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Yoel Ben-Simhon the Sultana Ensemble

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Yoel Ben-Simhon the Sultana Ensemble

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As a child, composer/instrumentalist Yoel Ben-Simhon was immersed in the Moroccan-Jewish culture of his parents and grandparents, who emigrated to Israel in the late 1950s: "My grandmother Sultana was always my babysitter. At her house, I was exposed to my family's Moroccan and Arabic heritage. It was in the language they spoke, the tobacco my grandfather Mimon sniffed, the food they ate, and the music they picked up via short wave radio from Morocco. We went to a Moroccan synagogue, and I heard the music there, too; both liturgical hymns and secular songs." With the musicians and dancers of the Sultana Ensemble, Ben-Simhon blends the sights and sounds of his childhood in Israel with those of his adulthood, spent as a working musician in the United States. The resulting project is as personal in conception as it is global in scope, mixing elements of Moroccan, Andalusian, Sephardic, and Middle Eastern music and dance with Latin jazz.

"h3"Amazon.com "p"Integrating of different music genres seems to be the domain of remixers and electronic artists these days, but not always. New York-based oud player and singer Yoel Ben-Simhon and his group eschew the turntables and postproduction knob-twisting in favor of acoustic small-group instrumentation. A Jew of Moroccan descent, Ben-Simhon uses the Sephardic music tradition (which fuses Jewish and Arabic styles) as a base for composing his own songs; at the same time, he also seamlessly incorporates elements of the entire Mediterranean Diaspora as well as a little jazz. Highlights include the voice-driven "Forgiveness Hymns," a Ben-Simhon original that uses a traditional Moroccan hymn as the refrain. Featuring violin, viola, and cello as well as Ben-Simhon’s oud, the elegant "Eastern Winds" goes off in a different direction as it combines Western classical music and Arabic rhythms into a remarkably seamless whole. The leader is well-supported throughout by the Sultana Ensemble, but there is no doubt that Ben-Simhon is a newcomer to watch. "i"--Tad Hendrickson

Yoel Ben-Simhon the Sultana Ensemble

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