Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Friday, November 4, 2011

Between Forgetting and Remembering: Charli Elmaghribi and the Other Artists

I recently read a comment on a Youtube video that stirred something inside me. If I recall correctly, the video was of an old recording of the great Moroccan oudist Sliman Elmaghribi. After watching the video I scrolled down to see that one commenter on the video was looking for more information on Sliman. Another commenter said something to the effect of: “It’s sad that barely a generation after many of these artists have passed away…no one remembers them.” In many ways, I feel the same sentiment but in other ways when I look at my own record collection or meet other collectors I realize that not all is lost. Perhaps it just needs to be gathered.

It seems that in every generation North African music is forgotten, rediscovered and recovered to some extent. To get a sense of this historically, I recommend reading Jonathan Glasser’s excellent work on the concept of Andalusian musical patrimony in Algeria in the early 1900s. I have to say that these preservers of this patrimony, whoever it belongs to, often did and continue to do a decent job. There is hoarding to be sure and reluctance to share but thanks to the work of individual ranging from Edmond Nathan Yafil in Algeria to Rafael Azoulay in Israel to Tounsi El Kahlaoui in France, a good deal of North African music is out there somewhere, in some form, waiting to be rediscovered and ripe for new listeners. When I speak about this music publicly, I often ask myself the rhetorical question, “Why does any of this matter?” My first answer - and in many ways the best answer - is that this music is good. It moves the listener. Like that video, it stirs something inside us. For a moment, we share space and time with musicians who gave their heart and soul to this craft and thus it is a part of us.

Charli Elmaghribi (third from left). Le Guerre de Yom Kipour. Koliphone. 1973

I say all this because I want to share some music of a lesser known artist whose work begs to be rediscovered. There are a number of artists who I make frequent mention of on this blog due to how talented they were, how prolific they were and to my dismay how quickly I feel they have been relegated to historical amnesia. But we must remember them because for every Zohra El Fassia there was an Esther Elfassy - also talented, prolific but who likely came of singing age in a different time (the 1970s) and the wrong place (Israel and not Morocco or other parts of the Maghreb) and thus didn’t have the same chances of success. And so for every Jo Amar there was a Sami Amar and for every Samy Elmaghribi there was a Charli Elmaghribi.

Charli Elmaghribi. Koliphone. 1980s.

Charli Elmaghribi recorded for Koliphone/Zakiphon from at least the early 1970s. He is a fantastic oudist and has a distinct voice. He performs everything from Algerian to Moroccan and Andalusian to piyyutim. I want to thank my fellow collector Eilon for pointing out this Youtube video of Charli Elmaghribi in Morocco that seems to date from the late 1980s or early 1990s.

I have digitized the first side of a Charli Elmaghribi cassette from the early 1980s. The little background information I know on Charli is that he is still alive and performing and lives in France. He comes to Israel throughout the year to perform. I wish I could tell you more (his real last name, the city he hails from in Morocco, who his musical influences were) but for now his name and music will have to suffice. I want to stress one more thing.

Charli Elmaghribi - Yamslmin kalbi - Koliphone by CBSilver

Charli Elmaghribi - Ya kalbi chali el hal - Koliphone by CBSilver
In case of I haven’t made this abundantly clear; much of this music still exists in the Azoulay brother’s shop in Jaffa. I strongly recommend stopping there on your next trip to Israel and purchasing what you can before this music once again becomes lost to time.


JBB said...

In the video, he's playing with a young Pinhas (another great of moroccan chahbi music), hence I would date it back to the mid-80s.

Chris Silver said...

You could be right given the age of Pinhas here. Thanks!