'La Serena' from Yja is out today! Me and Francesca Ter-Berg are joy-ed to share with you the debut single from our Ladino duo project - we are really happy and proud of the song and we hope you like it too! Give it a listen and download on Bandcamp (the best way to support us!) - and it's also available at all the usual spots including Apple Music and Spotify.
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YJA || ‘La Serena’ Single Release Release Date: Tuesday 21 April 2020
London-based musicians Francesca Ter-Berg and Ana Silvera unite for their debut release as Yja, offering up intimate and lushly voiced re-imaginings of songs from the Iberian Jewish diaspora. Yja’s debut single, ‘La Serena’ – the first track of a forthcoming EP - sees the newly- formed duo reinvent this emotive folkloric tradition. The combination of Silvera’s yearning, storytelling vocal delivery and Ter-Berg’s virtuosic cello alongside off-kilter electronic elements casts a uniquely powerful and profoundly evocative spell. As Ana says, “It’s been a thrill for us both to deep dive into the archives, to listen to Ladino songs recorded by artists in Salonika, Smyrna, Istanbul, New York at a time when this new fangled gramophone technology was a recent invention...to interpret these songs ourselves, some of which are so close to extinction it’s as if we're archaeologists carefully brushing the dust off of these delicate musical fragments.” The Sephardi Jews, who fled as refugees from the Iberian Peninsula during the brutal Inquisitions of the 15/16th centuries kept the flame of their culture alive all these years through the Ladino language, and through their vibrant musical heritage. Wherever the Sephardim settled as a diaspora – in the case of the Ana’s family, in Aleppo, Syria - the songs merged with the local style, creating a rich brew of influences. “We wanted to discover these songs as true to their original form as possible and we’ve been transcribing and researching the tradition as well as consulting native Ladino speakers”, Ter-Berg writes. “It’s a relatively dormant language but is still spoken at home in Sephardic households across the world, and the singing tradition lives on.” At their heart, these songs are musical vessels carrying themes of longing, love and exile through the ages, and in Yja’s hands, they are delivered with a fresh new energy, in a modern context. ‘La Serena’ is, as Ter-Berg describes, “about mysticism, seduction, travel and sensuality” and the track’s production reflects this, awash with reverb-soaked electric guitar, urgent waves of glissandos and constantly morphing, synthesised vocal landscapes.
Taking influence from artists such as Esperanza Spalding, Arthur Russell, Four Tet, Susanna & Magical Orchestra, Arca and The Klezmatics, Yja craft a compellingly contemporary take on this historic music. Ana Silvera and Francesca Ter-Berg are both well-established in their respective scenes. Ana has released several acclaimed solo albums of original work while Francesca's 2019 debut album with string duo Fran & Flora propelled them to the forefront of the London creative scene. The track also features Jasper Høiby (Phronesis) on double bass, Chris Vatalaro (Imogen Heap, Sam Amidon) on percussion with Gareth Finnegan (Ibibio Sound Machine, Binker & Moses) on engineering and mixing duties.