After the previous day's experiences, and after hearing many of the amazing artists at the Mizrahi Cabaret thank Flory Jagoda, who was among the public, for her guidance and mentorship, we just couldn't wait to see her! And who is this Flory Jagoda? The Japanese, in the 1950's, created a term for this kind of people: Living National Treasures (人間国宝, or ningen kokuhō). Flory, an 85 year old Jew from Sarajevo, gave us the honour of listening to her sing children songs she learned as a child in Vlasenica and Sarajevo. We heard songs, passed from generation to generation after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, tinged with the sounds of the cultures they came across, and learned by Flory at a time and place that is no more. And it was one fun early afternoon of song and stories. They gave us the lyrics and, being children's songs, they were easy to follow, and soon we were all clapping and singing in Ladino! The linguist in me was so thrilled so see how their language had evolved after leaving Spain, how similar it was to Spanish, and what interesting quirks it had kept or developed since. I really, really enjoyed it.
After that delicious musical trip to the Balkans, we joined others for some Moldovan Roma dances, accompanied by a wonderful klezmer band, Steve Weintraub and the Other Europeans. My respects to Steve, who had dozens of us up and dancing in no time, and to The Other Europeans for playing such an upbeat and fun music!
Dancing was, naturally, followed by food! and my first ever taste of rugelach! (crudely put, the Jewish cousins of croissants?) I had so many of those, loved them!
The pièce de résistance of the day was a double concert: Divahn (remember this group of powerful female artists from my previous post?) accompanied by Yair Dalal, whose rythms and music at sundown were simply beyond extraordinarily beautiful, and Balkan Beat Box (like Yair Dalal, straight from Israel!). I'm listening right now to this last's albums right now, as I write. But that night, they had everyone, and that means EVERYONE, dancing, jumping, clapping, shouting... they had such energy on stage! This double concert was simply the perfect end to a full and incredible day.
There's only one more event to talk about, and since I promised this would be a two-part post, here it goes! On Monday (it was a holiday) there was a parade! It was quite interesting, and it truely reflected the multiculturalism of the Jewish people, spread as they are all over the world. Orient and Occident met, different musical traditions mingled, and we all followed the giant puppets of Shadowland Theatre around Harbourfront Centre, dancing, listening to stories, and all ending up with a huge Hora dance!
This festival was a fantastic surprise. First of all, they had artists not only from Canada, but from many US cities, from Europe and, of course Israel! And they were all really good artists. How many times do you get such a treat, for free? And second of all, we all felt welcome. I'm not Jewish. Neither is my habib. And it was very clear that a good deal of those present were heirs to other cultures too. And yet, we were all invited to join, to celebrate; even at the religious rituals everything was set as to welcome absolutely everyone. It was a real, joyful, open, quality celebration of a culture, and so there was no way not to enjoy Ashkenaz tremendously, as hundreds of us did.