Borderline Latin: Los Desterrados, Jewish/Spanish Flamenco from London

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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 the works of a ‘non-Latin’ artist via song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

Last week we presented you with the latest in Viking cumbia. This week’s selection features another one of those unique hybrids: Sephardic music with Los Desterrados. What is Sephardic music? Sephardi Jews is the name given to the communities that formed around the world after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 –the same year Columbus arrived to the New World. Neat coincidence, right? Having lived in Spain for generations, these Jews kept the culture, customs and music of la Madre Patria. Even their language comes from Spain: a mixture of Old Spanish, Hebrew and Portuguese.

Nowadays, many of their descendents are trying to reconnect with their Hispanic roots; Los Desterrados is trying to inform the world about this unlikely cultural renaissance. They formed in London in 1999, and they recorded their first album in 2001. According to their Facebook group, they’re working on a new album right now. Their music is a very strong blend, with Balkan and Gypsy elements, as well as rhythms brought from Turkey and Morocco, all mixed together with the flavors and rhythms of Spain. The band also says they have been influenced by jazz, soul and rock and roll as musicians, bringing a modern element into their music.

Los Desterrados are another one of those treasures that can be found in what people call “world music” –I personally don’t like that label: it makes it seem as if commercial music is something out of this world, which is so not true. Check out this Sephardic flamenco, and be blown by what sounds like Spanish, but is actually called Ladino: the language of Sephardic Jews. And if you’re feeling nostalgic for the holidays, there’s a very Spanish Hanukah song: “Ocho Kandelikas.”

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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.