Mashala!
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"Diversons: 10th Festival of World Music Barcelona"

“Diversons: CaixaForum, 10th Festival of World Music, Barcelona October 2005

In 1998, the versatile Canadian writer, singer/actress and artistic director Ellen Gould Ventura returned to Spain in search of her Sefardi roots which inspired the greater part of her libretto and musical work. (Blood Circus). With obective of recuperating judaic culture of the diaspora in Spain, Ellen Gould created the Sefardi Mizrahi band, Mashala! accompanied by a group of excepcional international musicians ‘ all very well known in our country, where they have all been residing for years. Her proposal lets us in on a repetoire of works primarily transmitted via oral traditions, originating in Sefardi communities based in Turkey, Greece, Morroco, Algeria, Bosnia, Bulgaria and Romania, which they perform with a great spirit of festive celebration - true to their very name, Mashala! (Congratulations!) – all with the enchantment of their music, originating from from the very co-existence between cultures, making them (Mashalá!) all the more universal.
- Diversons, Caixa Forum


""Musicas de Bagaje" (Music with a background)"

"...The five members of Mashala! perform and practice co-existence by playing Sefardi'Mizrahi music. In their rehearsals, in the laughs which are apparent on their recording (on their 2 nd CD Atornada) and within their customs, they find a taste for diversity. Singing in ladino (Judeo-Spanish), Hebrew, Rachi, Arabic and French they recuperate ancient diasporic melodies, reinterpreting them adding their own contemporary influences. For Ellen, born in Canada of Sefardi origin, to sing these ancient tunes is a way of expressing and channeling her own culture and living back to Spain the music which belongs as well to this land. The group came about, originating from the need to share and comunícate what they themselves call a sort of virtual and multi-cultural sound country, a portal where distinctive religions and countries co-exist far from politics….”

- La Vanguardia, Magazine supplement «Culturas», 1 March 2006, 2


"“Mashala! seduces Algecirian Audiences"

Diario Sur, Algeciras, May 26, 2006,
Critique, Part 1, by Sandra Balvín, Culture and Music Critic, Andalucia

“Mashala! seduces Algecirian Audiences with music of Sefardi inspiration”
Performing in Diversons, a music cycle dedicated to World Music, the concert forms a part of the hundreth anniversary celebrations of the Port of Algeciras.

«…Some initial notes emanating from the stand-up bass of Franco Molinari was the first course on the menú of Mashala!, the Sefardi music group directed by the versatile Ellen Gould Ventura. The musicians performed last wednesday night at Maria Cristina Park in a part of the cycle of concerts, Diversons, organized by the the Caixa foundation under the auspices of the hundreth anniversary of the Port of Algeciras.

«…Mashala!, (Congratulations! in Ladino Turkish and Arabic) doesn’t need special effects or huge presentations to convince the public, who upon arriving didn’t know exactly what to expect, but by the end of the concert found itself on its feet in standing ovation for the band.


Travelling with music.
«…The artists came on one by one towards Molinari (off the top of the concert) , with a a repetroire of the Sefardi songs of exile, making their audience travel to places such as Turkey, Egypt, Morrocco, and Tunis. Gould Ventura, similar on ocasión to the virtuosity and wide range of Lisa Gerrard (member of Dead Can Dance and composer of famous sound tracks), was captivating from the beginning. The singer proved especially communicative drawing out various members of the audience who had abandoned any chances of reticence that may have existed at the beginning.

«…The musicians have come with with an impressive musical background. Their versatility and varied education have allowed them to navégate easily in many different waters. Khodari became the perfect and balanced male counterpart singer to the vocalist (E. Gould) in a number of the of the tunes played. Rosas, Briceño and Molinari combined their knowledge of technique and tradicional scores with an innovative spirit, which was made obvious without a doubt in one of the last pieces placed by the Italian bass player (Molinari).

