Henry Zehavi performs in Bat Yam - Feb. 2012
The morning after participating in the Bat Yam North Africa sessions, Eilon and I enjoyed a traditional Israeli breakfast of coffee and cigarettes while listening to music. One of the standout pieces he played for me was ostensibly political propaganda and musically-speaking it was dynamite. It was Moroccan Arabic pop music (chaabi) that extolled the virtues of an Ashkenazi mayoral candidate in Ashdod in the 1970s. Using music to convey current events and encourage voting is part and parcel of this genre and in fact much of this political music not only offers insight into these communities and the issues they were concerned with but also an enjoyable listening experience. Judah Assaraf, who sang for a number of Moroccan labels in Israel in the 1960s and 1970s, recorded songs on subjects ranging from the famed peace flight of Iranian-Israeli Abbie Natan (from Israel to Nasser’s Egypt and back again) to the Six Day War to the Herut party.
Between changing records, Eilon showed me some old 78s he had collected that had unfortunately not withstood the test of time but nonetheless shed more light on the musical history discussed on this blog. The 78s in his possession included a number of Jo Amar pieces recorded in Arabic for Philips and a duo known as Abitbol and Fassy that recorded for the N. Sabbah label out of Casablanca.
After breakfast, we headed to one of our favorite spots - the Azoulay shop in Jaffa. While Eilon chatted with David and Zaki Azoulay, I picked out some cassettes including a Mike Karoutchi, the Libyan performer Joseph Mango Boaron and a Cheikh Mwijo opus / political call to action to restore the name of Shas leader Aryeh Deri, a former Knesset member convicted of bribery and banned from parliament for ten years in 1999. Each of these cassettes has an interesting story behind it but I’ll save that for another time.
|Zakiphon Record Catalogue. Clockwise: Samy Elmaghribi, Albert Suissa, Zohra El Fassia, Jo Amar and Salim Halali.|
Our conversation with the Azoulay brothers lasted about an hour but could have lasted for several days as far as I was concerned. In the course of casual conversation, I learned the following:
- Cheikh Zouzou’s son had settled in Israel and brought his father’s recordings with him thereby enabling their rerelease and preservation.
- The Azoulays kept better tabs than I thought and part of the proof of this was the last remaining Zakiphon record catalogue that David showed me and allowed me to photograph.
- AZR, one of the many label names under the Koliphone/Zakiphon suite, stood for Azoulay – Zaki – Raphael.
- Their record factory was based in Holon.
- Their reference points for beauty were still Louisa Tounsia and Line Monty.
With every sentence uttered, my knowledge of the Azoulays, their vision, their personalities and just how mindboggling their operation had been and how much more there is to learn from them increased exponentially.
|Eliyahu Kahlaoui (Shlomo Cohen). Bente El Mdina. Philix. Late 1960s?|
When I returned to New York days later, I wasn’t disappointed. I dropped the needle on the record and Bente El Mdina practically begged to be digitized. Bente El Medina - City Girl in Arabic – was recorded by Shlomo Cohen aka Eliyahu Kahlaoui for the Philix label, one of the smaller Moroccan labels that cropped up in Israel around the Koliphone/Zakiphon labels. Eliyahu Kahlaoui (Shlomo Cohen) also recorded a song called Bente El Mochav – Moshav Girl in a combination of Arabic and Hebrew - that is the suburban contrast to City Girl. Philix recorded a number of North African musicians in the 1960s and 1970s including Judah Assaraf, who I mentioned above, Brahim Souiri, one of the all time great Moroccan musicians, and the famous Algerian David Elbecheri. Take a listen to Eliyahu Kahlaoui and his troupe below.