Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy Passover from Jewish Morocco (and Tunisia)!

Last year I posted about the staggering amount of liturgical and festival music released by North African Jewish musicians on major record labels from the earliest days of the recording industry through at least the 1970s. "These musicians," I wrote, "while mastering and pioneering secular, popular Arabic music were also deeply Jewish and recorded religious music, much like their Jewish musical counterparts around the globe." Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating freedom from bondage, resonated loudly with singers and songwriters from across the Maghreb. While relegating themselves to a single benediction or portions of the Pessah haftarah (a selection of Bible chanted in synagogue on the holiday) on the 78 rpm format, the move to the LP allowed these artists to record the Passover seder in its entirety, complete with instructions on how to lead the ritual service!

Nathan Cohen. Undated photograph.
Over the last few weeks I have been revisiting these pieces. Two LPs in particular stand out: Samy Elmaghribi’s La Haggada and Nathan Cohen’s Haggadah de Paque. What is remarkable about the former is that Samy recorded this with his children. Ses enfants play the role of reciting the Passover instructions in French and Samy dutifully performs the requisite rituals when prompted. Nathan Cohen’s Tunisian version is similarly stunning. His record gathers a number of Tunisian Jewish musicians around him to contribute to his sacred sound.

What I’ve done essentially is cut, spliced, and remixed portions of these two LPs together to make what I hope is an enjoyable aural experience. You will hear French instructions and an entertaining play by play of what the holiday is about at the beginning of the track and then back-to-back versions of the Passover classic Dayenu. Dayenu, meaning it would have been enough for us, is a fifteen-stanza piece about gratefulness to God (If He had only brought us out of Egypt…Dayenu. If He had only given us Shabbat…Dayenu). The track ends with Samy appropriately imbibing the fourth cup of wine.

Listen here to a North African Passover Remix:

Please do make sure to pass this one around but not over ;) Wishing everyone a meaningful Passover holiday. Hag Pessah Sameah.

Finally, here are a couple of extra goodies. You can find my post from last year here:

Here is Nathan Cohen’s version of Had Gadya:

And a  Jo Amar Passover LP: