Guy Mendilow Ensemble
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Guy Mendilow Ensemble

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band World Acoustic




"Media Impact"

"It's a folk music of hope and affirmation, sophisticated in its delivery but easily accessible to listeners anywhere."
--Chicago Tribune

"Guy Mendilow is an international tour de force."
--Bethlehem Morning Call

"The Guy Mendilow Ensemble embodies world music at its best."
--The Cedar Rapids Gazette

"One of the most ear-opening albums of the year. During the 1960s, Kaleidoscope featuring David Lindley stretched the boundaries of world music within a rock band about as far as they could be stretched, walking away with a reputation as heroes for sonic adventurers. The Guy Mendilow [Ensemble] may not be quite as rambunctious, but they are no less daring." ?
--The Boomer's Guide to Music & News

"One of Boston's most original world-music acts."
--Boston Herald

"This isn't for quirky ears, it's for jaded ears that need to be shaken awake with something substantially different that keeps the interest on the beam throughout. Delightfully different, even when it seems like it might be familiar."
--Midwest Record

"This is, to folk, what Bela Fleck is to Foggy Mountain Breakdown. This is unusual and exciting." ?
--Philadelphia Folk Song Society

"Guy Mendilow is quickly developing a reputation as a masterful, deeply passionate and sincere performer." ?
--Global Rhythm Magazine

"The glory of what [Mendilow] does is finding a common ground among different cultures. And that's what makes his music so exciting."
--Jewish Advocate

"Auditory magic"
--Wildy's World

"They were mesmerizing...Their musicianship, versatility, and originality was most impressive. Our audience left raving about their talent and the sound of their music."
--Rich Warren, nationally syndicated broadcast, The Midnight Special/Folkstage, WFMT Chicago

"A magical, shape-shifting world music quintet hailing from four countries...Often reminiscent of David Lindley's all-encompassing, stripped-gear approach to pan-genre explorations."
--Iowa City Press-Citizen

"...Vibrant musical storytelling awash with warm harmonies, captivating rhythms and rollicking, fast-paced vocal improvisations."
--Cambridge Chronicle

"... a great evening of beautiful music and exceptional musicianship!"
--John Chicerio, Huntington Arts Council, NY/ Huntington Summer Arts Festival, NY

"This innovative approach towards Ladino music offers insight to the poetic grace and gritty dynamic of a genre born in simplicity. True to the language and power of Ladino verse, oft presented stilted art songs are thoughtfully transformed to textured arrangements which crackle and evolve.
…Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom tenders an incredible gift; a resurgent force of musical settings that explode with artistry, refinement, and excitement. This project is living proof that the power of art will always triumph."
--Cantor Yvon F. Shore, Director of Liturgical Arts and Music Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

"The Guy Mendilow Ensemble's Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom fuses traditional forms and sounds with an expanding and exciting aural palate of musical possibilities. Guy's use of the berimbau is unconventional and enticing and adds an earthy element to music that is often mystical and transports the listener to a place far removed from the concert hall or outreach service site."
--Steven Schmidt, General Manager, City of Rochester Music Dept./Riverside Concerts - Various

"Boston's Best World Music Act - Phoenix Best Music Poll"


Guy Mendilow is an anomaly in Boston's world-music scene. Whereas most of our nominees and runners-up draw on the cultures of their heritage, this Israeli-born musician is like an international songcatcher. A performance by Mendilow and his ensemble is likely to include music from Israel, the northern Bahia region of Brazil, and Chiapas, Mexico. Instrumentation can include concertina, dumbek, Jew's harp, acoustic guitar, fiddle, tin flute, wood flute, soprano sax, and berimbau, the single-string Brazilian instrument that can be plucked, struck, or bowed. Lyrics might be sung in Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew, or Ladino. Mendilow is no dilettante - he learned the music of these countries by living and working there - so when he sings about a massacre by paramilitaries in Chiapas, he knows what he's talking about. Given the lack of content in so much pop music today, it's encouraging to hear someone continuing in the time-honored troubadour tradition - traveling the world, bringing the news. - Jon Garelick
- Boston Phoenix

"Gorgeous, enchanting sound and technically rich music wrapped up in a fun, playful atmosphere"

By Anthony King

Guy Mendilow’s musical influences can be traced across the globe, much like his rich family history. His grandparents escaped from Nazi work-camps in Eastern Europe, ho told me, safely making it to Palestine on “Polish fishing boats.” As a result, he has citizenship in three countries (the U.S., Great Britain and Israel), and has lived around the world in Mexico, Chile and South Africa. But Mendilow didn’t only get his globetrotting lifestyle from his family; he got his love of music as well. “[There] was a mixture of music wherever we were living,” he says, telling me how his history shaped his musical interests because he “wanted to return to some of the music that [he] had grown up with.”

