Mor Karbasi: Ojos de Novia

January 25, 2017

Bride and Prejudice

Listening Post 83. The Sephardic saga includes chapters of persecution and expulsion, but on her forth album the Israeli singer-songwriter Mor Karbasi (who has also lived in London and Seville) looks at her Jewish heritage from Spain and Morocco mostly through the prism of love. Ojos de Novia (Eyes of a Bride) embraces songs of romantic love (though sometimes involving disapproving or even warring parents), love of family, of God, of singing and of nature. This is an extraordinary album, carried by Karbasi’s voice—at once sweet, powerful and contained—performing traditional and newly composed works in five languages and incorporating Iberian, North African and Levantine influences. The title track pairs a bride’s radiance with the sadness of leaving home: “The white dove has left the nest … Sad doves watched her go,” she sings in Spanish (video 1). Ahuvati Ester (My Beloved Esther) pays homage to Karbasi’s grandmother, “the most beautiful among the daughters of Marrakesh”; singing in Hebrew, she describes a woman whose “sunny smile 
could convince even the bees 
that the flowers printed on her dress were real” (video 2). Hayken Juar (We Begin) recounts a pre-wedding henna ceremony: “She who chose her beloved/Come and see/
For he has brought you a beautiful scarf,” she chants in Berber, accompanied by the Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona (video 3). The fifteenth-century ballad Tres Morillas (Three Moorish Girls) carries the pre-expulsion echo of religious coexistence in medieval Spain (video 4). Other outstanding album tracks are Bezos (Kisses), in Ladino, about newlywed neighbors; and Yal Mashta (Comb the Bride’s Hair), a traditional Moroccan Arabic song. Five centuries after her family’s forced emigration, Karbasi tells richly embroidered stories of Sephardic survival, continuity and joy. (Alama Records)







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