Leahaliza Lee was recently accepted by the Michigan Arts & Humanities Council as an adjudiciated member of the MHC Artist Touring Directly.

The updated directory will is coming soon to the MHC website. Apply for grant support to host Leahaliza for an event.

Sephardic Song - Jewish music with a world pulse.

Songs of the Sephardic world come to us in Hebrew, Arabic, and most uniquely, Ladino. The song traditions of women have kept Ladino songs alive through the generations. Whether with a single accompanist or an ensemble, LeahAliza Lee honors the authentic sound of Ladino song: a woman's voice honed by the experiences of living. Though the songs come from long ago and far away, their stories of finding your place in love, family, and the world, remain timeless.

You need a special kind of voice to sing Ladino songs, and Leahaliza's got it.”

— Cantor Barry Ulrych

Leahaliza Lee has Mediterranean honey tones, perfect for Spanish, Turkish, and North African music, and similar to the voice of classic Portuguese Fado singer Amalia Rodriguez”

— Jade Fairfax, Alvorada America

Enchanting. Lifechanging. A unique, awesome voice. I cried. Just gorgeous. Beautiful in every way, What a great pleasure. I'm lost of words. Wonderful. I love the weaving in of stories and history. So beautifully done. ”

— Comments from listeners

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Something Different 

Based on my studies of the maqam system of Arab music, I created this chant for a group of women and recently brought it to a meditation group. There are 18 tones each time the prayer is repeated. Modah Ani (Modeh for men), is said right upon waking in the morning. It's from a time when people believed that the soul left the the body to sleep, just as in death, and was written as an expression of gratitude for the soul being returned to the body for another day of life. I also give thanks to Rocio Martin for her soulful percussion and artwork, and Taylor Maclaurin for mesmerizing animation.

Moda ani lefanecha - I give thanks to You

Melech chai vekayam - living and enduring Soverign

Shechezarta bi nishmati bechemla - for returning my soul to me in compassion.

Raba emunatecha - Great is Your faithfulness.


Songs are Like College Applications  

My daughter just finished consolidating her entire life's school and life experience into a demographic summary, several essays from 100-650 words, and several lines and checkboxes on the Common App, the system which enables application to more colleges than you can keep up with. We hope that somehow, application readers are able to somehow perceive the real person behind the pdf the will view.

Songs are the same way - centuries of experience becomes consolidated into a few words. We have no more with which to understand the people behind the songs than the knowledge of their words and scant information on their origins. I try to enter and appreciate the stories of the songs and the people who created them, just as I hope the people who read my daughter's applications will try to get a real sense of who she is.

Earlier this month I did a program titled Advice from the Women of Jewish Spain, using songs and historic readings to help the audience get in touch with the people who created and carried the songs. I performed at Shaarey Tzedek Synagogue's Berman Center. Click here and scroll down to find video from the program.

Unusual Chanukah Song 

There aren't many Chanukah songs in Ladino, and when one comes to mind, it's rarely this one with Turkish roots. I hear it as a sort of psychadelic love song - and the objects of love are the deep fried honey dipped dough balls, known as burmuelos, made to commemorate the miracle of the oil. Fazeremos Una Merenda means it's time to make a meal, and the rest of the song is the recipe for burmuelos. The repeated expression Yaraman Enrume Aman doesn't translate well but I say it's the feeling you get when you've been looking forward all year to a favorite holiday food, and you finally get your first taste in a year.

International Collaboration 

My mother would have wanted me to do something special to celebrate my recent acceptance into the Michigan Humanities Council Touring Directory. One thing she wanted me to do was make more videos and be creative with them. With creative, inspiring women from different parts of the world, the new Yo Menamore D'un Aire video is what emerged. Over the years this song's melody has taken many directions in my mind, which came to the surface when I heard Pelin's guitar composition. I had seen Laura's artwork and knew that her swirling clouds and water reflected the way the song transformed over time and lent themselves so well to Taylor's animations, further expressing the feelings that evolve throughout the song. I am appreciative to these artists for inspiring me and being part of this video.