“I feel like I’m such a big mix of these styles. I’m just trying to express what feels right to me,” he says. While most would classify his rich, acoustic sound and unique vocals as “World Music” — he sings in Hebrew and South African, reminiscent of aboriginal songs and cultures — Mendilow doesn’t really care. “I’m just more interested in making honest music.” He’s succeeded. Live was recoded at various performances throughout the year, and is the perfect welcome packet to the world of Mendilow: gorgeous, enchanting sound and technically rich music wrapped up in a fun, playful atmosphere.

“We just wanted to capture some of what happens on stage,” he said. “The magic that happens live is very different than a studio recording.” Mendilow features overtone singing in a lot of his songs, a technique that has been used for ages in chants and throat singing. When he first started using it in his music, he wasn’t sure how it would be received, but the support has been overwhelmingly positive. “It’s been really incredible,” he admitted, which is just the world I would use to describe Live.
- Bay Windows

"Mendilow Mixes Global Reach, Artistic Depth"

At age 26, Guy Mendilow has had his passport stamped so often even Kofi Annan could relate.
Now living in Jamaica Plain - ``settled'' sounds too permanent a description - the multi-instrumentalist and singer makes music that very much reflects his world citizenship.
``One way to say it is that I'm just a big cultural mix,'' said Mendilow, who was born in Haifa, Israel, and calls his acoustic sound ``world folk.''
``I started first grade in Israel, finished it in Los Angeles, started second grade in South Africa and finished it in Israel, third grade I began in California and fourth grade in New Jersey. That was the story for a while.
``So I haven't grown up speaking only one language or listening to any one particular style or playing any one instrument. My family accent is kind of a mix of all the places we've been. My music is naturally like that, too.''
Mendilow's parents' careers - his father is now a professor of political science at New Jersey's Rider University, his mother a teacher in a Jewish community center in New Jersey - had him moving constantly during his early years. Three years touring internationally with the American Boychoir kept him on the road, followed by high school in New Jersey and studies at Ohio's Oberlin College.
His own wanderlust took over from there. Stints in Mexico and Brazil helped him fine-tune his plans - and his music.
Which was no easy feat considering Mendilow's instruments include the guitar, Brazilian berimbau and Indian sitar; his vocals are influenced by Ladysmith Black Mambazo's a cappella harmonies and the guttural overtone singing perfected by the Throat Singers of Tuva; and his rhythms and melodies are inspired by Bahia, Hindustani improvisation and American and Israeli folk.
Mendilow lays it all out in concert tomorrow night at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center. Joining him will be bassist Giacomo Merega, flutist and singer Yulia Van Doren, drummer Mark Nathanson and reedman-Jew's harpist Andy Bergman.
With all the unlikely musical ingredients Mendilow mixes into his stew, it's fair to wonder just how tasty it sounds.And is he merely dabbling in world music flavors or truly immersing himself in cultures and traditions?
Judging by the range of material on his 2001 debut CD, ``Soar Away Home'' (Earthen Groove), Mendilow isn't simply dropping in a style here or there for effect. He has managed to subtly infuse his originals about relationships and travel with warm folkish influences from around the globe. It never feels like a reach.
Covers such as his pretty take on ``Rain, Rain Beautiful Rain'' by Ladysmith Black Mambazo come across as heartfelt interpretations.
``It's not like putting 10 CDs in a 10-CD changer and just skipping around,'' he said.``Even though one piece may be in Hebrew and the next in Arabic or Portuguese, there's a lot of commonality.''
As far as dabbling, Mendilow prides himself on doing just the opposite.
``That's really important to me,'' he said. ``My way of dealing with it is study. For instance, in Brazil I worked intensely with Brazilian musicians and instrument builders. I learned bossa nova directly from one of Bahia's best bossa nova musicians. And I studied sitar for more than six years with a traditional Indian musician.''
Mendilow has a new live album set for release shortly and a slew of workshops and concerts scheduled for the East Coast this spring. In the meantime, he said, he's more than happy to be part of Boston's vibrant music scene - at least for now.
``There's a music inside me that I need to express,'' he said. ``Everything that I'm doing is to try to get closer to that. I don't know that I've hit it yet and I don't know that I ever will. When I hear the sound I'll know I've found my musical home.'' - Boston Herald

"Hauntingly beautiful... left the audience spellbound"

"...Mendilow's band
took the stage with a piece that hints at Steve Reich's "Clapping Music." The band
members began their approach to the stage clapping in unison. Gradually the beats shifted,
creating a continuous, rhythmically precise clapping melody.

