Be yourself, everyone else is already taken
Dutch celebrities talk about a personal rule of life or an inspiring sentence they go by. Singer Nani Noam Vazana (40) talks about her independence and her new Ladino album ‘Ke Haber‘ that was released today.
A sentence that sums up my life well is a quote from Oscar Wilde. “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” His unexpected tragic-comic stories are double sided – the same as life: sometimes you’re faced with a dilemma you can’t understand but years later, it makes you laugh.
When I was eighteen I thought that choosing a study would determine my life. I deliberated for 4 months about what kind of musician should I become. Conductor? Composer? Pianist? Singer? Trombonist?
I studied classical Trombone & Conducting, but funnily I didn’t become a Trombonist or a Conductor – I’m a Singer-Songwriter. What I learned from this choice is that you don’t need to follow a certain path or chart your life’s territory in advance. Just start walking and life will take you where you need to be”
“I sing in Ladino, a dying Jewish Sephardic language that my grandmother spoke & only people over the age of seventy still speak.
My father, who fled to Israel to escape the pogroms in Morocco in the 50’s, didn’t allow Ladino speaking at home. He found the past too sad and too dangerous. Everything had to be in Hebrew.
But my grandmother was stubborn, just like me. So when we were alone she secretly sang songs in Ladino, mainly while we were cooking together. And if my father found out, she just said “oh I was humming it without paying attention, I always sing when I cook.”
My grandmother died when I was twelve and I never heard Ladino again. But I gravitated towards music and at the age of 23 I already played shows in Europe as a Pop & Jazz Singer-Songwriter. Five years later I received an invitation to perform in Morocco, at the Tangier jazz festival.”
“I had never been to Morocco, so after the show I went to my grandmother’s city, Fez. Walking down the winding streets, something very special happened: I heard people singing a melody my grandmother used to sing to me when I was 4 years old. As I say this I get goosebumps again. It was such an impactful flashback moment.
Another wonderful coincidence happened soon after – I gave a show with a musician from the Balkans who also knew that melody! We played it spontaneously on stage, and I cried during the performance. There was something inside me – an inner root that was calling to be discovered. I wasn’t aware of it, but apparently it meant a lot to me.
I had been making music for fifteen years already – and at once Ladino surfaced and took over. I started researching and took lessons in Ladino with a rabbi in Leiden. Five years ago I released my first record in Ladino ‘Andalusian Brew‘. I changed my stage name to Nani, the nickname my grandmother gave me.
Now I’m the only Ladino songwriter in the Netherlands, and for my new album ‘Ke Haber‘ (What’s New) I wrote & composed songs in Ladino about topics that concern millennials like me, so that the language will hopefully appeal to a new generation.”
My voice is perfect for this music
“Ladino brought a new experience, not just in music, but in all aspects of my life. As a singer-songwriter, critics often said: ‘too dramatic’, but my voice is perfect for this music, now I can be as dramatic as I want to be.
Not everyone likes Sephardic music, it’s more of a niche. But I am showered with so much love. It feels like the music I make now is not only valuable to me, but also to a whole community that is looking for their roots. It’s funny how a disappearing language actually brings us all together. It’s bigger than us.”
Read article in Dutch written by Marije van Beek