Hanukkah is almost here, and if you’re looking for a twist to your holiday playlist, here’s my recommendation: a simple yet sweet adaptation of the Sephardic song “Ocho Kandelikas,” re-arranged and produced by Erran Baron Cohen and featuring the Ladino vocals of Yasmin Levy. If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out. Here’s a snippet.
This fresh take on the song hails from Baron Cohen’s 2008 album, Songs in the Key of Hanukkah (thanks to the iconic Stevie Wonder for inspiring that title). As Baron Cohen told NPR upon the CD’s release, his intention was simple: to bring new energy to the holiday by transforming a number of classic tunes associated with it and adding a few new originals.
“Ocho Kandelikas” is among the popular favorites chosen for the album, though it’s not as Old World as it may sound. As reported in a Tablet Magazine podcast, Bosnia native and Sephardic folk singer Flory Jagoda composed it in 1983 in homage to the music of her ancestors.
I am particularly drawn to Baron Cohen’s re-imagination of Jagoda’s song, with its tango vibe and inventive use of the bandoneón. Listen for a hint of flamenco, too. Then, hear the soulful voice of world-music superstar and Judeo-Spanish singer/songwriter Yasmin Levy. For me, this global approach makes it a brilliant interpretation.
Purchase “Ocho Kandelikas” by Erran Baron Cohen off iTunes.
For more world-music spins on holiday songs, don’t miss the Skirball’s Hanukkah Family Festival this Sunday, December 11. Though neither Baron Cohen nor Levy will be there, come see Triumph of the Egg, The Golden State Klezmers, and more.