Jewish mom perpetuates Ladino with kid-friendly music
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Interview'I want to ensure that my daughters are proud of the rich tradition from which they come'

Jewish mom perpetuates Ladino with kid-friendly music

Singer-songwriter Sarah Aroeste's new album is a wake-up call for kids and parents to preserve a dying Jewish culture

Ladino musician Sarah Aroeste releases her latest album 'Ora de Despertar,' or 'Time to Wake Up.' (Courtesy of Sarah Aroeste)
Ladino musician Sarah Aroeste releases her latest album 'Ora de Despertar,' or 'Time to Wake Up.' (Courtesy of Sarah Aroeste)

Kveller via JTA — Sarah Aroeste is one of those people who seem utterly fascinating. She’s a mom and Ladino musician who recently released her fourth album “Ora de Despertar,” or “Time to Wake Up.”

In her music, she explores her connection between her Sephardic roots in Greece and her passion for Ladino musical traditions.

Ladino is the Judeo-Spanish language written and spoken by Jews of Spanish origin, which means it’s a blend of medieval Spanish and words from Hebrew, Arabic and Portuguese.

Aroeste recently became a second-time mom to her second daughter, so she’s been pretty busy balancing motherhood and being a professional musician. Her album, released on March 25, is a kid-friendly collection focusing on the times of day, food, body parts, numbers, nature and more.

How do you find time to make music and parent? What’s your secret?

Luckily, life with my kids makes good fodder for my music. Whether I stare in awe of them by their simple joys, or seek a rock to hide under when they tantrum, I write songs about it. That cuts my work-time in half, as I don’t have to look very far for inspiration these days.

What are you working on right now?

I’m just now releasing my 4th record, an all-original Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) children’s album. A lot of people think that Ladino is extinct, or at least on its way to a slow death. I want to make sure that people know this isn’t the case. Ladino culture is such an important part of Jewish history and I want to ensure that my daughters are proud of the rich tradition from which they come.

‘We have to start teaching our kids our culture or indeed it will get lost’

The project (which also includes an animated video series, songbook and more) is called “Ora de Despertar,” or “Time to Wake Up.” For children, it’s the title track of the album and is just a fun, catchy song about the rituals of waking up in the morning. But for adults it’s a wake-up call — we have to start teaching our kids our culture or indeed it will get lost.

What TV show have you binge watched?

I wish I could say something trendy and current, but I live in rural middle-of-nowhere and have no broadband. Amazon and Netflix are foreign to us in the boondocks. But the last show I binged on was “Breaking Bad” — my husband is from New Mexico, and before I married him, I wanted to understand his obsession with his state.

The cover of Sarah Aroeste's latest album, 'Ora de Despertar,' or 'Time to Wake Up' (Courtesy)
The cover of Sarah Aroeste’s latest album, ‘Ora de Despertar,’ or ‘Time to Wake Up’ (Courtesy)

If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?

I’m a sucker for tashlikh (Jewish atonement ritual performed during the High Holidays), so I’d have to say Rosh Hashanah. It’s the perfect antidote after your family has driven you crazy the night before; you get the chance to apologize right after. No really, I truly love watching my regrets and apologies float away, there’s something so spiritual and cathartic about it that I look forward to each year.

What’s your weirdest family tradition?

Naming my daughters hard-to-pronounce Hebrew names. Our extended families can’t understand why we did it.

What is your least favorite Jewish phrase?

I can’t stand the word nudnik (annoying person). But I guess that’s the point?

What personal object could you not live without?

I’m one of the last people I know who still wears a watch. I feel lost without it. And it’s an old chunky Swatch watch to boot. I’m obsessed.

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