Exploring her roots

A Canadian singer is tracing her history.

February 19, 2010 19:20
2 minute read.
Shari Wilson Cole.

shofar 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Call it a musical variation of Jerusalem Syndrome. Nova Scotia-born singer/ songwriter Shari Wilson-Cole has had a lifelong fascination with the Holy City, stemming from childhood stories about her legendary great-grandfather, explorer Sir Charles Wilson.

In Jerusalem, Wilson (1836-1905) is best remembered for his 1864 survey – the first scientific mapping of the city – and for identifying the remains of a 2,000-year-old bridge, now known as Wilson’s Arch, which spanned the Tyropean Valley connecting Herod’s expanded Temple Mount with the Upper City to the west.

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That interest in Jerusalem brought the ethereal-voiced Canadian chanteuse to Israel on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War and led to her recording “Dancing on the Water in Tel Aviv” the following year. The song, rescued from cassette obscurity and digitally edited and rearranged by producer John Perkins at InterMet Music Group in Britain, is featured on Wilson-Cole’s newly released debut album Warrior Princess.

Together with other tracks such as “Sheba” – about King Solomon’s dalliance with the biblical beauty – oud arrangements by Perkins and bouzouki by Pete Sen, the album has a subtle Israeli flavor, even if all the lyrics are in English.

Warrior Princess was inspired by Deborah the biblical prophetess,” says Wilson-Cole. The album jacket shows the singer blowing a shofar at Jerusalem’s Tower of David Citadel. While the CD was recorded in Britain, Wilson-Cole has been living in Israel for the past three years.

“I’m on a quest, and it keeps getting more interesting,” she says.

That journey in the footsteps of Sir Charles Wilson is being recorded by British documentary film producer Roger Toye and has turned up some surprising developments. The first was that the famed Victorian explorer was married to a Jew named Olivia Mizrachi. Even more unusual, all Wilson-Cole’s maternal ancestors over the last five generations were also Jewish.

“I just discovered I was Jewish in 2007. I was here with a friend from London who was writing a novel about Ruth the Moabite. I flew back to Canada and started receiving significant items in the mail – like Persian carpets – postmarked Jerusalem, with no return address.”

She’s researched the antique rugs’ provenance and says they’re from the Iranian city of Isfahan.

“Retracing my steps to a shop – I’ve been asked not to say where – this man said, ‘There’s an inheritance from Olivia.' He calls me “Princess Shari,” Wilson-Cole, says. “He said my bloodline goes back to King David through Olivia.”

While talk is cheap, during the last three years the man and another woman have given her six Persian-Jewish amulets with kabbalistic Hebrew inscriptions and promised her four more. Most recently, she was given an antique lapis lazuli ring from Afghanistan.

“I’ve asked a lot of questions, and they’ve told me to be patient,” continues Wilson-Cole, who is puzzled by the mystery. “I’m not a New Age person at all. It feels surreal.”

Surreal or not, Wilson-Cole’s music is very real and can be heard at http://intermetmusic.com. A launch of her CD is planned early this year.

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