Susan Gaeta: From Her Nona’s Drawer

Susan Gaeta Sephardic Folk Songs: The Journey Continues

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In 2002, the Virginia Folklife Program invited Susan Gaeta to participate in the Master/Apprenticeship program with Sephardic musician and composer Flory Jagoda. A 2002 recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship, Flory Jagoda is known as “the keeper of the flame” of the once rich Sephardic Jewish song tradition. Flory sings the songs she learned from her nona (grandmother) as a child in pre-WWII Sarajevo – songs which have been passed down in her family since they fled the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. All of her ballads are sung in Ladino, a Judeo-Spanish language dating back centuries.

Susan Gaeta, an accomplished musician in her own right, demonstrates a deep intellectual and personal interest in carrying on this precious traditional art form.

Each time the Sephardic people were exiled, the key to the front door of each family home was carried away by the reluctant travelers… Also carried away was the language and culture of the country that had been home for hundreds of years.

Nona’s kitchen drawer was full of song lyrics collected from the many Sephardic women who gathered there. Flory Jagoda’s richest musical inheritance, that now touches me, came from her Nona’s drawer. Like the women who breathed before us, the voices and hearts of those who carried the tradition, pass through me to sing for you now.
– Susan Gaeta

  1. Flory’s Introduction (Chichi Bunichi)
    La lingua de la madre-the language of the mother-all my songs that I brought to this country, I learned from my Nona— a real Sephardic folk singer. She sang a lot of Bosnian folk songs and little by little the Sephardic songs were losing the Spanish touch and adapting the flavor and the rhythms of Bosnia but the lyrics were always there. They have never left their Ladino language. I sing it in a very old fashioned Bosnian way. Then I taught my daughter, my daughter taught my aprentesita. It doesn’t sound the same—but it travelled— and this is the story of Sephardic songs. They could sound French, they could sound Greek, or Turkish because they settled in so many different lands. So when I heard them singing for the first time I said, “My God! It’s American now!” and I was so happy to hear that.
  1. Yo M’enamori
    Yo m’enamori d’un aire
    D’un aire de una mujer
    D’una mujer muy ermoza
    Linda de mi korason
    Yo m’enamori de noche
    El lunar ya m’enganyo
    Si esto era de diya
    Yo no atava amor
    Si otra vez yo m’enamoro
    D’un aire de una mujer
    D’una mujer muy ermoza
    Linda de mi korason
    Sea de diya kun el sol
  2. Pesah Ala Mano
    Purim, Purim Purim lano
    Pesah, Pesah a la mano
    Las masas si stan faziendo
    Los japrakis si stan koziendo
    Aman, Aman
    Il Dyo bendicho muz da mazal
    Purim, Purim, Purim lano
    Pesah, Pesah ala mano
    La Nona sta diziendo a
    los nyetos
    Alimpya il puelvo kantones
    i los techos
    Purim, Purim Purim lano
    Pesah, Pesah ala mano
    Il Sinyor Rubi disho a las tiyas
    No kumer il pan ocho diyas
  3. Simhat Tora
    Simhat Tora
    Simhat Tora
    Ya se nacyo la kriyatura
    Kun las kantikas di alegriyas
    Buenas pastelis di mis tiyas
    Simhat Tora
    Simhat Tora
    Las mansanas, myel i sirezas
    Il anyu muevu kun las dulsezas
    Simhat Tora
    Simhat Tora
  4. Siniza I Fumo
    En la guerta kemada
    Asentada la fija
    Pasharos pretos
    Apretan su korason
    Por los sielos ariva
    Pasa la luna
    Tapando su kara
    Kun una nuve de karbon
    Siniza I fumo
    Bolando, kayendo
    En un esfuenyo malo
    Sin salvasyon
    Siniza I fumo
    Inchen suz ojos
    No ay ken ke la desperte
    A darle konsolasyon
  5. Las Tiyas
    Tiya Mazalta muz va a yamar
    nochi di Hanuka
    Tiya Graysa muz va a yamar
    nochi di Hanuka
    Para sinder las kandelikas kun
    toda la mispaha
    Las hanukiyas di sirma blanka
    muz kali alimpyar

