For as long as I can remember I have been truly inspired by the work of Roza Eskenazi. Quite simply, she sang with a fire and passion that is often imitated, but rarely duplicated. “My Sweet Canary” is an exploration of the Roza Eskenazi’s influence on musicians today. The film follows 3 musicians from Israel, Turkey, and Greece, exploring their love of the music and why Roza’s music remains significant in today’s world. The documentary also provides detailed accounts of her life as told by family, friends, and the musicians who admire her.
Born in Istanbul to a Sephardic Jewish family, Roza and her siblings grew up dealing with the struggles of an impoverished way of living. While Roza and her family were living in Komotini, a city with a significant Turkish population at the time, she was overheard singing by local Turkish tavern owners. Immediately captivated by the sound of her voice, they were quick to express their desire for her as a performer in their taverns. At the time, Roza’s mother was angered by the idea of her daughter, or any of her children for that matter, becoming an artist and performing at local taverns. Roza would later admit that her time spent living in Komotini was a significant turning point, as it ultimately led to her becoming a dancer and singer.
From impoverished beginnings in Istanbul to the earliest stages of discovering her voice in Komotini, Roza set in motion a legacy that would inspire many generations for years to come. Roza Eskenazi rose to fame as the most popular singer during the 1930’s in Greece and Turkey. Known as the Diva of Rebetiko, Roza was featured and displayed everywhere. You could call her the definitive popstar of her generation. Everyone knew her and everyone wanted to see her perform. Roza recorded over 500 songs in Greek, Turkish, Armenian, and Ladino, making her the most recorded Rebetiko singer.
The film offers an incredible perspective of an artist whose legacy lives on today. Through Roza’s story, we are exposed to a time and a world that some never knew existed. We are introduced to a woman who helped define an era through passionate music that merged the east and west. Today, Roza Eskenazi and the Rebetiko music lives on and shows no signs of relenting.