Lullaby for Debbie 

Last week after I performed at the Sacred Music Festival in Kalamazoo MI, an audience member named Debbie told me that she heard that a lot of Ladino songs were lullabies. Most of the songs I performed were probably used as lullabies but I hadn't included any specific lullabies in the set. I promised her a link to one I performed awhile back. When I sat down to do that, realized I never posted the video I was thinking of. Nani means rocking ---

Nani means rocking --- Rocking - while I am rocking my son to sleep, I wish that he will live long enough to grow tall. Rocking - while I am rocking my son to sleep, I wait for my husband to come home from working late in the fields, he will be happy to see you. Rocking - while I am rocking my son to sleep, my husband comes home tired, long after I know his work has been done. Rocking - while I am rocking my son to sleep, I hope my husband will remember that I am the woman who has given him a son.

When all you can say is thank you 

I'd like to thank everyone who gave so much love and support in the days after my mother died this month. She's given my family signs that she is still around, and a call from a cousin yesterday seemed to provide words my mother would want me to hear. My cousin hadn't spoken to my mother in a long time, and in asking about her latest years, wondered if my mother's voice had grown weak with age or whether sh still spoke in "that beautiful resonant low voice" that my cousin remembered. My mother whispered her final words but up to that point, did in fact have much the same voice as she did in her youth.

When my husband met her, he asked if her voice was always as low as it was at that point, and while I had never considered her voice separately from the whole elegant, stately package, I said yes. In retrospect, the voice may have seemed low for her body but it suited her demeanor and never seemed out of place. It wasn't a sultry low; it was a New York-accented no-nonsense low.  If she was elegant and stately it was a lucky accident, but she was intentionally no-nonsense.

I had a sudden understanding of why  I am drawn to exploring the lows of songs rather than the highs, even though I'm told higher is where I should be - I grew up fondly hearing a low voice. My cousin's bringing to my attention the longevity of my mother's strong voice seemed like an assurance from my mother of many more decades of singing ahead of me and to continue challenging my voice in my own, often unconventional, way. Thank you for that and indescribably much more.


It's been a year since the loss of my wonderful Father-in-Law, and tragically soon after, our beautiful niece. A friend's lovely violin accompaniment to this classic song inspired me to create this tribute. For those traveling to other worlds, this is quite the welcome committee.

Catching Up 

My mom had some health problems, and for awhile I was sleeping on her bedroom floor. I have been working on a lot of new material (you can work through and arrange a lot of music in your head while lying on the floor), and not writing, not even about my amazing animals. Mom bounded back really well, just in time for a nice amount of travel and performance. Last week after I got back from the meeting of the Women Cantors Network, I was a little draggy getting out of bed. Habibi, in white, eats in his crate because he lets the cats (all 4)  steal food out from under his nose. So with my eyes more than half closed, I put his breakfast into his crate and felt an animal pass by. I closed the crate, pulled the blanket over the front the way Habibi likes it, and I went off to do some breath work. When I came back to open the crate about 10 minutes later, Habibi was waiting quietly as you can see. I questioned my sanity for a moment and then pulled the blanket down from the crate. There was the opportunist who took advantage of my sleepy state, and the empty bowl.

Beautiful Musical Team on a Significant Day 

University of Michigan Frankel Institute Symposium, Sephardic Identities, provided an opportunity for me to gather a dream team of musicians. My area is full of talent and it was an honor to bring together Sean Blackman on Guitar, Victor Ghannam on Oud and Kanun (snazzy electric oud in video), and Michael Shimmin on Percussion, joined by my regular accompanist, Stefan Kukurugya, to perform with me on pieces from corners of the Sephardic world. It was ironic that this event, and another later in the week, coincide with the anniversary week of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain's announcement of their Edict of Explusion of the Jews, and of Columbus upcoming journey. It was an honor to have this kind of musical dream team for this music, at this significant time.

Sean has made world music his life's work. Name a country and he can tell you who people there consider to be their Frank Sinatra or their Lady Gaga. I met Victor when he played at an event at our local Sephardic Synagogue, Keter Torah. He also plays with Michigan's National Arab Orchestra. I met Michael years ago when he was playing for Red Sea Pedestrians. And the ever-versatile Stefan Kukurugya brought his long time knowledge of my work to the group. I am grateful to be able to work with these people of exceptional skill and artistry.