The first piece, a number consisting of nonsense syllables in a language referred to by
Mendilow as "Mendilusian," showcased the band's gift for harmonization. That talent was
further explored in Mendilow's arrangement of a Ladysmith Black Mambazo tune called
"Rain." At one point in the tune, the voices enter at different times on the word "rain,"
and the syncopation created mimics the sounds of raindrops falling. To have four singers
performing different syncopated rhythms simultaneously is quite an accomplishment, and
it's one that this ensemble achieves with apparent ease.

One of the evening's highlights was the opportunity to hear Mendilow perform in works
in which he sings overtones. In effect, this involves a soloist singing two voices simultaneously:
one voice is a drone and the other sounds like a whistle and encompasses the melody above
the drone. Mendilow does this while playing guitar, which makes the performance all the
more impressive. Overtone singing is extremely taxing on the voice - very few singers can do
it for a moment, let alone on more than one piece in a performance. Mendilow's overtone
rendition of the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" was hauntingly beautiful and left the audience

While Mendilow is a talented musician in his own right, he has the good sense to surround
himself with other talented musicians, and much of the success of the evening's performance
can be attributed to those who joined Mendilow onstage. The group demonstrated a
comfortable ability to perform music from a variety of cultures in styles ranging from folk
to pop and back again. This was an outstanding debut performance, and one looks forward
to hearing the Guy Mendilow Band again soon. In the meantime, Mendilow's 2001 release
Soar Away Home undoubtedly provides a sneak preview of what future performances will
- Katie DeBonville - Northeast Performer

"Cultural undertones, sung overtone"

Staying fixed in one place and culture isn't Guy Mendilow's style. A citizen of his native Israel, Great Britain, and the United States, the world roots musician has lived in Jamaica Plain since September.

"The story of my life is a movement from place to place, from culture to culture," said Mendilow, 25, whose band debuts at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center Saturday.

His globe-trotting career began at age 10 when he joined the American Boychoir. At 15, he set off on a solo career that has taken him to five countries. He speaks and sings in English, Hebrew, Spanish, and Portuguese. As a composer and arranger, he draws on Israeli, Hindustani, South African, jazz, blues, and folk influences - all of which can be heard on his debut disc, "Soar Away Home" (Earthen Groove Records, 2002; for clips,

Mendilow uses a technique called overtone singing that enables him to perform in three distinct voices at the same time. He learned the basics in a choir workshop and perfected it by singing in his car. "It was a fluke," he said. "I played around and practiced with my voice."

The sound is like the Throat Singers of Tuva, but relies on mouth and
breath control. In addition to guitar, Mendilow plays the berimbau, a one-string Afro-Brazilian bow instrument that produces a droning, hypnotic tone.

Among the songs on the CD is "Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain," which Mendilow learned early in his career from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Newly arranged, its harmonies and syncopated vocals evoke raindrops.

After recording the CD, Mendilow went on a four-month trek through Brazil.

"It's been kind of a dream for me to see the rain forest," he said.

On the trip, Mendilow wore three hats: musician, community activist,
and explorer. The fellowship of Brazilian musicians left a lasting impression.

Bossa nova chords and rhythms now season Mendilow's sound. At
Saturday's concert, he will be backed by three singers, a drummer, cellist, upright bassist, and guitarist.

- Boston Globe

"The Guy Mendilow Band embodies world music at its best"

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Guy Mendilow Band embodies world music at its best.

Guy Mendilow, who has lived all over the world but is now based in Boston, breaks out a musical bow and arrow to add to the exotic flavor of his music.

Guy Mendilow, who has lived all over the world but is now based in Boston, breaks out a musical bow and arrow to add to the exotic flavor of his music.

The Boston-based band has roots in Israel, South Africa, North and South America, Japan and Europe, and lets all of those show through its spirited, eclectic sound. You needn’t speak Hebrew, Portuguese or Ladino to understand Mendilow’s music. It flows through expressive vocals and instruments exotic and familiar.

