Yasmin Levy and Bachu Khan
Australasian Worldwide Music Expo
Playhouse, Arts Centre
THE Langha musicians of Rajasthan traditionally play at festivals and other celebrations, so it was fitting that Bachu Khan (a Langha vocalist) was chosen to perform on the final evening of this year's Australasian Worldwide Music Expo.
Khan and his ensemble presented a brief but dynamic set of Rajasthani folk songs, the singer's throaty vocals accompanied by bowed sarangi (an Indian string instrument), algoza (wooden flutes) and the pulsing dholak (double-headed drum). Sitting cross-legged on the stage, Khan used expressive hand gestures to amplify the impact of his vocal phrases, and often let his upper body dance with delight - snapping castanets in each hand - as the ensemble sped up and raced towards a percussive climax.
Like Khan, Israeli singer Yasmin Levy performs songs connected to a centuries-old tradition. But Levy's style is sleekly contemporary, and her newer material relates more to present concerns than distant history. Levy came to prominence singing Sephardic Jewish music, and Sunday's set included several folk tunes in Ladino - including the upbeat Skalerikas de Oro and the emotive Una Pastora (sung as a ''duet'' with the recorded voice of Levy's late father).
These days, Levy's sound is a fusion of flamenco, fado, Latin and Turkish influences. On Sunday, the singer's vibrato-laden voice nestled against an attractive bed of flamenco-style acoustic guitar, piano, cajon, violin and Turkish clarinet or ney. The highly polished arrangements left little room for spontaneity, but Levy's warmth and sincerity drew us into her songs and stories with ease.