«…In the end, the public didn´t want to let them leave. They stood up to ask for encores which the musicians gave willingly. Many of them stayed on, wanting more music…”

Diario Sur, Excerpt of Part 2 of the article by Sandra Balvina, Music and culture Critic of “Diario Sur” Newspaper (the main newspaper of Andalucia) and Mashala!´s principal singer and cofounder, Ellen Gould Ventura:

¨Singing this music is how I live and celebrate my culture¨.

The Sefardi Group (Mashalá!) premiers, Atornada, their second CD, as they set out on the tour they are doing with the bands who form “Diversons”

Mashala! describes their music as Sefardi, Mizrahi and World Groove. It´s only just the first inkling as to what comprises their sound which last week made up the concert they gave, forming a part of ‘Diversons’ (2006 Tour of world music in Spain). With exceptional musicians and Canadian singer, Ellen Gould (Ventura) they created a night of celebration in which almost 2 hours (of music), time and distance, removed any possible obstacles between the various cultures present.

- Diario Sur, Algeciras, Parts one and two


"“From Gospel to Kleyzmer, 10 days of Religious World music in Catalonia, Spain”"


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Culture and Tourism Section, Y’Net, (Israel) By Maya Mahler, Barcelona Foreign Correspondent, June 2006 (Equivalent to the NY Times in Israel)
(Original language: Hebrew)


¨…At the end of the month, in the old quarter of the city of Gerona in Catalonia, the Seventh annual Festival of Religious World Music will open. Between the picturesque narrow passageways and breathtaking stone buildings, the sound of music of various religious streams will be heard for 10 days….

¨…The band Mashala! will play Sefardi- Mizrahi music from various countries such as Turkey, Greece Morocco, Algeria and Bulgaria. If there is one music ensemble that represent this cultural mix - it is the band Mashalá!, which includes a Canadian Sefardi singer and four musicians from different places in the world - Morocco, Venezuela, Italy and Chile. For Ellen Gould Ventura, the lead singer in the band, to sing in Ladino in Spain symbolizes the resuscitation of her Spanish-Judaic roots. For those who miss these melodies and songs in Ladino, Hebrew-Rashi, Arabic or French, it’s highly recommended to follow the work of this band who have been very successful in the last few years in Spain.

- Y'Net, Israel


"Sounds of the World"


El Mundo, “Tendencias” (Fridays’ Culture Supplement), 20 October 2006, Barcelona (Catalunya Edition), Music Section, Sounds of the World By Ana María Dávila

“…THE PROJECT, DIVERSONS, WHICH THE CAIXA FOUNDATION PROMOTES, PROPOSES SERVING THE PLATFORM OF DISSEMINATION FOR ARTISTS OF DISTINCT PARTS OF THE WORLD WHO TODAY LIVE IN SPAIN AND THROUGH MUSIC, FOMENT THE DIALOGUE AND INTEGRATION OF DIFFERENT CULTURES….”

«…They come from all over the World. From the high planes of the Andes to the warm lands of Africa or the tumult of the East. But all of them have something in common, something that brings them together and makes them family: It´s called ¨Music¨and the universal language that knows no wars or borders.

Ellen (Gould Ventura) heads a project which investigates her roots in Judeo Arabic music. In 1998, Ellen Gould (Ventura), the Canadian singer, actress and writer came to Spain in search of her Sefardi roots. Some time after, in Barcelona, she formed Mashalá! a group that does Sefardi Mizrahi repetoire and who enlists a Morroccan, (Aziz Khodari, percussion and vocals) and Italian (Franco Molinari, acoustic bass, supplementary percussion and vocals) a Venezuelan (Ernesto Briceño, violin and vocals), and the otherwise well-known Chilean Multi-instrumentalist, Lautaro Rosas (Arabic Oud).

