GERARD EDERY TO BE A JEWISH TROUBADOUR IN AMERICA
BY: GAD NAHSHON
"I see myself as a Jewish troubadour in America. I love to develop an intimate relationship with my audience. I would like to enjoy my unique new interpretations especially as to the Judeo-Spanish tradition of songs of the musicial culture," said singer Gerard Edery in a recent interview conducted at his Sefarad Records Studio (392 Central Park West, New York City 10025-8214).
Gerard Edery, an outstanding classical guitarist and magnetic bass-baritone singer, is a musical institution in America. He is a popular singer who offers all programs either solo or with his Edery Ensemble, a group of extraordinary musicians on percussion vocals, guitars and piano. Edery sings solo or with his Ensemble in 12 foreign languages and he always explains the meaning of his poetic performances in English.
Edery, a superb musician, has a commitment to the quality of his text. Edery also always develops his own unique enriching interpretation to the songs that he decides to work with.
Why is Gerard Edery so unique in America? "I am a product of many ethnic backgrounds. I am the son of the Mediterranean culture, from North Africa, from the Berber culture to the Spanish culture. I grew up using French. I am a Jew who is influenced by the Jewish tradition, religion and by the Hebrew and Israeli culture. I was born in Casablanca of Sephardic Moroccan and Argentine descent. I was raised in Paris and New York City. My grandpa, for example, spoke only Arabic and Hebrew to me," said Edery. His multi-cultural exposure has enriched his life and unique talents.
In America, he received an M.A. degree from the Manhattan School of Music. His career started as a classical guitarist. Edery is a virtuoso who could be just a guitar concert player, especially when he performs Spanish pieces. "But I felt a need to sing. So I became a singer and an actor. Prior to 1992, I worked primarily as a bass-baritone opera singer and classical guitarist," said Edery who also produced his own opera singing C.D.
A turning point in his professional life took place in 1992 when the world Jewish community commemorated the 500 years of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Edery, being a Moroccan-Sephardic young artist, decided to go back to his own roots. And since 1992 he has dedicated his life to the studying, recording and singing of his Judeo-Sephardic- Latino culture. "My performance for the quincentenary changed my outlook on life and music. I began rediscovering my roots and researching all Jewish musical tradition," said Edery. He also confessed to me, "I sing in many languages such as in Yiddish, but I feel really good in my natural Judeo-Sephardic world of music. I feel the soul. I feel free. After all, I have a Mediterranean personality. This unique environment is in my Jewish blood." But he also told me that he loves the Hebrew culture and he feels mostly connection with his Jewish roots, especially when he performs in Hebrew.
Edery loves ancient Jewish music. He loves sacred music. He was exposed to religious songs and arranged them in his own style and interpretation. When he sings them, you can feel that they do express Edery's own way to communicate with his roots and with God.
Edery usually presents in his shows the following programs: "Guitar Give Me Your Song", folk classical and popular songs from around the world; "Israel in Song", a musical panorama of Israel's diverse people; "Espano", classical guitar and Flamenco-inspired renditions of Spanish and Sephardic songs from medieval times to present; "Jerusalem Forever", for the 3000th year anniversary; "Musical Journey Throughout the Jewish Year", a program for children and "Cabaret: Brel- Brassens", an evening of French songs. Edery has performed in many places all over the world. He performed in many Jewish centers, in the United Nations, as well in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. He performed at the Library of Congress and in many clubs. Also, he performed in many festivals such as the Cervantino International Festival in Mexico. In May, 1997, he will be a guest singer in Morocco at the "Le Grand Retour", a unique international Jewish Moroccan reunion organized by Jetaway Tours, Inc., a New York travel agency.
Edery radiates special emotional power in his performances. He voice is great. His quality is high. It is not surprising to find that his audience becomes electrified and that the critics love him. One, Leslie Gerber, write, "Edery has a magnetic but friendly stage presence. He commands the stage when he sings." She attended his evening of "Judeo-Spanish and Spanish songs". She wrote that Edery began his concert with a song that "sounded like Flamenco sung in Hebrew." "Bravo Mr. Edery! Your virtuoso performances in Taipei, Pinchung and Taichung were the season's highlight," wrote a concert organizer from Taiwan. Edery kept telling me that he looks for Jewish-Sephardic material which has an inside universal message and meaning. He also views himself as an educator who teaches his listeners through the heart. And as to other Jews, he said, "I enjoy giving people a feeling of where they came from. It helps them affirm their Jewish identity through culture and music..."
Edery's "Sefarad Records" have produced the following C.D.s: "Romanzas Seferaditas" ('Como LaRosa', 'Noches, Noches', 'Avraham Avinu'); "Guitar Give Me Your Song" ('All En Midbar', "Go Down Moses', Montanas', "Shalom Alechem'); to be on the market in November or December "Come to the Garden" with Hebrew songs and "Linda Amiga". Most of the songs in these C.D.s are Spanish of Judeo-Sephardic. Some are in Hebrew, based on Jewish liturgic music.
Edery loves to expose old Spanish or Judeo-Spanish ballads. "I look for text which reflects universal value. The message of many love songs, for example, 'The King Was Waking One Morning', a 12th century song, is the same as today. Most of these songs were sung from generation to generation and they were printed only after the expulsion of Jews from Spain," explained Edery, who is not a musicolog, per se. He told me that he did not find songs which expressed the world of the Maranos or the Conversos, the Jews who secretly kept their Jewish religion as new Christians.
As to the Latino culture, Edery remarked that the Latino songs are not that sad and they do not express the trauma of the 1492's expulsion, the last Jewish massive expulsion. "Perhaps because of the fact that the Ottoman Empire turned to be their haven of refuge, so that their suffering was mitigated," suggested Edery and he went on to typify the Latino songs. "They are songs of love and courtship. Most of them are in a minor key. They are very romantic by nature. Some express our religious rituals or our history or bible. And most of them also were influenced by the Moorish tradition."
Can Edery define the term Jewish music? Well, I think about it. We have to explain that there is secular music and liturgical music. We, the Jews, have the sacred texts. They make us into one nation. But the melodies are another story. Spanish music influenced the Judeo-Spanish music and they are different from Yemenite music. It is very hard to come across universal Jewish music which symbolizes, per se, the Jewish collective culture," said Edery, who is looking non-stop to connect himself spiritually to his beautiful heritage.
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