    Tiya Luna muz va a yamar
    nochi di Hagada
    Tiya Safira muz va a yamar
    nochi di Hagada
    Para kumer las albondikas kun
    toda la mispaha
    Kantaremus “Un Kavritiko”
    dispuez di las birahas

    Tiya Paloma muz va a yamar
    a kumer in la Suka
    Tiya Estreya muz va a yamar
    a kumer in la Suka
    Kun frutas i flores di muchas
    kolores
    Kun toda la mispaha

  6. La Orasion de la Mujer
    Kun esta kandela
    Arrogamos al Dyo
    El Dyo de muestros padres
    Avram, Isak i Yakov
    Ke muz de vida saludoza
    A todus miz keridus
    I al mundo intero
    Kun esta kandela
    Arrogamos al Dyo
    El Dyo de muestras madres
    de Israel
    Sara, Rifka, Lea i Rahel
    Ke muz de paz i amor
    A todus miz keridus
    I al mundo intero
    Amen
  7. Madre Miya
    Madre miya si mi muero
    Hazanim no kero yo
    Si no doze mansevikos
    Adelantre l’ mi aron
    Halva sheker ola
    Madre miya si mi muero
    Ke me yevan davagar
    Ke veyan ke so
    muchachika
    Ke se metan a yorar
    Halva sheker ola
  8. El Diya De Purim
    Mordehay manda i dize
    A los Djidyos ke se avize
    En Adar katordze i kindze
    Ke es diya de Purim
    Biva yo, biva el Rey
    Bivan todos Israel
    Biva la Rena Ester
    Ke moz dio tanto plaser
    Il Aman mamzer segundo
    Asi tenga negro mundo
    Kijo echar Djidyos al fundo
    En los diyas de Purim
    Kon la asukri i la farina
    Ya moz vyene la madrina
    Para fazer la halva fina
    Para l’dia de Purim
  9. Buena Semana
    Buena semana moz del Dyo
    Buena semana moz del Dyo
    Buena semana moz del Dyo
    Salud i vida
    Ke miz fijus vengan al Kal
    Ke moz fijus vengan a Kal
    Para maldar la Tora
    Salud i vida
    Para maldar kun Talasim
    Para maldar kun Talasim
    Para trayer los Tefillin
    Salud i vida
  10. De Boka Del Dyo
    Non ay santo komo Adonay
    I non ay piyadozo komo
    Ben Amram
    I non ay guadrada komo
    muestra ley
    I non ay ken la malde
    komo Israel
    De boka del Dyo,
    de boka del Dyo
    Seamoz bendichos todoz
    los Djidios
    Mip-pi-el, mip-pe-el
    Yevorah kol Israel
    Non ay fuerte komo Adonay
    I non ay bendicho komo
    Ben Amram
    I non ay grande komo
    muestra ley
    I non ay ken la malde
    komo Israel
    Non ay ermozo komo Adonay
    I non ay viyejo komo
    Ben Amram
    I non ay limpyo komo
    muestra ley
    I non ay ken la malde
    komo Israel
    Non ay bueno komo Adonay
    I non ay limpyo komo
    Ben Amram
    I non ay derecha komo
    muestra ley
    I non ay ken la malde
    komo Israel
  11. Anderleto
    Anderleto, mi Anderleto
    Mi kerido i namorado
    Ay, mi kerido i namorado
    Mas te kero, i mas te amo
    Ke il Rey kun su renado
    Ay, ke il Rey kun su renado
    Doz ijikos de ti tengo
    I doz del Rey ke son kuatro
    Ay, i doz del Rey ke son kuatro
    Los del Rey tienen kavayos
    I los tuyos son en mis brasos
    Ay, i los tuyos son en mis brasos
  1. I Fell In Love
    I fell in love with the charms
    The charms of a woman
    Of a very beautiful woman
    The beauty of my heart
    I fell in love at night
    The moonlight was my undoing
    If it had been in daylight
    Love would not have bound me
    If I fall in love again
    With the charms of a woman
    Of a very beautiful woman
    The beauty of my heart
    It will be by day with the sunlight
  2. Pesach Is At Hand
    Purim, Purim, Purim is over
    Pesach, Pesach is at hand
    Matzot are being made
    The stuffed leaves are being baked
    Aman, Aman
    Almighty God gives us good fortune
    Purim, Purim, Purim is over
    Pesach, Pesach is at hand
    The grandmother is telling
    the grandchildren
    Clean the dust, corners
    and ceilings
    Purim, Purim, Purim is over
    Pesach, Pesach is at hand
    The Rabbi tells the aunts
    Not to eat bread for eight days
  3. Rejoicing of the Law
    Rejoicing of the law
    Rejoicing of the law
    A new child is born
    With songs of happiness
    My aunts arrive laden with pies
    Rejoicing of the law
    Rejoicing of the law
    Apples, honey and cherries
    To sweeten the new year
    Rejoicing of the law
    Rejoicing of the law
  4. Ash and Smoke
    In the parched garden
    The girl sits
    Blackbirds
    Weigh down her heart
    In the sky above
    The moon passes
    Hiding her face
    In a cloud of ashes
    Ash and smoke
    Flying, Falling
    in a nightmare
    with no salvation
    Ash and smoke
    Swell her eyes
    There is no one to wake her
    To give her consolation
  5. The Aunts
    Aunt Mazalta will invite us the
    night of Hanukah
    Aunt Grasya will invite us the
    night of Hanukah
    To light the little candles with the
    whole family
    The menorahs of white silver
    must be cleaned

