A queen who runs away with her slave, joining her fate to her beloved servant’s. Brides who abandon their weddings and join a shipful of sailors. Men who go courting, only to get taunted or tossed down a well.
These wild rides and fantastic yarns spring from Ladino tradition, from songs and stories carried by Sephardic Jews as they moved from Spain and settled along the Mediterranean’s northern coast to Greece and Turkey. In multicultural metropolises like Sarajevo, in picturesque island towns like Rhodes, Jewish culture-bearers recounted the romantic escapades and derring do of a cast of characters worthy of a cutthroat fantasy novel.
Multi-instrumentalist, singer, and skilled arranger Guy Mendilow and his four musical collaborators leap into this world in Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom. The intertwining music and storytelling conjure an imagi-nation lost to war and upheaval, recorded in a language that blends archaic Spanish with Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek. By digging deep into Sephardic scholarship and revitalizing the sound recorded on gritty field recordings, Mendilow and company bring tales to life, intertwining voices, percussion, and soulful playing to render these songs in all their color, drama, and heart.
“If you like Game of Thrones, these stories are for you,” suggests Mendilow with a smile. “The tales are amazing. The melodies twist and turn, like the culture of adaptation Sephardic musicians embraced. Much of it is modal music, with elements that run from epic tunes to early 20th-century foxtrots and tangos, and all of it is mesmerizing, in its beauty and intensity.”
Audiences will get to savor this intensity when the Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom Tour comes to the Boston Center for Jewish Culture at the Vilna Shul on Sept. 10. Showtime is 7:30 PM. Tickets are $36.