For her, the word that best describes Diversons is ¨Hope¨. Professional hope for the groups involved and hope as well to trasmit a message of peace to face the future through music. ¨Music is a key that opens hearts and one which has something in common for everyone,. ….» - El Mundo, Barcelona (Catalunya Edition)


"Mashala! is an Expression of Congratulations"

Festival, Music critic, Girona, Spain
(Translation from Catalan) May 2007

“…Mashala! is an expression of congratulations which is used just as much in Ladino ‘ Judeo Spanish as it is in Turkish and Arabic. It´s with this celebratory cry that the performers wish to evoque the depth and beauty which they reflect in the melodies of Sefardi exile from such places as Turkey, Greece, Morrocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Bosnia and Bulgaria. Their repetoire is an ecclectic selection of songs that have survived the claws of the inquisition. Regardless of their origins and diverse languages – Ladino, Hebrew, Arabic, French – all of them converge in the geographic environment of the countries of the south best of the Mediterranean, the majority of which are associated with Islam.

Ideological, social and cultural conflicts fomented by thought and behaviour is not a new idea in the 21st century. But in our times, when the reality created by the press imposes upon us an almost sterilized interpretation of subtle contradictions and shades, it´s hard to imagine a Judeo-Arabic tradition like that represented in today´s concert with Mashala!. Because systematic simplification and criticism comes easily to us, at times it´s necessary to relish in a repetoire like that of Mashalá! to finísh things off, far from the serious and fixed expressions of the authoritative and the wise and without falling into shameful euphoria of illusions, with the sonorous explosion of laughter that bursts into the celebration of a party, an attainment or a desired discovery…”
- Roots From Everywhere Festival


"The Music of Mashala! opens the cycle of ¨Music at the Castle¨at the top of the fortress"

August 2007, Denia (Alicante) Spain – Levante -Alacant


«…The warm and lovely voice of Canadian (Sefardi) singer Ellen Gould managed to enthuse a very large public, marking the concert of the group Mashala!. in their performance in the XVI edition of the Festival of Music at the Castle. Each year the festival makes a special effort to present the best of the tradicional music circuit.

Mashala! honored their name (in Ladino, Turkish and Arabic, it means, Congratulations) by exciting and eliciting wild applause and also people getting up from their seats to move to the rhythms of the most genuine Sefardi, and Mizrahi songs, not to mention their incursions into World Groove.

It was most definitely a great start to the Denia Tradicional Music festival stage which this year marries West and East as the nexous of acts present
- Levante-Alacant Press, Alicante Spain


"All Together Now - Mideast Fusion"

"Khodari, who perofrms with groups including the Orquestra Arab, 08001, Mashala!, Nass Marrakesh and Tarab, claimed he focuses on fusion because that's what sells best at the moment", but quickly conceded that there are more profound reasons for his choices. "From each group you learn something totally different. if you're not learning then you're screwed. I bring my own, Arabic culture to my work, but I'm always learning from others. So if I'm working with someone who plays flamenco, I have to learn about flamenco too. That's what fusion is all about: everybody brings their own culture."

Still he's particularly proud of one of his groups, Mashala! for its ability to challenge expectations. The catchy optimistic sound of Mashala! is the indirect result of Canadian singer Elleng Gould Ventura's search for her Sepharidic Jewish cultural roots, which brought her to Spain. Before, she had be performing jazz. "I was doing well...but something was always lacking".

After arriving here she started exploring Sephardic music and, she said, it was like coming home. Mashala! also includes members from Venezuela, Italy and Chile, but attention understandably often centres on her Jewish heritage and Khodari's Islamic faith. "We're asked alot, "How can a Jew and a Muslim be on the same stage together?, she said. "our reaction is, "How can you ask that question? We work together because we genuinely enjoy each other's work. People don't see how close the cultures are: they are very much intertwined. We're all from the same root. It's like we hace the same father but different mothers."

Although Mashala!'s lyrics and melodies are usually from Jewish texts, they blend these with motifs from all over the world. "We'll use jazz, or a little riff from South America, because they're references of who we are as a family. We have a song where I start singing in Hebrew, a religious song, and Aziz comes in singing a counter-melody in Arabic. Gradually the two songs move together, and that's how we show our two cultures."

Gould Ventura points out the fact that Mashala!'s music is a development of Sephardic music rather than 'pure" helps to keep the tradition alive. "the attitude towards the Jewish past is almost tourism. Instead of looking where we are as a culture, they don't look beyond the stones. They don't see that there's humanity there still. People see it as another world that has nothing to do with their culture. We're trying to extend the tradition."

