Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mazal Haï Mazal: Eight North African Tracks to Light Your Soul On Fire

2014 came and went too quickly. I wanted to post more often but as so frequently happens, life got in the way. In lieu of my more regular posts, I offer you, “Mazal Haï Mazal: Eight North African Tracks to Light Your Soul On Fire,” as an end of the year treat. These are eight (one for every night of Hanukkah) of my favorite Moroccan and Algerian tracks (mostly on vinyl but one on cassette) and articulate a range of Maghrebi Jewish sounds - from Andalusian to chaabi to a song about the atomic bomb! Feel free to stream, download, and share.

Consider the title of this end of the year Hanukkah mixtape an Arabic-Hebrew play on words. Indeed for most of the mid-century North African Jewish artists featured here, “mazal” always carried two meanings. In Arabic, mazal meant “still,” as in Lili Labassi’s “Mazal haï mazal” (S/he’s still alive) - a track beautifully presented on the Excavated Shellac blog. But so too did mazal recall the Hebrew for “luck” or “fortune,” a point made by Labassi’s disciple Blond Blond, who sang, “mazal, c’est la chance,” in what is perhaps the only Algerian Hanukkah song ever to be recorded commercially. I say all of this to convey the following: treat my take on Mazal Haï Mazal in both of these senses. Not only is this music “still alive” but so too should we remember that it is through a combination of fortune and luck (and all of our good graces) that it continues to live on.

One last point before we get to the music. Treat this as a soft launch of a crowd funding campaign to turn my private record collection into a public sound archive. On my shelves are historical audio gems that deserved to be shared and I want to make that happen as soon as possible. In other words, keep an eye out on this site in 2015!

Best wishes for the New Year!


Elizabeth said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the music, especially Toumobile Jaya. Thanks for sharing your collection!

Chris Silver said...

Thanks, Elizabeth!

Emerson said...

Hi, Chris—

Long-time reader, first-time commenter, so let me say, first: thanks for doing what you do!

Second, a quick question. I know it's not actually on this collection of songs—which, by the way, I thoroughly enjoyed—but since it provides the title, I reckoned it was still germane. So: could I trouble you for the lyrics to "Mazal Haï Mazal"? Latin or Arabic alphabet is fine. It's rapidly become one of my favorite songs, but my ear is sufficiently rusty—getting close to a decade away from N Africa!—that I'm having trouble deciphering what's going on.

Thanks, in advance, for any help you can give! And, of course, for yeoman's work on the blog.

Unknown said...

I just discovered your blog. It happens that i am the son of one of the musicians of El Motribia in the years 1925-1935
I am trying to find any infos on him during that period.
Can you help ?
My father : Joseph Checler playing mandoline;

Chris Silver said...

Hi Yvan. Please email me at



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