Guest artists: Vanessa Paloma and Gloria Abella Ballen

MYSTIC SIREN by Gloria Abella Ballen

La Serena / The Mermaid

This famous song of the Ladino [medieval Judeo-Spanish] repertoire is reminiscent of the mystic stories of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. The wonderful Siren in the window, who has the secret to love, is the answer to the concern about woman’s alluring danger. She is the soul who is waiting for the seeker to come and experience mystic union. ~ Vanessa Paloma

Click to listen:

Ladino lyrics:
Si la mar era de leche
Los barquitos de canela
Yo me mancharía entera
Por salvar la mi bandiera.

Si la mar era de leche
Yo me haría un pexcador
Pexcaría mis dolores
Con palavricas de amor.

Si la mar era de leche
Yo me haría vendedor
Caminando y preguntando
¿Donde se’mpeza l’amor?

En la mar hay una torre
En la torre una ventana
En la ventana una hija
Que los marineros ama.

Dame la mano tu palomba
Para suvir a tu nido
Maldicha que duermes sola
Vengo a durmir contigo.

No me mates con cuchillo
Ni menos con revolver
Matame con tus amores
En tus brazos muereré.

English translation:
If the sea were of milk
And boats were of cinnamon
I would stain myself completely
To save my banner.

If the sea were of milk
I would become a fisherman
I would fish out my pain
With words of love.

If the sea were of milk
I would become a salesman
Walking and asking
Where does love begin?

In the sea there’s a tower
In the tower there’s a window
In the window there’s a girl
Who loves sailors.

Give me your hand, dove
So I may come to your nest
Wretched are you that sleeps alone!
I come to sleep with you.

Don’t kill me with a knife
Nor with a revolver
Kill me with your love
I will die in your arms.

Vanessa Paloma is an internationally known performer, author, scholar and lecturer. Born in Bogotá and currently based in Casablanca, she specializes in Judeo-Spanish music from the Sephardic Diaspora; her recent work focuses on Morocco’s Jewish women’s music and oral traditions. She is a Research Associate of the Hadassah Brandeis Institute and a former Senior Fulbright Research Scholar to Morocco.

Gloria Abella Ballen is an international-award-winning artist living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has been professor and invited artist/lecturer at universities in the United States, England, China, Colombia and Israel. She is the art director for the publisher Gaon Books.

Paloma and Ballen, as a mother-daughter team, collaborated on the book Mystic Siren: Woman’s Voice in the Balance of Creation, from which the text and artwork above are taken. “La Serena” performance © by Flor de Serena, a Judeo-Spanish ensemble: Vanessa Paloma, voice; Jordan Charnofsky, guitar; David Martinelli, percussion; Vic Koler, bass. English translation by Vanessa Paloma; contact for permission to reuse audio or text. “Mystic Siren” artwork © by Gloria Abella Ballen; contact for permission to reprint.

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2 Responses to Guest artists: Vanessa Paloma and Gloria Abella Ballen

  1. Me hace soñar de galletas de canela y una taza de leche . . . ¡servidas por una sirena!

  2. Pingback: Musical Monday | The Owl Underground

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