Khodari agreed with her. "In Mashala! we don't enter into politics," he said,"we live in peace, as brothers. At the ends of our concerts, you see five people holding hands and embracing. Even though they're all different religions, they can mix and there is no problem. And if we can do that in music, why not in life?" - Metropolitan Magazine


Discography

Inde releases, Spain :
Emociones: Diversons: Compilation CD; The Caixa Foundation, Spain Release: December
Galicia Live! 2005
Atornada 2006/7
Mizidj (working title, Current CD in progress) (Mashala!)
(Spain/ Canada)

Photos

Bio

Mashala! was intially formed as the fruit of the investigation of the Sefardi/Mizrahi background of seasoned Canadian-born principal singer and director, Ellen Gould Ventura. After workshopping a contemporary circus-genre work for stage in Barcelona, Blood Circus, she realized that it was necessary to sing the traditional music of her culture and people in order for it to evolve into the 21st century, utilising the concert as a forum, giving this ancient body of music its voice of continuance.

Connecting with musicians in Barcelona through other world music projects, she began to collaborate with some truly great artists from all over the world who had been based in Barcelona and playing this music for many years. It was here she co-founded, Mashala! with initial percussionist and co founder, Chandra Naraine, wunderkind and brilliant vioinist-composer, Ernesto Briceno, from Maracay, Venezuela, (Virus String Quartet, Cesaria Evora, Celia Cruz, Tierra de Gracia) Italian Stand up bassist and percussionist, Franco Molinari, (Jaime Basulto, Kaula Kau). In 2005, the sound that is now their "signture" sound arrived with their current percussionist and accompanying vocalist, Aziz Khodari from Rabat Morrocco (Nass Marrakech, Orquesta Arabe de Barcelona, Miquel Gil). The band have also collaborated with various internationally reknowned Oud players like Yannis Papaiouannou and Moulay Sherif. Born into music through jazz over many years and having left that genre, singer E.Gould Ventura and musicians combined her Sefardi-Mizrahi roots and contemporary musical background, their own ethnic influences and also their contemporary musical sound and expertise. In doing so, a newer and more celebratory signature sound was created of this traditional music and the family of Mashala! was born.

The self-directed 5-piece group have been been electifying audiences and touring concert halls and festivals in Spain since 2004, along with the patronage of the Catalan arts foundation, Fundacio La Caixa, collaborations with Spanish promotors and representatives but maintaining their autonomy all the while.

Musical influences of the band: Ofra Haza, Nusfrat Fateh Ali Khan, Om Kalzoum, Misirli Ahmet, Yair Dalal, Fairouz, Said Artist,Didier Lockwood, Johann Sebastian Bach, Caetano Veloso, Ravi Shankar and family, Indian Classical Music in general, Salif Keita, Orquesta Andalusi de Tanger y Juan Pena Lebrijano, each other and many many others.

2008 is a prestigious year for the Judeo-Arabic quintet as they make their first foray as a band overseas in the world premier documentary production of a one-hour Music Special/ Documentary with the celebrated Indian-born director-composer, Cyrus Sundar Singh, and his Canadian production company, Salaam Shalom Productions and Telefilm Canada. The show is set for broadcast on Vision Televisión in Canada in October of 2008 and slotted for release in the Toronto Jewish Film Festival in April 2009. The story-line of this little piece of heaven on film mirrors the story of Mashala!: the initial research and discovery of the singers diasporic roots through her move to Barcelona 10 years ago and eventual embracing of her legacy of traditional Sefardi-Mizrahi music which has survived on the grass-roots basis of being passed down from grandmothers to mothers to daughters throughout the centuries.

With Barcelona as the canvas, each of the musicians paints their own picture, describing their lives, demonstrating their musical prowess and history. All becomes becomes self-evident as they wind through ancient streets, concertising, rehearsing and performing their versatile repetoire, playfully demonstrating their familial connection to each other and common objective: peace and co-existence in the world as expressed through their music and very identities.

www.mashala.org
www.salaamshalom.org