Thursday, October 23, 2014

Maghrebi-Jewish culture revived in Israel

If you strip away the rather tiresome leftist narrative that Israel's western establishment despised and undervalued the contribution of Jewish musicians to Maghrebi culture, driving a wedge between Jews and Arabs, this article by Ophir Touboul in +972 is a tribute to the stars of yesteryear and has some interesting clips. Bottom line: the work of Moroccan Jewish musicians and singers is undergoing a revival in Israel today.

A few months ago, I was honored to be part of a group of 20 people, the first Israelis to watch Les Port Des Amours, a documentary film about singer Reinette l’Oranaise. The film, which took no less than 23 years to reach Israel and was screened by the Institut Francais, follows the legendary blind singer/oud player who was loved by Jews and Muslims alike in her home country of Algeria, specifically due to her deep, inimitable voice and her knowledge of the country’s folk music.

The following clip is the only one I could find from the film on YouTube. We see Reinette arguing with her pianist, Mustafa Sakandari, on the length of the Istikbar – the introduction to the piece. In the subtitles, the word Istikbar is translated as “she refused,” because really, what are the chances that an Israeli translator will recognize and identify a common introduction that appears in every North African folk song.

The 2012 film Al Gusto attempted to create a “Buena Vista” for Algerian musicians. Director Safinez Bousbia walked through the Casbah in Algiers and the streets of Oran looking for the big musicians of the 1950s, when the Sha’abi genre was at its peak popularity in the cafes and hair salons in Algeria’s major cities. She collected them, one by one, including the Jewish ones who were uprooted from Algeria, in an attempt to establish the Al Gusto orchestra. The film follows the new-old orchestra’s tour, which continues across the globe today. Jewish artists such as RenĂ© Perez, Luke Sharqi and Maurice el Medioni appear in the film, among others.

This film was also screened only a few times in Israel, but never made any big waves. One can find the orchestra’s full concert on YouTube, and clearly see the respect given to the Jewish singers.

‘Most of the Moroccans have not understood the idea of what we call the Western world. Perhaps their development is soon to come, perhaps it is happening now, but whatever they brought from Morocco is nothing to write home about. What did they bring? Mufletot? A culture of tombstones?’ Haim Hefer

A singer like Salim Halali, who was one of the great Jewish singers of North Africa, has a message that goes beyond his beautiful music, a deep message that resonates even today – on the future and the different possibilities that lay before us. Through his complex identity, Halali showed that it was possible for Jews and Arabs to live together, as well as someone who respects and follows religious traditions on the one hand, and a secular Westerner on the other hand. His style blurred the lines between masculinity and femininity, and his music showed how Arab and North African music, tango, flamenco and Jewish Ashkenazi music could live side by side in peace.

Read article in full


Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Anat Hoffman, Natan Zakh & Haim Hefer were/are all "leftists." So it was precisely the "left," very oriented towards making Israel Western and "progressive" and scorning what they considered Oriental that led to the particular cultures of Oriental Jews being scorned in Israel. This has been true in the educational system, especially the state secular schools that have always been dominated by the "Left" in their curriculum and the values that they tried to impart.
I can find dozens of examples of "leftist" intellectuals who enjoy or seem to enjoy scorning Oriental Jewish culture, as in HaArets' Gideon Levy and others.

So 972 should be doing mea culpa, `al hhet, for the "Left" on this issue of deprecating Oriental Jewish culture. But they publish an article which discusses the issue without mentioning the role of the "Left," although citing Zakh [who now lives in Germany], the late Hefer, and Anat Hoffman as negative examples.

The reason that I put the word "left" in quotes is that none of them today seems to care about what used to concern the Left so much in the old days. That is the poor exploited workers. Now, it would be hard to find workers worse exploited and oppressed today than the foreign workers in the Arab oil states. But it would be politically incorrect, it seems, to be concerned with those people -- precisely because their exploiters and oppressors are Arabs.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Here I describe what foreign workers endure in Qatar, the oil rich sheikdom that finances Hamas. The "left" throughout the world does not care.

bataween said...

The 'Left' seems totally gripped by anti-colonialism, so much so this warps any idea of justice. This people of colour can get away with murder while white westerners have to say 'Al Het'.
The one exception to the rule is the Mizrahim, who despite being people of colour, never get their rights taken seriously by the Left.

Sylvia said...

But this is not a 972 article.

It comes from, a Hebrew site about "Mizrahi" culture and music. All 972 did is translate the article.

Why do they do that? Money.

Philanthropies have become more demanding these days and diversity and inclusion has become a major requirement for funding.

So what 972, a premier Mizrahi basher particularly under the pen of one of its founders, the despicable Yuval Ben-Ami, is to do?

They simply "subcontract" with two Hebrew Mizrahi sites, Cafe-Gibraltar and Haoketz, and from time to time translate one of their articles while holding their nose.

Which is why they have the sites' names on their roll as if active contributors.

I imagine those sites get a cut, but you never know.

In any case, it just occurred to me that one of those contributors (at least) a German, contributes also to "Achoti" and Levana Zamir could have had their funding cut if she had gone straight to the donors for the way the people at Achoti treated her.

Something to think about hard and fast.
That also explains that those JVP people wanted to include us, "people of color" and "Maseratis".

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Sylvia, I still think that
972 should be doing mea culpa, `al hhet, for the "Left" on this issue of deprecating Oriental Jewish culture. They could have published an introductory comment, something on the order of: We of the Israeli and peace camp have much to regret about how we treated . . . .

Of course, they won't do it. They like to do a vicarious mea culpa for Israel's alleged sins against Arabs, but their real identity, in my opinion, is "The Left" which can never do wrong. Didn't Marx, Lenin and Stalin prove everything scientifically?? So, since we were always scientific, we can do no wrong.