Moroccan pop music lost one of its greatest stars last week when Salim Halali, 80, passed away in relative obscurity in Cannes.
Salim Halali (who was born in Algeria) belonged to the same generation as that other Jewish pop star, Sami al-Maghribi. Much of his life was spent at the 'Coq D'or' in Casablanca , a famous oriental music hall in the old Medina popular with visitors, where he nurtured a whole school of pop stars such as Hajja Hamdaouya, Omar Tantaoui and Latifa Amal.
In 1940 Salim Halali escaped deportation from his home in Paris to the Nazi concentration camps by order of the King of Morocco. The rector of the Paris Mosque, Kaddour Benghrabit, delivered him a certificate of conversion to Islam.
An energetic, dynamic and charming man, Halali was able to strike up a personal rapport with his audience, like Manitas de Plata. A Canadian journalist once noted that although his songs were nearly all Arab, they had a touch of the modernism which gave rise to flamenco. Read article (in French) in full.