Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Blond Blond Sings Samy Elmaghribi + Upcoming Gigs

Lady, Your Robe is Open!

I'm heading out of town for the holidays but didn't want to leave everyone hanging. I just digitized the B side of the Blond Blond EP I posted for Hanukkah. This is Blond Blond performing Samy Elmaghribi's scandalous classic - Kouftanek Mahloul (your robe is open in Maghrebi Arabic). In this song, the singer flirts with a woman (Ya lalla - as you will hear throughout) who clearly belongs to someone else. This song has mythic origins and according to this article in Ha'aretz was rumored to be a response by Samy Elmaghribi to accusations that he was having an affair with a member of Morocco's royal family. He vehemently denied this and said that in fact almost the opposite was true - it was he who was being pursued! Whatever the truth is, this was his comeback and it packs a punch. Many a North African musician has performed this song but there is something about Blond Blond's delivery that just makes you want to dance. Go for it.

Blond Blond - Kouftanek Mahloul - Dounia 1278 (1970s) by CBSilver

Upcoming Shows

January 14 and 15 at Limmud NY
  • January 14: Sheikh it Baby: Arabic Music, Jewish Musicians
  • January 15: Israel's Arabic Singing Jewish Musicians
January 26 and February 2 at JCC Manhattan
  • January 26: Jewish Musicians in North Africa at 78 RPM: 1904–1956 
  • February 2: The Untold Story of Israel's Arabic Singing Jewish Musicians

Finally, I will be in Los Angeles from January 18 - 22. If you have ideas for venues where I can spin this music, let me know / email me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Hannouka from Jewish Algeria and Blond Blond

Albert Rouimi aka Blond Blond
I know it looks misspelled but El Bonco – Hannouka is one of the greatest Hanukkah songs that you’ve never heard – courtesy, of course, of the master Algerian Jewish singer Blond Blond. Albert Rouimi, who was given the moniker Blond Blond due to his Albinism, was born in 1919 in Oran, Algeria. From a young age he frequented the cafes that featured legendary Orani musicians like Saoud L’Oranais, Maurice El Medioni’s father, and Reinette L’Oranaise. His influences ran across both sides of the Mediterranean, he was deeply affected by the music of Charles Trenet and Maurice Chevalier for example, and he found himself going back and forth between France and Algeria for much of his career. In 1937, he left for Paris only to return to Oran two years later. It’s unclear how the rise of Vichy France played into this but needless to say Blond Blond left Paris in 1939 and returned only after end of World War II.

Back in Oran, he became known as l’Ambianceur for his unique style of singing and his staccato-like spoken word that interspersed his music. While Blond Blond could make an audience laugh there was also no doubt that he was truly a master musician with significant technical knowledge. He was fluent in the Andalusian repertoire, nailed it in French, commanded chaabi (especially the musical styling of Lili L’abassi) and pioneered the Francarabe style, a mixture of French chansons and Arabic chaabi.

Blond Blond. Kouftanek Mahloul et El Bonco Hannouka. Dounia. #1278. 1970s
He released dozens of records throughout his career, including many on 78 rpm, and recorded for everyone from Pathe to Samyphone to Dounia. He not only performed from his own work and with his own orchestra but also collaborated with some of the finest musicians of his day like Reinette L’Oranaise, Samy Elmaghribi and Line Monty.

Thanks to Phocéephone for this great digitization of Blond Blond’s El Bonco – Hannouka below. Looks like the original Phocéephone link is dead but luckily I found a mislabeled Youtube video of the same tune. Notice that Blond Blond quickly switches languages at the beginning of the track and will do so throughout including when he sings about Hanukkah. Listen carefully at the beginning when he sings, “le mazal c’est la chance.” Mazal is Hebrew for luck.

Ignore the "Ghir Ajini Ajini" - this is indeed El Bonco-Hannouka

Blond Blond was one of the few Jewish Algerian musicians that performed in Algeria post-independence and gave two memorable performances at the Koutoubia music hall in Algiers in 1970 and 1974. Blond Blond, l’Ambianceur, died in 1999 at the age of 80.

Happy Hanukkah to everyone and please make sure to spread this around.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Simon Levy, Director of the Museum of Moroccan Judaism, Dies at 77

Simon Levy at the Jewish Museum in Casablanca

I'm very sad to announce that Simon Levy, Secretary General of the Foundation and Director of the Museum of Moroccan Judaism, died last night at the age of 77. It is hard to imagine that this comes almost exactly a year after the death of Abraham Serfaty, another influential Jewish Moroccan. This is a tremendous loss for all who are interested in Moroccan Jewry. It should be noted that it was Simon Levy's dream to one day restore the El Fessain Synaogogue in Fez's mellah. I hope one day that this dream will be realized. Simon Levy's funeral will be held on Sunday, December 4th, 2011 at 3:00 pm at the Jewish cemetery in Ben Sik.

From Morocco World News:

December 2, 2011
Simon Levy, Secretary General of the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage and the director of the Jewish Museum of Morocco, passed away on Friday morning at a hospital in Rabat following a long illness, people. He was 77. Levy was Morocco’s foremost authority on Moroccan Jewish cultural. His work will continue to guide future generations, academia, and researchers all over the world.

Mr. Levy was born in Fez in 1934. He was a professor in the Spanish Department of Mohamed V University in Rabat since 1971. Mr. Levy went to prison during Morocco’s colonization period because of his resistance to the French and demands to grant Morocco independence. Mr. Levy was also in prison during the years known as “Years of Lead” because of his demands to grant citizens more individual liberties and rights.

Mr. Levy was a leading figure and active member of Morocco’s Communist party (which, later on, became known as PPS) in which he held key positions for more than 30 years (up until 2011). He was also the Secretary General of Moroccan Judaism Foundation and the Director of its Museum in Casablanca (the only museum of this city).

Mr. Levy supported the Palestinian case and showed strong support towards the right of Palestinians to establish a sovereign and independent state. Mr. Levy was a major supporter of Mimouna Club since it was first set up in spring 2007. In this sense, Mr. Levy has been present, kindly, and constantly available to help the club organizes its events and use his contacts network to provide any possible assistance to club’s mission.