Saturday, October 11, 2014

Jewish North African musicians and the 1989 Toledo conference

1. A very nice tribute to Jewish North African musicians by the Israeli writer Ophir Toubul was published on October 9, 2014 by +972. Toubul discusses, among other artists, Reinette L'Oranaise, Maurice El Medioni, Al Gusto Orchestra, Salim Halali and Haim Botbol (please check out the clip of Haim singing in Essaouira, Morocco in 2013).

Touboul provides a sound cloud link to a singer I had never heard of: "Braham Swiri, who put out records in his youth yet lived the rest of his life in anonymity and sold his recordings outside the entrance to Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market."

The track is terrific, and I'm keen to hear more. 

Touboul mentions as well the Israeli Mizrahi pop star Kobi Peretz, and links to his recent cover of Sami Elmaghribi classic song “Omri Ma Nansak Ya Mama.” Very nice, modernized, sounds more Egyptian in style than Moroccan to my ears, and the video is bathed in nostalgia.

I was most moved by the vid Toubul posted of Israeli Moroccan singer Neta Elkayam, performing at  Tel Aviv’s Barby Club just last week. 

It's a track made famous by the Algerian Jewish singer Line Monty called "Ana Loulia." I love Neta Elkayam, but what I found particularly compelling about this concert vid is that she is backed on keyboards by legendary Algerian Jewish musician Maurice El Medioni, who moved from Marseille to Israel over the last year or so, after suffering a stroke. I was recently told by a friend who talks to Maurice regularly that his health is not so good, and that one side of his face is, at least partially paralyzed, so it was great to see him performing. (I mention Maurice in my previous post, on Blaoui El Houari. I met Maurice in Essaouira, Morocco in November 2007, when he performed at the Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques, as you can see here.) Saha, ya Maurice!

Here is Line Monty's version of "Ana Loulia." According to Chris Silver (Jewish Morocco), Messaoud El Medioni, better known as Saoud l'Oranais, recorded the song as early as 1932. Saoud was the uncle of Maurice El Medioni, and the teacher of Reinette L'Oranaise. He moved from Oran to Marseille before the Second World War, and met his end at Sobibor concentration camp (Poland) in March 1943.

Finally here's a bit more of the fabulous Neta Elkayam, doing Haim Botbol's "Alash Klam el Aar," live in Krakow. Oh, man.

2. Ella Shohat published an important piece in Jadaliyya (September 30) on the historic meeting, twenty five years ago, of Palestinians (including PLO officials) and "Jews of the Orient," in 1989. It provides an important compliment to the Touboul piece, dealing with the wider political and historical context. Please read it; I find it impossible to summarize. But I liked this bit:

"One beautiful evening that left a mark on us, embodying what is usually dismissed as “nostalgia” and “sentimental clichés,” was when the Jewish-Moroccan-French singer and composer Sapho graciously delighted us with her singing. I would reflect back on that moment a few years later when Sapho performed Umm Kulthum's legendary song “al-Atlal,” and when she released her album “Jardin Andalou” that fused rock, Arabic, and Andalusian elements. While a long-time supporter of Palestinian rights, Sapho, after that visit to Toledo, began to engage the music of the Judeo-Arab world in which she was raised. To stand up for justice in Palestine was all the more momentous when drawing on the complex memories of Sephardi/Arab-Jews."

I am familiar with Sapho's music, but had not known she was known as a supporter of Palestinian rights. Here's her version of "al-Atlal."

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