Friday, June 29, 2012

An article from Jerusalem Post

From Israel to Spain and back By BARRY DAVIS 06/28/2012 11:57 With a new album out, flamenco singer Yael Horwitz is gearing up for two concerts. Photo by: Ofira Sternberg With her mixed cultural background, it is no surprise that Yael Horwitz ended up setting her artistic sights on something from beyond our geographical borders. She grew up in Jerusalem in a Spanish-speaking home, with an Argentinean father and a French mother. Today, 35-year-old Horwitz dedicates much of her time and energy to singing flamenco-based music and has just put out her first album, Latido, which will form the basis for her two upcoming concerts in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. “My parents came on aliya separately, while their families stayed on in France and South America,” says Horwitz. “You could say I grew up with a range of cultures, and I have seen something of the world.” That certainly comes across in Latido, which was produced by Horwitz’s husband, Eran, who plays Spanish bass guitar on the recording. Fittingly for a debut release, Horwitz has managed to fit all her cross-cultural baggage into the package. While all the music is of the Spanish variety, the lyrics flit easily between Spanish, French and Hebrew, with most numbers including two languages. There are well-known songs, such as “Un Ramito de Violetas,” which was made popular in this part of the world by David Broza during his wildly successful foray into Spanish music in the 1980s. Then there is “Sheharhoret,” which stems from the Ladino culture. It was written over five centuries ago and was popularized here by the likes of Habreira Hativit and Esther Ofarim. The Gallic side of Horwitz’s upbringing comes through most clearly, at least in terms of lyrics, on her flamenco take of “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” which is best known in its original format by late Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel. The Horwitz version incorporates something of both her parental cultural backgrounds, although the musical focus leans heavily toward the Spanish side. Horwitz says the instrumental-vocal-lyrical mix is a natural outcome of her formative years. “I grew up with all sorts of music. My grandfather played tango and lots of records by people like [Brazilian bossa nova composer and performer] Carlos Jobim and [Argentinean diva] Mercedes Sosa. There was also classical music and, in fact, I played classical piano for a good few years.” Her musical epiphany took a while coming. “I started getting into flamenco only about seven years ago, when some friends brought me some CDs,” she recalls. It was love at first listen. “It really caught me, right from the start. I was electrified by it. I started researching it, and looking for as much information, and recordings, as I could find.” Horwitz says her newfound musical love took her by surprise. “I have no idea where this passion for flamenco comes from. Maybe it’s from a previous life, you never know.” Once bitten, she went for broke. Timing is, of course, of paramount importance in music, and Horwitz’s musical awakening could not have happened at a better juncture in her life. “I was at a stage when I could afford to take a month off, and I went to Seville to take a summer course in flamenco singing.” But Horwitz soon discovered she was not set for a tiptoe through a Spanish rose garden. “The course was really tough, and I had culture shock there,” she notes. which, considering her familial background, is somewhat surprising. “Yes, I knew the language and there is a familiar Mediterranean way of life in southern Spain, but I had to deal with all sorts of challenges there that I hadn’t bargained for.” But, as the slightly paraphrased saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get singing. “All of that just made me more determined to learn how to sing flamenco properly, and I realized I was going to have to work hard at it,” says Horwitz. When the summer course ended she returned to Jerusalem, packed up her belongings and went back to Spain to get to grips with flamenco singing. “I went back for three years and met my husband there,” she recalls. Once again, timing was an important factor. “Eran is also from Jerusalem, and we’d moved in similar circles for a while and knew of each other but it happened in Spain. Eran spent several years in Spain learning to play Spanish bass guitar. Once back in Spain for the long stretch, Horwitz says there was no quarter asked or given. “They sit on you pretty tight there. You have to get down to the nitty gritty and learn the basics and the traditions. The teachers there can spend an entire lesson with you on just one trill. You have to get it down pat. I’d come out of some lessons feeling dizzy. It’s no simple matter, learning flamenco music the right way.” All the tough lessons notwithstanding, Horwitz says she learned more outside the classroom. “By and large I stopped taking lessons after the first year. I’d hang out with musicians, and learned a lot from them. I went to lots of concerts as well. Flamenco is more than just music, it is a way of life.” All the hard work began to pay off, and Horwitz began to perform regularly. Even so, she and Eran returned to Israel. “This is our home and, at some stage, you have to head for home,” she notes. Latido – “heartbeat” in Spanish – began to take shape late last year and the Horwitzes headed back to Spain for the bulk of the recording work. “We spent two very intense and fantastic months there and worked with some amazing musicians,” the singer explains. “The artistic director of the album is [flamenco guitarist] Adrian Lozano. We have brought him to Israel to play, and he performed here with [iconic Spanish flamenco guitarist] Paco de Lucia.” More than anything, Horwitz says the album is an amalgam of who she is. “There is a Spanish version, with Hebrew mixed in, of [Israeli crooner] Boaz Sharabi’s “At Li Laila,” and there is material that I wrote. This is a flamenco album, but it’s not traditional.” One of the original numbers on Latido is “Cuando Te Miro,” which is dedicated to Horwitz’s daughter. Part of the singer’s cross-cultural approach hails from here and part was spawned by the company she kept in Spain. “We lived in the south of the country where there is a more open approach to flamenco,” she explains. “They use all sorts of nontraditional instruments, like bass guitar and mandola and keyboards. That’s the hottest flamenco scene in Spain today, and it’s the approach I like the best.” For her dates in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Horwitz will benefit from the diverse instrumental skills of husband Eran, Lozano, Spanish flamenco-jazz saxophonist-vocalist Antonio Lizana Coca, Mexican-Israeli percussionist Moy Natenzon, Israeli percussionist Nadav Giman and Israeli keyboardist Shai Bachar. Yael Horwitz will perform at the Libery Bell Garden ampitheater in Jerusalem on July 4 at 8:30 p.m. (info: [02] 566-4144 ) and at Tel Aviv’s Tmuna Theater on July 5 at 10:30 p.m. (info: [03] 561-1211 .
A photo by Ofira Sternberg

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