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mardi 12 avril 2016


My brother who was born in Bombay but grew up in Kobe and now lives in Portland, Oregon and I share a great love for Mizrachi music. We were happy when Putumayo Records began bringing out Middle Eastern Music (such as Cairo to Casablanca).
Nearly a million Jews were expelled and made refugees when the State of Israel was founded, and especially after the victory in the War of Independence. Those who know the history of Jews who lived in the Orient would know that they were well integrated into the Levantine and Asiatic societies, dressed, ate and dressed like the local people.
Literature of the Mizrachim (in, through and at transition from their homelands to the new ones in Europe, Asia and USA) were easily available in translation, as many of the Mizrachim were educated in French
Albert Cohen  Le Livre de ma mère    
Corfu to Marseille to Genève.  Belle de Seigneur is his best known work
Albert Memmi Tunis to Alger to Paris who has written about growing up Jewish in Tunisia.  His best known work is Pillar of Salt
I made a mental note of the fact that Albert Memmi ended up in France which in Hebrew is Sarfat. His mother’s name was Marguerite Sarpathi…a lucky coincidence or a deserved return?
Just two examples, above.
There are many of a younger generation of the Arab Jews who have become activists and journalists and writers among other professions. (
But thousands like my brother Eliyahu and myself remained faithful to the music and food of our ancestors. Years later I formulated the theory of Genetic Food, that one must eat ones ancestral food however far removed you may be, even after multiple migrations! Needless to say, this can now be scientifically proved by the fact that the microbiome within our bodies have a memory of their ancestors as well and don’t like it very much when they are fed food not to their genetic taste!
I remember arriving in Israel to visit family in Haifa I noticed that the reception to my Mizrachi tastes were not enthusiastic, Yael and Zahava were not the music they listened.
Baruch Hashem, all that is changing. Not only the young Israelis listening to Mizrachi music in Hebrew, it is very popular among Palestinians from the Territories!
Today I was reading a story about Daoud and Saleh Al-Kuwaiti, famous musicians from Kuwait (of Iraqi Jewish origin) who were made refugees by the regime. They were popular with the King of Iraq (Faisal) and throughout the ranks of the Arab citizenry of Trucial States of the region. I can imagine that their music did not find a place in the struggling society of Israel which was far more concerned about just survival from the five powerful Arab neighbours...
Now Daoud’s grandson is a well-known Israeli musician Dudu Tassa and I have been watching videos of his group on YouTube… Dudu started as a rock musician but now has combined the Mizrachi elements and now popular not only with Israelis but Arabs as well.
What happened to the great Jewish musicians who lived in the Arab and Persian world before 1948? From Casablanca to Kabul? Why is their exile and suffering not documented and publicized? Equal numbers, more or less, of Arabs and Jews were exiled from their lands of birth, but are there any Jewish refugee camps? Why are there Palestinian Refugee camps, paradoxically even within Palestine? Explain to me.
A tragic irony of the Palestinian refugees who lived in refugee camps in Syria and now made homeless by their brethren, arriving in Europe, are not accorded the same rights as Syrians who are accepted with open arms as refugees.. Bizarre turn of events of history..
Shiraz, in Iran once boasted of large number of Jewish orchestras?  What happened to them? Where are their grandchildren? Jews lived in Iraq and Iran longer than the Moslems, yet were forced to become refugees. In Israel there are no Jewish Refugee camps under the direction of UN High commission for Refugees!
Coming back to music, it warmed my heart to watch the video of DUDU singing. I am very interested in the fate of Jews from very small outlying communities around the world and have been fortunate to visit many of them. So the Israeli grandson of a Kuwaiti Jew (no Jews left in Kuwait but there are some Jews including an ambassador in Bahrain) is singing Mizrachi music (Mizrachi refers to the east, like Maghreb refers to the West, even though those familiar with the Haggadah will recall Mizrahim as Egypt) popular in Israel and Arab countries. The despots of the Arab countries including Nasser suppressed music by Jewish Arab musicians in the aftermath of their losses to the Israeli Defense Forces, so that Jewish writers and musicians and intellectuals are forgotten in Arab lands but many of their descendants survive in France (Jacques Attali, Bertrand-Levy, Patrick Bruel, Enrique Macias among others, also the DJ that I like to listen, Claude Challe of Tunisian Jewish origin)
Here is Dudu singing the song Wayak with a video made with another artist Borgore
Wayak an old song by the Egyptian great, Farid El Atrache
Here he is singing the song WAYAK
An anthropological observation.
This video was long before the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, you can see the women were treated much better and they were free to dress the way they wanted. For comparison you can also watch videos pre Radical Islam occupation of Iran, the women were not forced to wear hijab and cover themselves up, as they have to do now.
Secondly, a fond memory of a lovely man, Monsieur Maurice W, who despite being made stateless and forced to leave his beloved Egypt by Gamel Abdul Nasser, from whom I first heard about Farid El Atrache.
Many years later I came across the music of El Anka and Chaabi of Alger and I as so captivated. Checking into the history of the music, it was heartwarming to note that it was a point where both Arabs and Jews living in Alger. Much like the Buena Vista Social Club brought together, by Ry Cooder, the old musicians who had been out of fashion, old Jewish and Arab musicians (almost all the Jewish musicians living in France) got together in Alger and the get together, Orquestra El Gusto directed by El Anka’s son Abdel Hadi Halo was phenomenal. You can listen and watch In YouTube. That led me to discover Lili Boniche and Maurice El Medioni.
We have almost toured the entire world of the Arab Jews!
This is the music of the land, which was Zoroastrian, then Bedu, then Arab, in the Maghreb Amazigh long before the Arab conquerors came, but always with a strong presence of Jews, made homeless by the tyrants most of whom are wiped out of the collective Arab memory joining the Jewish refugees before them.
So it is warming to the heart that one of the popular Mizrachi singers in Israel is actually an Arab, Nisrin Qadri who seems be well accepted for her musical talent and given respect and equality denied to most women in Moslem societies.

