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mardi 26 août 2014


The Story of El Gusto, the Chaabi Music Reunion, is truly one of nostalgia and remembrance of a time that would never ever appear again.
When a Jew plays this music, it is called, Jewish-Andaluz music, when an Algerian plays this music, they call it Arab-Andaluz Music, but it is the same.

From 1492 to the beginning of the resistance against French Occupation of Algeria, Jews and Arabs lived comfortably together in that white city by the sea, Alger, Algerie..

Now Algeria is almost cleansed of its historic jewish presence, like in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya since the formation of the State of Israel, creating a Jewish Refugee population of nearly one million. (don't look for them at UN Refugee camps, the jews integrated well into the communities that offered them welcome)

El Anka may not be a household name outside Algeria but he is a revered master of the music that came to be known as Chaabi.. the street music of Alger, a music in which both Jews and Arabs eagerly contributed. Before 1940s, the music conservatory was not open to Non French, but El Anka was given a room to teach this music along with Classical Arab music to the children of the Casbah, both Jewish and Arab as well as Berber who are the native people of Algerie. The maitre kept good records of the pupils who were dispersed fifty years ago by the rising nationalists.

Quite recently, those school children who never forgot each other, had a reunion and formed an orchestra El Gusto, conducted by none other than the son of El Anka! Jews and Arabs and Berber, now in their golden years, played with such gusto, that one feels the emotions of the forgotten years in their voices and oud and violins, flutes and other local instruments.

In this particular video, one of the chanteurs is featured, and listening to him, I was so reminded of listening to Sefardi liturgy, it was as if I was inside a synagogue of the forgotten Andalusian times!
My Sefardi coreligionists would easily recognize the tone of the melodies.

All these are now memories. The golden era that was the Jewish-Arab amitie is for the history books.... even though being an eternal optimist, I look into the future and see a particular scenario...

I am writing this on the day Hamas which occupies Gaza Strip, and Israel have signed a long term cease fire. Suddenly, after the events in the past few weeks in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and Kurdistan, the powerful response of Israel towards cowards who hide among civilians and mosques seem warranted and welcomed, and which has produced results. 

Look at what the greatest historian of Islam Bernard Lewis (who by the way is British and Jewish) had foreseen:
as anyone with historic knowledge would confess: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Jordan are all NEW and CREATED entities even though people have lived there for millennia. I am happy to see that a Free Kurdistan is coming alive, Jordanian monarch is from the sands of Arabia and he governs a majority palestinian population. A greater Jordan of the future could absorb Palestinian aspirations in the form of a Federation of a State of Palestine with a Palestine majority Greater Jordan. Hopefully Baluchistan would also be free of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I am for an independent state for Arab people living in Gaza Strip and West Bank, as long as they denounce violence against Israel. Once that occurs, over the course of decades a great cooperation can occur between the technologically superior Israel and Arab States in the region, including the Non Arab Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So I was certainly dreaming of such a scenario when I was listening to Chaabi music, resurrected by the group El Gusto which has both Jewish and Arab as well as Berber musicians..

and I wanted SHALOM  Peace for Israel and all the millions of Arabs and other Moslems in that region!