About 100,000 Jews were expelled from Sicily.
- Casimir IV Jagiello of Jagiello Royal House ends reign. (1427-1492).
- Year 7000 according to the Byzantine Date of Creation and an expected year of Apocalypse