This year’s Adloyada Purim bash in Holon, which kicks off at noon at Sunday, is based on the theme of Latin America and its various cultures and subcultures. There will be plenty of music and food from all over that part of the world, giant floats with outsized images of relevant celebrities, street theater and, naturally, a section devoted to soccer.
While this country was swept by a wave of popularity of all sounds Latin around the late 1970s and early 1980s, when local pop artists began putting out songs based on samba and other Latin American rhythms, there will be at least be two musicians at this year’s Adloyada who feed off sounds and vibes that are very close to the source.
Luis and Sigal Taraaga will be front and center along the parade route, dressed in authentic Indian costumes and playing a variety of Bolivian songs on all kinds of wind and string instruments, and drums.
47-year-old Luis hails from Bolivia and first came here in 1995, to perform at a folklore festival. Sigal, two years his junior, went along to see what was cooking at the festival, and can back home with a song in her heart. “At the time I was into salsa, and that was why I went to the festival in the first place. Luis and I noticed each other straightaway,” she recalls, “and I think it was love at first sight.”
Luis hung around here for a few months and his and Sigal’s paths crossed several times more, and they eventually became a couple. “He was more delicate and different, and I wanted to know more about him and his world,” Sigal recalls.
The love bug had truly bitten and life changed forever for Sigal, who comes from a traditional Yemenite background.
Sigal gave up her steady job, and she joined Luis on a long trip abroad.
Gradually, Sigal began to get a handle on the musical side of her boyfriend’s life. “He taught me to play all kinds of percussion instruments,” she says, adding that she was increasingly drawn to Spanish, and to the culture of Bolivia.
“We went to see his family, I really wanted to meet them, but I couldn’t really converse with them. And Luis and I spoke a mixture of Spanish and English. For a whole year we spoke this weird hybrid, which only we could understand.”
After a while Luis decided he’d had enough of mixing and matching their vocabulary and told Sigal it was time to opt for one language or the other, and Spanish became their sole means of verbal communication. Today Sigal speaks fluent Spanish, while Luis is proficient in Hebrew.
Naturally, understanding Spanish helped Sigal perform with her husband. “That’s really how I began to understand Spanish, by singing the songs Luis performed,” she recalls. “You catch a word here or there, and gradually you out them all together, and you begin to learn more and more words. Today I sing in Spanish and I know exactly what I’m singing about.”
Sigal was well and truly enchanted by her new verbal skill. “I remember there was a song about La Paz [the Bolivian capital which is located at a height of around 3,600 meters above sea level], and about the snow on the mountains, and how it makes the city look like a bride in a wedding dress. It is such a beautiful song. And it was so wonderful to understand the words.” After several trips to Bolivia, the couple finally settled down here and Luis decided to convert to Judaism and they now have two daughters.
Luis is the tenth of 11 children, and the only one to take up music as a career. “Luis has always been very ambitious,” says Sigal. “He sets himself a target and he goes for it. He has been like that form an early age.”
That goal-oriented approach prompted Luis to acquire a violin at the tender age of seven, and to teach himself to play it. Later he became involved in the university music scene, as an undergraduate on a general BA program. He subsequently spent six years at Kiev University in the Ukraine, and in between learning the science of agronomy, Luis polished his guitar and pan pipes playing skills. Over the years Luis has imparted some of his instrumental knowledge to his partner, and Sigal now also plays the charango, a small Bolivian guitar.
The Taraagas now perform all over Israel, as well as abroad, playing an extensive range of material. “We recently expanded our repertoire,” notes Sigal. “That takes in ancient Indian music, from both South America and North America. Luis plays the kena [traditional Andean flute] on those songs, as well as pan pipes.”
Today, Sigal is completely immersed in the music Luis brought over here from his native Bolivia. “I have been singing some of the songs for 10 years, and I never tire of them,” she says. “There is something magical about them.”
The thousands who will throng the Adloyada on Sunday will get a chance to enjoy some of that magic too.