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Moroccan Grooves, Blogged

A fan scours record collections from Marrakech to Montreal for music by Morocco’s bygone Jewish pop stars

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Some albums from Silver's collection.(Chris Silver)

By day, Chris Silver works for a Jewish task force trying to raise awareness about civic inequalities facing Israel’s Arab citizens. But he dedicates his free time to Jews in an Arab land, with his blog, Jewish Morocco. Silver created the blog in 2008, while traveling in Morocco, as a way of sharing the stories, photographs, and other artifacts he was collecting to document what Jewish life there had been like in its heyday. Along the way, he developed a particular interest in the country’s Jewish musicians and singers—characters who were beloved by Moroccans of all backgrounds, and to whom he gives ample space on his blog.

Silver joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to talk about some of the unique voices he’s discovered, what happened to Jewish Moroccan singers once they left the country in the 1950s and ’60s, and where he gets his missionary zeal (hint: It has to do with Bob Dylan; Mama Cass; Bill Cosby; and Chris’s dad, Roy). [Running time: 25:55.] 


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Great contribution, and program.  However, there is no dearth of literature about Jewish history, culture, social life in Morocco, mostly in French and Hebrew, though also quite a bit in English in academic journals.  I hear it a little bit as a subtext, but don’t recall the word “bittersweet” in Mr. Silver’s account.  I was introduced to “Abitbol” and “the Abitbol brothers” in the late 70’s in Morocco, by someone asking another person, in response to my questions about what’s the best music to listen to — “what’s the name of that Jew”?  (dak l-yehudi).  By that time the brothers were performing, I think, for Jewish affairs rather than in nightclubs.  I could be wrong.  Why no mention of Jo Amar, Haim Look, Emile Zrihan?

    Eva Broman says:

    Inbal Perelson has written a dissertation in Hebrew on Jewish-Arabic musicians in Israel. The English title is “A Great Joy Tonight”-Arab-Jewish Music and Mizrahi Identity”. I ordered my copy through the Internet a few years ago, so it should still be available. 


Thanks for sharing! Increasingly scholars are paying attention to Jewish Morocco (thankfully) but little has been written on the Jewish role in the music industry in the first half of the 20th century and even less about what happened to these musicians in the late 50s through 70s. There is so much good music to share (including the artists you mentioned below) but of course only so much time on a podcast :) Much more, including Jo Amar, can be found on my blog.

All the Best,



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Moroccan Grooves, Blogged

A fan scours record collections from Marrakech to Montreal for music by Morocco’s bygone Jewish pop stars

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