Yasmin Levy, a leading Ladino singer, said she has decided to visit Turkey’s central Konya province to learn famous Sufi dance, known as Sema.
“I watched the dervishes carefully while they were whirling and I said ‘I want to learn it’,” Levy, a Israeli singer, songwriter and a performer of Sephardic origin with family roots in Turkey, told Anadolu Agency after her concert in Konya.
“The reason I want to learn [Sema dance] is to be more modest. It makes you understand that ‘I’m nothing’. It is just your soul and Allah,” she added.
Konya is a hub for Sufism, as the 13th-century Sufi mystic, poet and Islamic scholar Mevlana Jalaluddin al-Rumi lived most of his life in the province and buried there.
“It took me to a different world. I felt modesty. They make themselves so tiny, because we are tiny. I believe God is great, we are nothing,” she said, adding that she knew the Sufism for many years but she has just “realized the real meaning.”
The followers of the Mevlevi Order — also known as the Order of the Whirling Dervishes — are known for their tolerance, graciousness and discretion, something which sets them apart from today’s hectic pace of life.
“What I found similar with me [and Sufis] is I’m a person believing in God. I never go on to stage saying ‘God give me luck’, I say ‘God please allow me show your beauty through me’,” Levy said.
She recalled her first encounter with Sufism and said she heard it from the Turkish master of ney flute, Omer Faruk Tekbilek, in the U.S.
“Today while listening to the Sufi music here, I told my husband that ‘I grew up with this music but without knowing it was the Sufi music’,” Levy said.
Feeling at home in Turkey
She said she was feeling at home when she came to Turkey, added she had a picture taken when she was one and half year old, in which she is seen dancing to a Turkish music played by her father.
“I’m Turkish, I grew up with this music,” she said, adding that she visited Turkey’s western Manisa province — her father’s hometown.
“I was brought up with [iconic Turkish musician] Orhan Gencebay’s music at home. I listen to him since my childhood,” Levy said, noting that she wanted to meet him and sing with him one day.
The 43-year-old performer is considered by many as the leading singer in Ladino — an ancient mix of Hebrew and Spanish.
The award-winning singer is also well known for her emotional songs such as “Naci en Alamo” and “La Alegria.”
Her music is a mix of Sephardic influences and the musical traditions of the Middle East and Anatolia. She also combines Middle Eastern instruments such as the darbuka, oud, and European instruments like violin, cello, and piano.