Xurxo Fernandes, one of the greatest singers of traditional Galician songs (Radio Cos), has been carrying out research into the Sephardic repertoire for 20 years. In addition he has been exploring the songs of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, which are still sung today in ladino, the Judaeo-Spanish language. These songs were being interpreted in secret around 1900 by Greeks, Turks, Armenians and descendants of the Sephardi at the Café Aman in Istanbul/Constantinople in the days of the Ottoman Empire.
It was through comic songs and lovesongs performed in oriental style that these peoples found a way of talking about their political and social reality. One of the songs is about ‘Jako Koen’ or ‘Jako El Muzikante’ from Salonica’, which is where the largest community of Spanish Jews lived at the beginning of the twentieth century. Numberless musical groups sang there in ladino at marriages and parties. The singers usually accompanied themselves on tambourine, violin or Arab lute. Just like Jako El Muzikante, who, according to another song of the same kind, took the opportunity to rob his customers while he was singing at marriages or barmitzvah parties.
Under his alter ego of “Jako El Muzikante”, Xurxo Fernandes presents the songs of the Café Aman as “Jewish urban music from the Ottoman Empire” in a modern interpretation tinged with the café’s atmosphere at the beginning of the twentieth century. His fine voice is accompanied by the virtuoso Algerian clarinettist Nabil Naïr and the celebrated player of the Sudanese oud Wafir Sheikh el Din, well known on Radio Tarifa.
- Xurxo Fernandes: vocals, tambourine
- Wafir Sheikh El Din: oud
- Nabil Naïr: clarinet