Borderline Latin: DeLeon, Rock en Ladino

Read more

Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature a song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

They named their band after a 12th century Kabbalistic philosopher. They formed in Brooklyn in 2006, and list legendary Mexican rock ’n’ roller Juan “El Matemático” as one of their influences. They’ve toured with bands like Os Mutantes, Ozomatli, and Balkan Beat Box. This year, frontman and founder Daniel Saks relocated to Mexico City, where the band is now based and where they recorded their latest album. They are DeLeon, and they’re on a mission: to modernize Sephardic folk music and make people dance.

Months ago we featured Los Desterrados, who also play Sephardic music–music created by Jews expelled from Spain by the Reyes Católicos. DeLeon, whose YouTube channel is called Inquisition This, fuses Sephardic music with a very particular style of rock, mariachi trumpets straight from Garibaldi, and other eclectic elements, singing mostly in Ladino, Spanish, and English. Make sure you get their new album, Tremor Fantasma, to be released on October 23rd. It’s their third album, and a true cultural mash-up of traditional Sephardic music from around the world, reinterpreted in DeLeon’s style–it features “La Muerte Chiquita” made famous by Café Tacvba.

In order to choose the songs for the album, Saks asked fans of Sephardic music everywhere to put together a playlist on Spotify–yes, there is a “small but enthusiastic” Sephardic scene. The album was recorded in Mexico, and it owes its name to the tremors felt in that city and El Popo’s volcanic activity when they were recording it. Saks explains that he was “experiencing phantom quakes in the studio and vivid volcanic dreams.” You have to see the very trippy official video of their version of the classic tune “Üsküdara” below:

[insert-video youtube=CVOVaYPmEgY]

From 2008, see also “Rahelika Baila” and the fat mice.

Click HERE to read more “Borderline Latin” profiles. For comments and tips, please contact me at:, and for more info on my “Borderline” works, visit Borderline Projects.