Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Botbol: The Last of an Era

Botbol on electric guitar. 1960s.

Haim Botbol has affected my life in ways he could never imagine. It was his record I picked up four years ago and it was his voice, which opened up a world of North African music for me. This is why this day means so much to me. Today, June 18, 2013, Haim Botbol is being honored by a fascinating cross-section of Moroccans for his sixty plus years in the music business. The event, organized by his manager and producer Maurice Elbaz, will include a roundtable discussion with musicians, musicologists, and journalists on Botbol’s career and of course, a concert - stacked with talent: Maxime Karoutchi and his orchestra, Benomar Ziani, Marcel Botbol, Vanessa Paloma, and apparently a few surprises.
Haim Botbol, known as Botbol to fans, was born in Fez in the 1930s. Like other Jewish musicians who came of age during this period, the young Botbol soon joined a musical dynasty. His father, Cheikh Jacob Abitbol (another variant of the Botbol name), was a well respected violinist and vocalist who released a number of 45s in the 1950s. Marcel, his younger brother, continues to entertain in Tangier.
Haim Botbol on guitar and his father Jacob Abitbol on violin. Marcel in back. Fez. 1950s.
Sampling of Botbol 45s c/o of Toukadime.
Haim Botbol was a favorite of Salim Halali and performed with Albert Suissa as well. He released a considerable amount of music on about a dozen labels (Boussiphone, Musica, Tichkaphone, Canariphone, Philips, etc.). He “made it” well into the cassette era, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. His mesmerizing voice has played a major role in his success and it would not be an exaggeration to say that Botbol, for all intents and purposes, represents the last of the great Jewish Moroccan musicians living in-country (although he has spent the last few years in France). 

This track - Ba Lahcen - is one of my favorites. The song became a serious hit for many including the likes of Hajja Hamdaouia. For anyone who has spent considerable time in Morocco or grew up speaking darija, you will love the song’s refrain.

Mazal tov, mabrouk, and félicitations to Cheikh Haim Botbol.

I will be posting additional Botbol-related material on my Facebook page and on Twitter throughout the week. Please make sure to check out.


Anonymous said...

Chris, i can't get that link to the recording to play. any suggestions?

Chris Silver said...

Hi Adina,

Should be working. I just checked again. Try this link: