year, as part of the Municipality of Nicosia’s Summer Nights Festival, the city will be hosting ARKUL, two young musicians from the divided city of Mostar, in Bosnia & Herzegovina, who will perform their own special brand of Sephardic music on 12 July at the Ayia Varvara Square in Kaimakli at 8:30pm. Entrance is free.
ARKUL is composed of lead vocalist Vladimir Mickovic (left), and multi-instrumentalist Atilla Aksoj (right), who plays guitar, mandolin, saz and accordion, among other instruments. In Cyprus he will also be playing a mando-bouzouki, a unique instrument created especially for him.
ARKUL researches, sings and plays the music of the Bosnian Sephardim, a sub-group of the Jewish people who migrated east from Spain after the inquisition. This rare form of music traces the history of its people over many generations, blending elements from medieval Spain through to present day Mediterranean, North African and Balkan cultures. It bears familiar elements from our own musical heritage, yet is totally new in its colours and language; it tells the stories of its people, transporting the listener across lands and through time.
Referring to the songs as Arkuli, or amphorae – vessels that were used to carry wine, olives and oil, and that now metaphorically hold the stories of the past – the artists speak about their music:
“Our Arkuli tell stories about everything Sephardic Jews went through during their exodus and their journeys on the Mediterranean, on their way to ‘better’ lands. These receptacles are filled with melodies and sounds forgotten during the long trips of the people, who for decades wandered from sea to sea, meeting different peoples, learning customs and songs. The sounds of Arkuli today are like stories from the past that could teach us what we need the most now – the will to meet ‘others’ and curiosity about them.”
The songs are performed in Ladino – a Spanish dialect interspersed with Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic – and speak of love, travelling and looking for a new home. ARKUL’s sound is soft, rhythmic and engaging, and the melodies are simple yet curious and easily remembered. Vladimir’s gentle voice and presence embodies the very spirit of the music, and captivates the audience. Experiencing a live performance by ARKUL is at once an enchanting, transformative experience, leaving a lasting emotional imprint on the listener.
The group is currently recording their second CD; their first recording Il Bastidor, which was released by a specialist label in the Netherlands, can be sampled online. ARKUL played at the last Sarajevo Jazz Festival in November 2009 alongside internationally acclaimed names from all over the globe, including Anouar Brahim.
Visit ARKUL’s myspace page to hear a sampling of their music:
This event is made possible through funding from the Municipality of Nicosia, and is organised in cooperation with art&cultivate, a progressive new organisation that works to build connections between divided cities through artistic and cultural initiatives.