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Rated 4 out of 5 stars
A delightful overview of the Jewish Diaspora
This reviewer received promo considerations or sweepstakes entry for writing a review.
Putumayo's A Jewish Odyssey collects music from several different continents and fine examples of the two major divisions of Judaism: Ashkenazim (Eastern European) and Sephardim (those in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey, Morocco, etc. that are descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492).
Several of the artists such as the Klezmer Conservatory Band, Chava Alberstein, and Ofra Haza may be familiar to savvy world music fans, but there are other bands such as Italy's KlezRoym that were equally impressive.
The album opens with the melancholy-sounding Yiddish waltz Der Goldener Pave. Burning Bush's Rad Halaila displays strong Arabic influence. The standout Fel Shara from Italy's KlezRoym was one of the disc's highlights for me. Strongly Sephardic, the string-driven melody brought to mind nights spent wandering Toledo's narrow streets (Spain, not Ohio!), old Jewish quarter and synagogues. Ofra Haza's riveting Rachamim displays her pure, sweet voice to perfection. Janet/ Jak Esim's haunting version of Ija Mia Mi Kerida (an old Sephardic ballad from medieval Jewish Spain) features a guitar flirting with Eastern modality and jazz.
Consuelo Luz delights on the mystical Las Estreyas, blending several genres. Finjan's Dancing On Water comes off as more of a Celtic lament, but the album closes with Fortuna's haunting Brazilian version of Shalom Aleichem, which leans towards the symphonic.
Overall, the album does a good job of showcasing various interpretations of Jewish song, although it heavily favors Sephardic over Ashenazic klezmer (more "old school" Yiddish klezmer would have been nice; for an expansion on the offerings here, check out NPR's excellent Yiddish Radio Project). Several up-and-coming Jewish bands are showcased, along with stars such as the late Ofra Haza and the captivating Chava Albertstein (her album Yiddish Songs is a treat).