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Ladino Language Lives On Through Songs 

The Judeo-Spanish language (Ladino) is nowadays threatened with extinction because of the

limited number of speakers, its similarity to Spanish and weak rate of transmission to the younger

generations.  The population of Ladino speakers is so small that Ladino is a UNESCO endangered language.

Although few people today speak Ladino, the importance of the language to the Sephardic culture

is apparent in the preservation of the music since the time of the expulsion.

The choir's mission is to preserve the Ladino language and to hand it down to people in the United Sates, who

perhaps know or don't know that they have Sephardic roots.   It is extrimely important that this culture 

survive through music and that we pass it on from generation to generation to keep it alive.  We can't do all without your support! 


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Songs on CD "Las Romanzas y Cantigas De Sepharad"

Ladino Love Songs & Ballads from Spain

Sephardic Voyage of timeless and borderless music

Avre Tu Puerta Cerrada   
(Open Your  Door) 

We chose this as the first song of this CD because it reflects our desire and hope that you will open your heart and soul to the music that was carried along by the Sephardic Jews to the countries they migrated after the expulsion from Spain in 1492. In this song a young man is pursuing the “love of his life,” Rosa. Serenading her, he asks that she open her locked door and turn on the light in her balcony. He pleads with Rosa to come away with him for he is a deserving and faithful lover who only asks for her beauty that is so pure.


Ir Me Quero Madre 
(Go Love Me Mother)

Jerusalem has been in the hearts of Jews the world over since they were exiled by the Romans after the destruction of the Holy Temple. In this song the longing for Jerusalem is expressed by the supplicant to her mother.


Adio Querida

(GoodBye, My Beloved)

A Ladino love song of passion and embittered love. It is a farewell to an unfaithful lover who does not possess a heart that can love another. Giuseppe Verdi, whose patron was a Sephardic Jew, heard the song sung by this family and fell in love with the melody. He adapted it into his Opera La Traviata, also as a farewell song.


La Serena 

(The Mermaid)

The mermaid – A love song about a girl who lives in a tower in the middle of the sea and who loves sailors. In turn, one of the sailors desires to climb up to her nest and be her lover.


Scalerica De Oro

(LIttle Golden Ladder)

Is a wedding song about a bride who will ascend to the TEVA (Pulpit) up a little stairway of gold and ivory to take her marriage vows. The wedding guests have all come to see her and wish her joy, happiness and prosperity. The bride may have no money and no dowry, but everyone hopes that the couple may have good luck.


Durme, Durme

(Sleep, Sleep)

A mother sings a lullaby to her son, her little angel, who knows no pain, and she hopes that he will never know the world’s pain which she herself so deeply feels.


Mama Yo No Tengo Visto

(Mom I Haven't Seen)

This is another song of unrequited love where the lover is likened to a beautiful blue-eyed bird with cinnamon colored hair and skin as fair as jasmine. However, this bird after trying to win the heart of the lover, has forsaken her/him for another. The broken-hearted lover hearing the news is bitter and full of tears saying, “You should have at least sent me some candies.”


O Dio Mio

(Oh, my GOD!)

This song was adapted into ladino by Jak Salan from the well known Israeli song “Al Kol Ele” by Naomi Shemer. It is a personal prayer asking G’d to guard all that is precious to us and to protect all our People from fear, war and sorrow, and most of all to let us see that our People are united in the Land of Israel.


Arvoles Yoran Por Luvias
(The trees are crying for the rain )

This is a Ladino love song of longing and nostalgia. Trees cry for rain and mountains for winds, and so my eyes cry for you my beloved. I keep thinking, what will become of me. In foreign lands I shall die. It is said that when the Sephardic Jews were deported to the concentration camps in distant lands, they adopted this song as they were being lead to the trains. We hope that, the opening chords of our arrangement, reminiscent of a train slowing down to a full halt – conveys this message. This song as sung by the Choir, expresses the mood of utter despair felt by the people on these trains as they have, in their heavy hearts, grave doubts of ever returning to their homes and the lives that they were leaving behind.


Quando El Rey Nimrod
(When King Nimrod)

A favorite song among the Sephardim – is about the birth of Abraham. Upon becoming pregnant, his mother was well aware of the “treasure” she was carrying. The King, Nimrod, had also seen the Holy Light in the skies above the “Juderia” (The Jewish quarter) that signaled the birth of Abraham, our father, the light of Israel.



A song of love and flirtation – They call me the “dark one”, but I was born fair. I became this way from the summer sun. The pretty maiden dreams of being called away by the sailors, or maybe even the son of the King, should they become charmed with her beauty and dark eyes.


A La Una Yo Naci 

(At One I was born)

Is a song depicting the quick passage of time, from the birth of a child up to when she finds a lover and marries. The young woman’s suitor would like to get to know her and protect her, but he is on his way to war. All he can do as he departs is to throw two kisses into the wind, one for his mother and one for his beloved.


Los Bilbilicos

(The Nightingales)

This love song from the Romanceros repertoire, is very popular among the Sephardim. The nightingales sing with sighs of love in an enchanted garden where the roses bloom in the month of May, echoing the sufferings of a lover under the spell of his beloved.


