Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition to get mentioned in a music bio, but here it's relevant. Spain was the pulsing heart of a vibrant Jewish and Arab culture until late 15th-century Christian and royal leadership expelled and forced the conversion of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Muslims. The Sephardic Jews dispersed into North Africa and the Middle East; few ever returned to Spain.
Guitarist Ofer Ronen made that trip back, as an Israeli enchanted since youth by the tremulous magic of flamenco. Exploring other traditional styles, he connected in Barcelona with flamenco singer Anna Casado Colao, who shared his passion for fragrant Mediterranean musical stylings. They formed Hamsa Hamsa, named after a mystical amulet said to ward off the evil eye; fitting for this powerful, magic music.
Hamsa Hamsa's songs are in Hebrew ancient and reverent, with swaying melodies and Ronen's percussive fingerwork on his oud. Others are in Ladino, Arabic, Greek and Spanish, hip-shaking in celebration. They infuse this sonic blend with the bass guitar of Jon Unanua, the soprano saxophone of Lluc Riba and drums and Arab percussions of Albert Enkaminanko). Always with a jazzy tempo full of improvisation.
Their music talks about peace, love, and coexistence in celebration between the different communities and cultures of the Mediterranean.
Sephardic and Middle Eastern music emanates from Spain once again—all one can say is ken, ken (yes, yes).
Supported by Acción Cultural Española.
Biography by Jason Markusoff