    Aunt Luna will invite us the
    night of Passover
    Aunt Safira will invite us the
    night of Passover
    To eat the matzah balls with the
    whole family
    We will sing “Chad Gadya” after
    the prayers

    Aunt Paloma will invite us to
    eat in the Sukkah
    Aunt Estreja will invite us to
    eat in the Sukkah
    With fruits and flowers of many
    colors
    With the whole family

  6. The Woman’s Prayer
    With this candle
    We pray to God
    God of our Fathers
    Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
    To grant us good life and health
    To all my dear ones
    And the whole world
    With this candle
    We pray to God
    God of our Mothers
    of Israel
    Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel
    To grant us peace and love
    To all my dear ones
    And the whole world
    Amen
  7. Mother Mine
    Mother mine, if I die
    Cantors I do not want
    But twelve young men
    Walking before my coffin
    Halva and sugar
    Mother mine, if I die
    Let then carry me gently, slowly
    So they may see that I am
    a young maiden
    Then they will cry
    Halva and sugar
  8. Purim Day
    Mordechai’s proclamation
    To all the Jews is
    That the 14th and 15th of Adar
    Is the day of Purim
    Long life to me, long live the King
    Long live all of Israel
    Long live Queen Ester
    Who gave us so much pleasure
    Haman was one of many persecutors
    May he be cursed
    He wanted to do away with the Jews
    In the days of Purim
    With sugar and flour
    The godmother is coming to us
    To make fine halvah
    For the days of Purim
  9. A Good Week
    May God give us a good week
    May God give us a good week
    May God give us a good week
    Health and life
    May my sons come to the synagogue
    May my sons come to the synagogue
    To study Torah
    Health and life
    To pray with the Tallis
    To pray with the Tallis
    And bring the Tefillin
    Health and life
  10. From God’s Mouth
    No one is as holy as God
    And no one as pious as the
    son of Amram
    Nothing protects
    like our Law
    And no one reads it
    like Israel
    From God’s mouth,
    From God’s mouth
    All the Jews should
    be blessed.
    Mip-pi-el, mip-pe-el
    Yevorah kol Israel
    There is no one as mighty as God
    And no one as blessed as the
    son of Amram
    There is nothing greater
    than our Law
    And no one reads it
    like Israel.
    There is no one as beautiful as God
    No sage as wise as the
    son of Amram
    There is nothing purer
    than our Law
    And no one reads it
    like Israel
    There is no one as good as God
    And no one purer than the
    son of Amram
    There is nothing more righteous
    than our Law
    And no one reads it
    like Israel
  11. Anderleto
    Anderleto, my Anderleto
    My dear one, my beloved
    My dear one, my beloved
    I want you more, I love you more
    Than the king and all his kingdom
    Than the king and all his kingdom
    Two sons have I from you
    And two from the king makes four
    And two from the king makes four
    The king’s sons have horses
    And your sons are in my arms
    And your sons are in my arms