OCTOBER 19, 2017 – Growing up in a musical family, Yasmin Levy was surrounded by the sounds of her native Israel and also those of her ancestral homelands.
“There was music from the day I remember,” she recalled. “I grew up mainly listening to great singers and musicians who became my inspiration.”
Among the most profound of those were Levy’s parents. Her late father, Yitzhak Levy, who was born in Turkey, was a devoted artist and musicologist who devoted his life to the collection and preservation of the Judeo-Spanish songs of Sephardic Jews. Her mother, Kokhava Levy, is an Israeli singer-songwriter, composer, and poet, also in the Judeo-Spanish language.
“My father and mother were the two singers who mostly created my way of singing in my first years,” Levy explained, noting how the liturgical melodies of the synagogue also influenced her a great deal. “But when I became a singer, it was singers of the world to whom I used to listen a lot, some I even imitated until at some point I created my own way of singing.”
On November 5, music lovers from around Boston will be able to experience Levy’s musical legacy when she performs at the Berklee Performance Center.
When asked what advice she offers her performance guests, Levy suggested that they close their eyes, open their hearts, and enter into her musical world, joining her in what she sees as “a journey of beautiful music of love and pain, hope and desperation, a celebration of beautiful sounds and deep stories.”
Levy also has developed a deep devotion to the music and culture of her ancestors, and does what she can to protect and share them.
“I am a daughter of a family whose ancestors were expelled from Spain in 1492 and went to live in Turkey for the next 500 years until they came to live in Jerusalem,” she said, “so my blood is Spanish-Turkish.”
Levy has forged friendships around Europe, Asia, and the world.
“I have Turkish friends, Armenian, Spanish, and many others from different countries,” she said, noting that, while many of these people have been involved in some sort of cultural conflict, “They all want just to live in peace.”
For Levy, music is the way to that peace. In fact, she suggested, music is “the language of peace, of mutual respect, of sharing and loving,” and so it is “my language.”
Even when she worked with people who may have been suspicious of her culture, Levy said the power of music can overcome such views and bring people together in true harmony.
“When I opened my heart and offered my voice, all the fear disappeared and love came out and made us together,” she said.
Through most of her songs are not in English, she has won American songwriting competitions and fans around the world.
When asked what her message to them all is, Levy responded: “Listen, be open, caring, wanting to change and help, and most of all, believing.”
Yasmin Levy performs at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, November 5, at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass. Ave., Boston. For tickets, visit worldmusic.org or call 617-876-4275.