the song she has chosen with the Andaluz orchestra of Israel is the one we associate with the great Umm Kulthoum,
Enta Omri  You are my Life 
Umm Kulthoum was the greatest female singer in the Middle East until her death in 1975. She was the compatriot of Farid El Atrache.  When I was a child I was told that the song lasted 40 minutes!
here is a translation of this song into English

You are My Life

Your eyes returned me to the days that had gone by
They taught me to regret the past and its wounds
That which I experienced before my eyes saw you
What is the wasted life to me?
You are my life whose morning began with your light
How much of my life before you has passed and gone by
My darling, how much of my life has gone
My heart never experienced one bit of joy before you
And had never tasted in this world anything but the flavor of injury
I've now just begun to love my life
I've now begun to fear for the passing of my lifetime
Every joy that I longed for before you was fantasy
My heart and mind meet find it in the light of your eyes
Oh life of my heart, oh you who is more precious than my life
Why didn't I meet your love, my darling, sooner?
The sweet nights and the desire and the love
For so long my heart carried them for you
Taste love with me
Taste love with love
From the feeling of my heart whose desire extended to your feeling
Give me your eyes they reflect my eyes in their world
Give me your hands their touch calms my hands
Oh my darling come on forget about that which has passed us
Oh you who is more precious than my days
Oh you who is sweeter than my dreams
Take me to your longing take me
Pull me away from the universe
Far, far away you and I
From the love that awakens our days
From the desire than sleeps our nights
I've reconciled time my days with you
I've reconciled time with you
I forgot my pains with you
And I forgot with you my woes
Your eyes called me to the days that have passed
They taught me to regret the past and its wounds
That which I experienced before my eyes saw you
What is the wasted life to me?

This is the sweet life of the Mizrachim. A glorious past striped with tears and sadness and a wonderful future to look forward to in Eretz Israel and Elsewhere..

This one written with my sweet brother Eliyahu in mind..and dedicated to our mishpuchah..