The ensemble headlined the Landfall Festival of World Music’s free concert from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in Greene Square Park. The downtown site is a great venue for this weeklong event staged by Legion Arts/CSPS. And the early evening time slot is terrific, as well, fitting 90 minutes of jubilant music into that twilight zone between work and evening activities.

Wednesday’s multicultural concert drew a multigenerational audience, toting blankets, chairs, picnics, bicycles, bouncing balls, dogs on leashes and even a cat in a bicycle carrier. At any given time, about 100 people were gathered under a perfect autumn sky to savor the world flavor from Mendilow and the opening band, the Rosie Burgess Trio from Australia.

Mendilow drew heavily from his new “Skyland” CD, a wonderful collection of original and traditional tunes ancient and new.

Several buoyant instrumental pieces create an Israeli dance feel, trading improvised solo lines between Mark Zaleski on alto sax and Tomoko Omura on violin. Those are countered by gently swaying vocals from Aubrey Johnson, with quiet harmonies from Mendilow and brushed percussion from Rich Stein. Some of the vocals take on a cool jazz feel, as Johnson’s soprano floats up like a lilting scat, hovering on high.

The sound takes an unconventional turn when Mendilow breaks out the musical bow and arrow to fling funky plunking sounds through his music, punctuated by exotic overtone singing in which he creates two or more tones simultaneously, like a deep, vibrating string.

His overtone singing is especially cool on “Experiment,” the first track on his new CD. In an earlier Gazette interview, he said he wrote this avant-garde piece during a traffic jam in Detroit. “It’s easy to jam with road noises” around him, he says. Layers of string bass, percussion and violin plucking adds to its mind-expanding charm.

Two of his most beautiful pieces were written centuries apart, the Ladino “Cuando Veo Hija Ermoza” and the South African “Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain.” The first captures the nomadic Mediterranean tradition of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, who mingled their culture with various host nations as they moved eastward.

“It’s a fascinating mixture of Spanish and Jewish, mingled with Greek or Arabic,” he says. “It began to be a fusion of world sound. That’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to it.”

“Rain,” which Mendilow learned from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, begins as a plea for rain for regions in dire need, falling softly, then turning to joy with violin, bass and acoustic guitar, before ending quietly, bringing the concert to a gentle close and audience members to their feet. - The Gazette (Cedar Rapids IA)

"Skyland ... has to be one of the most ear-opening albums of the year"

Eclecticism can come in all forms, whether it’s two or three styles bumping into each other on a dark night or a dozen different sounds being poured into a big bowl and swirled together. The latter is what the Guy Mendilow Band achieves, and while on paper the influences might appear somewhat disparate, in song they blend like long-lost family members. The music of Israel, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and the United States has found a new home in Mendilow’s band’s hands, and not only that, they perform in five different languages using nineteen instruments.

Recording at a 17th century Berkshire farmhouse located in a wildlife trust, the surroundings demanded that different approaches be used during the sessions, and the band wasn’t above trying whatever worked.

Skyland, named after the farm, has to be one of the most ear-opening albums of the year. During the 1960s, Kaleidoscope featuring David Lindley stretched the boundaries of world music within a rock band about as far as they could be stretched, walking away with a reputation as heroes for sonic adventurers. The Guy Mendilow Band may not be quite as rambunctious, but they are no less daring. “Durme Durme,” “Awendeje,” “Whistler’s Brother” and “Cuando Veio Hija Ermoza” show an exuberance of discovery that will thrill anyone looking for surprises, and show how music like this will always be the universal language. Whether it’s Israeli peace songs or Sephardi canticas, this bunch has it covered. And the ultimate compliment is not once does it sound like a National Geographic travelogue. The musicians play from the heart, which is where it always starts anyway (Bill Bentley) - Boomers Guide to Music & News

"This isn’t for quirky ears, it’s for jaded ears that need to be shaken awake with something substantially different"

GUY MENDILOW BAND/Skyland: Pomo, multi-culti nutty stuff that’s a lot of fun because it pushes the envelope but not simply for the sake of pushing the envelope. Not that we need a jaws harp revival, but it certainly gets this record off to a wild start since it’s so off the wall. Mendilow and his posse take it from there as they fuse space rock with ancient cultures for a tripped out world beat date that doesn’t acknowledge borders.

