|Jo Amar. 56120. Zakiphon. 1960s. Side 2 - Mssat Ailaya (Mchate Aaliya by Lili Boniche)|
What fascinates me is that most are unaware of the fact that Jo Amar recorded 78s in Arabic before moving to Israel and that he continued to not only record Arabic Andalusian music in Israel and elsewhere but also chaabi and Francarabe on LP – Mchate aaliya by Lili Boniche is a perfect example. He wrote his own songs in Arabic and he sang the great songs of others and this post is an attempt to put this history back on the map after being omitted by far too many articles and obituaries.
|Jewish cemetery in Settat, Morocco (2008)|
"Two weeks after I recorded my first song in Israel," recalled Amar in a 2008 interview, "it reached even the most impenetrable Ashkenazi ears." This is one of my all time favorite quotes. You wouldn't expect it from Jo Amar but there he goes again and surprises. By the time Jo Amar arrived in Israel he was a well known entity in the North African community. The Azoulays helped to put him on the musical map in Israel, when no other record label would. The brothers Azoulay apparently sang backup on Shir Hashikor when it was first recorded in Jaffa. Jo Amar would go onto to record for the major Israeli labels as well, on his own Kol Amar label, and on various labels around the world.
|Jo Amar El Maghribi. Goulouli fin. Tam Tam. 1960s (Marseilles)|
|Lili Boniche. Golole fene (Goulouli fin). Dounia. 1960s|
By 1970 Jo Amar moved to New York – a combination of push and pull factors including the draw of a better career. He eventually became a Cantor and performed in synagogues spanning the Jewish globe. By the late 1980s / early 1990s Amar returned to Israel and throughout the remainder of his life he would finally collect the honors he so deserved. Jo Amar El Maghribi, arguably Settat's most famous singer, died in Woodmere, New York in 2009 at the age of 79.
Articles on Jo Amar:
Jo Amar, Genre-Blending Jewish Singer, Dies at 79 – New York Times – Bruce Webber – July 9, 2009
He opened Israeli ears to Mizrahi songs – Haaretz – Ben Shalev – July 7, 2009
Jo Amar, acclaimed Sephardic singer, dies – JTA - Ben Harris - June 30, 2009
- Sam Thomas gives an excellent description of what made Jo Amar so unique.