Carolina’s wonderful album ‘Mother Tongue’ is beguiling and all it takes is a single listen, for the mysterious beauty of this ancient music to stay with you forever. This album speaks of medieval Spanish Sephardic culture with absolute authority and in partaking of the journey we are connected to a time and place most New Zealanders know little about.
The Moors ruled much of Southern Spain (Al Andalus) for nearly 700 years and what is little known is that they welcomed the Jewish diaspora to live among them. This tolerance by Islamic Spain lasted until the Reconquista by the Catholic Christian armies of the north and after their arrival (15th century), the Judeo-Spanish faced the ultimatum of expulsion, conversion or death. The songs of the Sepahardic Jewish are rich in imagery and the cadences of their unique language are evident in these sensual and often wistful songs. Contained in this music are the rhythms of Arab, Hebrew and Spanish life. A truelly blended music that has been deeply enriched by the streams that have fed it. Ladino (Latin) is the term for this ancient language, which has also helped form the distinct Catalan variant of Spanish.
Carolina Moon (Mannins) is a fine Jazz singer but she is also a multi-lingual singer and well versed in other musical genres. She is British by birth but has worked extensively as a musician and music teacher in the UK, Australia and for some time now New Zealand. This is our gain. The excellent arrangements on ‘Mother Tongue’ are Carolina’s and it is this factor, coupled with her unmistakably rich voice, that gives the album that extra depth and authenticity. It is obvious that she has invested everything in these performances. This has never been just another gig for her
I would like to make mention of several songs that are on the album. The first is the wonderful ‘Ondas’ (13th century Spanish). The word in Spanish means wave or ripple and she could not have chosen a better track to open with. The timbre of her voice is rich and filled with the passion and longing of the song. At certain points the emotion is so visceral that it sends a shiver down the spine. I have not reacted to a voice in that way since I last heard Sassy on ‘tenderly’. The second and contrasting song is ‘Tres Hermanicas’ (track 8). This is a traditional Sephardic song and the full band is used to very good effect. Because of the arrangement and the rhythm it sounds closer to the Manouche traditions.
The accompanying musicians are all top rated and many are the cream of the Jazz world. New Zealand’s finest acoustic guitarist Nigel Gavin is the only choice for this music, as his Manouche credentials and guitar chops are impeccable. Kevin Field is on piano and once again he has managed to be the perfect accompanist. Caroline’s husband Roger Manins weaves his usual magic and his abilities as a multi reedist are manifest here. Ron Samsom and Chris O’Connor (percussion and drums), Jessica Hindin (violin), Matthias Erdrich, Mostyn Cole, Steve Haines (acoustic bass).
Every music lover should purchase a copy of this, which is produced and mixed by Steve Garden for Ode records (with the assistance of Creative NZ). To learn more about this gifted artist go to; http://www.moonmusik.com - better yet come and hear her perform live during the tour – underway at present. The next performance is at the CJC (Basement of 1885 Galway St) Wednesday 2nd November.
Footnote: The first merger of western music and African Music was always thought to be Jazz, but musico- ethnologists are now pointing to Moorish Spain (over a 1000 years before), as the first time this occurred. The improvising traditions are deep streams within all good music.