Chris Silver of Jewish Morocco blog is on a musical journey of discovery: in France this summer, he attended a concert of chaabi music, popularised by the recently-reconstituted Arab-Jewish band El Gusto. Touring with El Gusto is Algerian-Jewish musician Luc Cherki, whose compositions seem to epitomise estrangement and exile. (With thanks: Michelle)
While in France, I had the tremendous opportunity to see live music as well. Thanks to the kindness of Safinez and Nabila I met with members of the recently reconstituted 1950s-era Algerian chaabi orchestra El Gusto. I was privileged to have ftour (Ramadan break-fast meal) with these master musicians and glean hidden nuggets of music history from the likes of Algerian pianist Maurice El Medioni through informal interviews backstage. The concert itself, in an amphitheater on the water in beautiful Sète (also interestingly a ferry point for North Africa), was electric. A couple observations from the concert before I jump to our artist of interest.
- Throughout the concert, Abdelmajid Meksoud referred to Maurice El Medioni as Cheikh.
- The set list included a majority of songs popularized or written by Algerian Jews including Mchate Aaliya (Lili Boniche), Alger Alger (Line Monty-Maurice El Medioni), and one of my favorites - Ghir Ajini Ajini (Lili Labassi). (..)
|Luc Cherki. L'Mouèma. Dounia. 1970s.|
L’Mouèma: Yes, I'm posting a song about a Jewish mother, an Algerian Jewish mother to be exact. L’mouèma is the affectionate word for mom in darija, North African Arabic. The album artwork from this 1970s Luc Cherki release features a dedication to children deprived of their mothers' love. When I asked my friend Jawad (check out his Juifs Berberes photo blog) for some help with the lyrics, he concurred that the song was written about a mother but he offered another explanation. L’mouèma can also stand in for the motherland, he said. In other words, it's possible that Luc Cherki is singing here about his longing for Algeria. The song begins with, "separation is worse than death." Take a listen. I hear hints of Cheikh Zouzou's Bensoussan here in the music. The theme of exile, estrangement is ominpresent. What I also find fascinating about this song (and really El Gusto as a concept) is how much it complicates the narrative. Cheers.