The opening night of a music festival is usually an important indication of what is to come. So it was of little surprise that Yasmin Levy was headlining along with Daniel Melingo at the Barbican Hall in the first of a series of events as part of La Linea Latin Music Festival 2011.

…culminated in being escorted off the stage by his fellow band members…

Daniel Melingo, from Buenos Aires ignited the evening, performing a fiery theatrical tango with a twist. Along with his band of double bass, guitar, trombone, banjo, bandoneón (a concertina type instrument typical to tango music) and an impressive-sounding bendy saw.

Melingo, dressed in a black suit and chapeau hat strolled about the stage like a street-busker who had had one too many to drink. His performance of a crazy storyteller sharing a sorrowful tale was entertaining especially when he sang En un bondi color humo. Melingo’s experimental tango and strange drunkard act was amusing to watch and culminated in being escorted off the stage by his fellow band members after having yelped until he collapsed onto the stage.

Passion that Crosses Borders

Yasmin Levy’s performance could not have been more contrasting as she gracefully entered on stage in the second half of the programme after the theatrical tango by Argentina’s Melingo. Wearing a black and white patterned long robe over a sleek black dress which showed her pregnancy was in its later stages, Levys’ performance was well-received by the audience. In between her sorrowful songs, the elegant diva engaged the audience by telling personal stories with her unique sense of humour.

Born in Jerusalem, Levy made her name singing traditional songs in Ladino, the endangered Judeo-Spanish language alongside fiery flamenco rhythms. Following in her father’s footsteps, Levy has been a leading figure in spreading and reviving the Sephardic musical tradition of Andalucia and the 15th century Mediterranean region. Her style of music contains influences from Spain, Greece, Israel, Turkey, Armenia, Iran and Paraguay.

…she asked the audience to join in by singing along to the chorus.

Singing seductive emotional ballads from her latest album, Sentir, she showed off her powerful voice joined by a band with percussion instruments, including a cajón, clarinet, duduk, zurna, bass and piano. Her most striking performances of the evening were Naci en Alamo, a gypsy song of homelessness and longing for belonging, and a traditional Ladino love song, Una ora en la ventana. While singing a moving ballad Adio kerida, she asked the audience to join in by singing along to the chorus.

While the artists had utterly different styles, they both radiated passion and conviction through telling their tales of tragedy and dolor (suffering). Daniel Melingo’s theatrical and tragic tango of harsh life on the streets and Yasmin Levy’s tales of lovers’ heartbreak, set the bar for what promises to be a scorching Latin music festival in London.

4 Stars



About The Author

I am a recent MA graduate of Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. I am a bookworm, movie buff and art critic who enjoys writing.

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