A Backstage Tour of The Forgotten Kingdom (Part 4): The Meeting at the Well

Featured Track: Yo Me Levantaría Un Lunes (The Meeting by the Well)

If you’ve been following these posts, you know that there are many myths about Sephardic song. One is that Sephardic song is (at least disproportionately) “mystical,” or “haunting,” or even “epic.”

While there indeed are epic ballads, beautiful images and adventurous tales of kings, queens, murders, kidnap and treachery apt for cut-throat fantasy novels, there are many more sides to Sephardic music too.

Some of the songs I like best give you a sense of the humour and spunk and living colour of the people who sing them. There’s a lot of fun, and some grit there, and some of it can be downright bawdy too.

 Admittedly, The Forgotten Kingdom often gets into heavier themes — in particular, this question of what it’s like to be caught in the middle of a transition from an older world to a new one, in this case ushered in by WWI, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and brought to full fruition by the fascism and the betrayals of WWII.  Nevertheless, I would be remiss if I did not also include some of these lighter, humourous and sometimes grittily amorous songs of day-to-day in the show, as a way of presenting some of the many sides of this older world and of these communities.

So here’s one such song, a mildly seductive one in which a young woman, on her way to fill her water jug, is met by a would-be lover who is eager to make the best of the chance to be alone with her. Instead of going along with him, she taunts him, using her charm to take charge of the situation.

“Wait, Wait, my young man,” she teases.
“I’ll go home and wash my beautiful body first,
adorn myself with a white gown.

Around my waist I’ll tie a belt with a purple sash.
And then you may turn up.
Say not another word of love until nighttime!
Not another word of love until morning!

Tetuán, Morocco, 1945

Tetuán, Morocco, 1945

And if you bring me jewels,
you may perhaps ascend to my bed.
And if you don’t bring me jewels,
Be gone with you,
You may sleep in the hen house!”

Check out a version of this song as it would have been sung in Tetuán, Morocco. The singer here is Ginette Benabu, recorded by Susana Weich-Shahak in 2003.

And now listen to our version, from The Forgotten Kingdom.

This arrangement was made for the Ensemble by Duncan Wickel.

I hope you’ll enjoy
— Guy