Yo M’enamori D’un Aire

(I Fell In Love With Breeze)

A man tells of his falling in love with a charming woman who is like the wind, a very lovely woman, the beauty of his heart. However, he has become enamored with her at night and deceived by the moonlight. If he falls in love again, it would be by day when the sun shines.


La Vida Do Por El Raki

(I Give My Life To Arak)

A favorite song, particularly among those that love to drink the Raki. They like to drink until they lose their senses, but it helps them go through life with laughter and tears as the alcohol gives one the feeling of being grandiose and superior, or better yet, of being a millionaire.

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This is a Ladino love song of longing and nostalgia. Trees cry for rain and mountains for winds, and so my eyes cry for you, my beloved. I keep thinking, about what will become of me. In foreign lands, I shall die. It is said that when the Sephardic Jews were deported to the concentration camps in distant lands, they adopted this song as they were being led to the trains.  We hope that the opening chords of our arrangement, reminiscent of a train slowing down to a full halt – convey this message.  This song as sung by the Choir expresses the mood of utter despair felt by the people on these trains as they have, in their heavy hearts, grave doubts about ever returning to their homes and the lives that they were leaving behind.

About Us

The Kol Sephardic Choir (ROSE - Raphael Ortasse Sephardic Ensemble) is an upbeat and inspirational musical Choir and Ensemble comprised of a diversified group of singers who come to us from Los Angeles and Orange Counties. It is reflective of the diverse interests and ethnicities within these two communities. The choir's common bond is musical talent and a passion for music. In this case, their repertoire consists of Sephardic Romanceros sung in Ladino and Liturgical/Religious songs in Hebrew with Sephardic melodies.

Throughout the years of its existence, the Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble performed in local Synagogues and Jewish Community Center events in the wider Los Angeles area as well as in numerous public libraries and other locations in the Los Angeles and Orange counties. In addition, Kol Sephardic Choir performed in spacious venues such as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the program sponsored by the Los Angeles County Art Commission Music Festival held every year.

Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble was formed on April 22, 1992, in the Westside of Los Angeles. It is an unaffiliated group and the only Sephardic Choir in California and most likely in the United States that sings primarily Sephardic “Romanceros", "Cantigas" and "Coplas" in Ladino. Though initially, it was a "sing-along" group, it gradually transformed into a Choir of professional quality. This transformation began in 2005. 

The late Raphael Ortasse was the Founder and Director of Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble. The current Music Director and Conductor is Avi Avliav who arranged a number of the songs on our first CD. However, the person whose contributions initiated the transformation from a "sing-along" group into a choir was the late Daud Peres. He made the first arrangements for some of the songs that we currently sing.

The mere birth and existence of Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble here in Los Angeles is a key asset to the local community that has a large number of Sephardic Jews among its residents. Not only does it allow its members to express the Sephardic Culture and tradition in songs, but it also provides an opportunity to showcase the diversity and talents of our group of singers and ensemble.

From 2010 - 2011, Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble took time off from performances and concentrated its rehearsals on the recording of our first CD of Ladino songs. This is when Kol Sephardic Choir also became known as "ROSE" (Raphael Ortasse Sephardic Ensemble). This new symbol of the choir is a product of the creativity of Penina Solomon, one of our choir members. She is also the designer of the beautiful CD cover and libretto.

From the outset, the goal of the Kol Sephardic Choir was to disseminate the culture of the Sephardic Jews that originated in Spain prior to the expulsion in 1492, which was then carried by them to the countries they migrated to or welcomed by the rulers. In the Balkan countries, notably Greece, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria, the culture and traditions were not only kept alive but also flourished. Other countries that welcomed the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain are Turkey, Italy, North Africa, and Palestine (now Israel). There, their culture endured and flourished.

Kol Sephardic Choir and Ensemble is once again ready to perform and we look forward to presenting the Choir to Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Further, we hope to spread the Sephardic culture and message of inspiration throughout the US and abroad. 

The dancers of Pasion Flamenca de Los Angeles have created original choreographies for ROSE music and have been performing together since 2012.



Dedication. Expertise. Passion.

"That man is a success- who leaves the World better than he found it;
Who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had"

What A treat!

This CD is fabulous! It's a rare example of the beauity and passion of Sephardic music. The songs are exquisit, the singers are stellar and the choir is magnificent. More please.

Unique Ladino Music Experience

Sephardic music has its roots in the Jewish Communities of medieval Spain. After their expulsion, the Jews migrated to Italy, Turkey, North Africa, and other places which influenced the music that accompanies the poems and stories of songs. The songs are in Ladino, the language of the Jews in Spain in the 14th & 15th centuries.

This 16-song CD uniquely blends beautiful melodies with the stories told by the songs. The choir's harmonies and soloists do an excellent job of creating a picture of these love songs and stories.

Let Legacy live!

Awesome choir, outstanding arrangement, and most importantly- so much heart from our Raphael Ortasse  & talented Musical Director and arranger- Avi Avliav.  Let the memory of Raphael always live in our hearts and for choir - the ability to carry out his dream/legacy so much further, can share it with the community, and pass it on to future generations.  Get to know ROSE!  God Bless!

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