This isn’t for quirky ears, it’s for jaded ears that need to be shaken awake with something substantially different that keeps the interest on the beam throughout. Delightfully different, even when it seems like it might be familiar. - Midwest Record

"Like a master craftsman..."

Guy Mendilow is a citizen of the US, Great Britain and Israel; his cultural and musical leanings veer all over the map, as his travels have taken him to all corners of the globe. A winner of the World Music Song Contest, Mendilow blends musical styles and flavors with an artistic flair and distinctive sense of melody. The Guy Mendilow Band's latest album, Skyland, was released this week and continues the sort of auditory magic he's become known for.

Skyland opens with Experiment, a highly rhythmic and varied instrumental that will inspire you to dance. Rain, Rain Beautiful Rain is a bit repetitive lyrically but is a thing of beauty musically, combining gentle, pulsing instrumental support and gorgeous vocal harmonies. You may find you are inspired in spite of yourself as Mendilow mixes Eastern and Western sounds to delightful effect. Sala'am sounds like an intriguing anthem from Israeli that mixes elements of American Folk/Rock with South American rhythms (possibly Brazilian). The title means Peace in Arabic, and the song is a joyous celebration. In Durme, Durme, Mendilow takes a Sephardi tune with roots deep in history and turns it in a modern direction with a wink and a smile. Sung in Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and Greek, Mendilow crafts a deep and graceful arrangement and shares a moving vocal duet with the highly talented Aubrey Johnson.

Depois Que O Ile Passar takes an interesting left turn into jazz, sounding like something that might have come out of Sting's band in the late 1980's in the breakdown. There is a driven quality in the laid back by rhythmic arrangement that creates a simultaneous beauty and tension that will keep listeners on the edge of their seats. Le Melange De Ouaoaron takes down New Orleans way with some delicious Cajun flavored country music. You'll want your dancing shoes on for this one; it's the most entertaining song on the disc. Mendilow follows this up with the Spanish-guitar flavored La Serena; a moving piece with a chilling vocal line. Blues For Dino is a tribute to Brazilian berimbau player Dino Nascimento, and adds a never flavor to the classic American sound. Mendilow's cover of Amazing Grace is solid and tends toward thematic variation and interpretation. It's not my favorite version of the tune by far, but is respectable. Mendilow closes out with Cuando Veo Hija Ermoza, a dark and deeply textured composition nearly seven minutes long that mixes Eastern and Western sounds, culminating in a clarinet solo that's part Jazz and part Sephardi. With both vocals and extended instrumental portions, the song is almost like a recap of everywhere Mendilow has travelled in the course of Skyland.

Being more familiar with Klezmer than Sephardi, I felt a little green going into Skyland, but Mendilow makes the listener feel right at home. Mendilow's music, like his philosophies, know no international boundaries. Brazil, Louisiana, the America West, Western Africa, Israel, Europe and even the Far East contribute elements to the sounds and Skyland, and Mendilow knits them all together like a master craftsman. I highly recommend Skyland to my readers, even if falls outside your normal area of interest.
- Wildy's World


Live at Red House Performance Center (Earthen Groove Records 2013)
Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed Live at Shalin Liu Performing Arts Center (Earthen Groove Records 2012)
Skyland (Earthen Groove Records 2009)
Live (Earthen Groove Records 2006)
Soar Away Home (Earthen Groove Records 2001)



Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom channels the vibrancy of traditional Sephardi songs into spellbinding arrangements for modern audiences. With its cast of world-class players from Israel, Palestine, Argentina, Japan, England and the USA, the award winning Guy Mendilow Ensemble brings to life a storied landscape of vagabond queens, pauper poets, and sailors and love lost to the seas, set in backdrops of kingdoms and bustling port towns that vanished long ago. Rich with lush vocal harmonies, intricate textures and fiery rhythms and sung in endangered Judeo-Spanish, it’s a emotionally powerful concert that crackles with adventure, ricocheting from tradition into today's imagination.

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble is an award winning sextet comprised of world-class musicians representing Argentina, Israel, Palestine, Japan, the USA and the UK. Formed in 2004, the Ensemble has been enthusiastically received in venues ranging from world and traditional music festivals to performing arts centers, progressive Jewish organizations and universities.

Alongside touring with the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, members are on the faculty of leading music schools like Boston’s Berklee School of Music, New England Conservatory and the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in India and tour/record with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Yo Yo Ma, the Assad Brothers, Christian McBride and Simon Shaheen.

The Ensemble is currently based in Boston, MA and New York, NY., USA.