Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
The Schmooze

Monday Music: Starting From Flamenco

“Ride,” the debut album from New York City-based band Caramelo, has global ambitions worthy of its name. The opening track, “The Girl is Gone,” sets the tone for the rest of the album when Jewish singer Sara Erde trades smooth fly-girl R&B vocals with flamenco artist Alfonso Cid. While Erde’s voice is immediate, alternating rapidly between English and Spanish, Cid’s is bombastic and distant.

Image by JP Sevillano

The twin voices suggest two different approaches to Latin American music. In Erde’s hands (and vocal chords) flamenco music is a starting point. She quickly shifts between stylized salsa swings and sounds (of course, there are many “ay, ay, ays”) and funky, bending R&B vocals that suggest she’s been studying Janelle Monáe and taking notes. She code-swaps smoothly, rhyming: “Que rico, the sugar in your soul / Despacito, the way you lose control.” Cid’s vocals are more traditional, creating distance linguistically, stylistically and in the mix, where we hear him in echoes and reverberations.

The eclectic approach works for Erde, who was born in a heavily Spanish-speaking part of Brooklyn and spent six years living in Seville, Spain. Because Erde embodies her different influences so effortlessly, sometimes the rest of the album has trouble keeping pace. This is particularly evident on tracks like “Brooklyn” and “Peligroso,” which attempt to incorporate Eastern European accordion riff clichés. These never rise above the level of pastiche, and one has to wonder if they were included to simply stuff the album with more sounds.

If Erde intended to borrow klezmer riffs to bring her own Jewish background into the mix, she missed an even better opportunity. Scholars have long suggested that flamenco itself has Jewish roots. They trace the “aaiee” of flamenco music back to the plaintive cries common to Jewish cantorial services. As the Inquisition stamped out public performances of sacred Jewish life, those cries became sublimated in a secular tradition closely linked to apostates, Muslims, nomads, and conversos. If Erde is aware of this history, she leaves it unspoken.

Still, on an album that lasts less than half an hour there are plenty of wonderful moments, including the aforementioned “Brooklyn.” It’s a slice of urbane New York cosmopolitan pop where Erde sings, raps and advises, “You love the life you live / You live the life you love / Everything you have in mind Jah will give.” With everything else going on, you might miss that these lyrics come from 1980s Jamaican dancehall and reggae artist Half Pint. That’s just the kind of album it is: blink and you’ll miss the fusion pop.

Watch a video for ‘The Girl is Gone’:

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.