Turkey, Greece and Israel gather around a musical project.
By Menekse Tokyay reports for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 07/06/12
My Sweet Canary at the 2011 International Jerusalem Festival. [Mehtap Demir]
The ensemble My Sweet Canary was established in 2009 as a musical version of the documentary film by the same name, based on the life and music of Roza Eskenazi, the queen of Rebetiko -- Greek blues, as it is widely known and described. The film was released worldwide in 2011.
Born in a Jewish family in Istanbul over a century ago, Eskenazi moved to Thessaloniki as a child, and grew to become a famous Greek folk singer, whose career spanned five decades into the 1970s. She recorded more than 500 songs, composed mainly in Greek and Turkish.
Following the film's release, the ten-member ensemble began touring Europe and North America. Fronted by three vocalists -- Yiota Nega of Greece, Mehtap Demir of Turkey and Israel's Yasmin Levy -- the ensemble takes their audiences through a colourful musical journey of Eskenazi's songs in Greek, Turkish and Ladino.
Nega explains the main logic behind their initiative.
"We perform songs in common languages. We perform songs in Greek, and the same melody exists in Turkish, in Hebrew, and through Roza, who unites these three peoples, we also feel united during the concerts."
The aim of the ensemble is defined as gathering Greek, Turkish and Jewish musicians who represent Eskenazi's multicultural biography and repertoire. In a sense, the project emphasises how much the three Levant cultures converge to reveal the untapped regional musical heritage.
The ensemble's concert tours include Thessaloniki, Athens, Jerusalem, Bruges, Paris, Dusseldorf and the US.