Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jewish Morocco Now on Twitter!

Follow Jewish Morocco on Twitter for more updates, photos and links to music. Also, stay tuned for a dynamite upcoming post on Samy Elmaghribi, Esther Elfassy and Albert Suissa.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Raoul Journo, Memories of Tunisian Jewish Music and Kol Nidre

It is impossible to ignore the influence of Algerian and Tunisian music on Moroccan music and vice versa. That is why in the years I have been collecting records, I have moved from focusing only on Moroccan music produced in Israel to Moroccan music in general and on to Algerian and Tunisian as well.  I have also concentrated on North African Arabic music as performed by Jews but when I’m so moved I also will pick up something performed in Hebrew or even Aramaic like Kol Nidre.

Raoul Journo et Alain Scetbon. Kol Nidre: Chantent à l’orientale 3 mélodies hébraïques.
Festival Records (FX45-1543). 1970s

So today, Jewish Morocco goes to Tunisia via France. I have digitized both sides of a Raoul Journo and Alain Scetbon EP entitled Kol Nidre: Chantent à l’orientale 3 mélodies hébraïques produced by Festival Records (FX45-1543) in France circa 1970s. Raoul Journo and Alain Scetbon are accompanied by Victor Zeitoun on the qanun. “This record represents the first time that Raoul Journo and Alain Scetbon have performed together,” says the liner notes on the back cover of the record. Journo and Scetbon use the “most authentic Tunisian synagogue melody and thus this disc is an indisputable document.” The notes also express hope that the talent of the musicians on this disc might “rescue from oblivion the important cultural wealth of the once prosperous North African Jewish communities.”

Raoul Journo was born in 1911 in Tunis, Tunisia to a Jewish family. By his twenties he was already recording for Polyphon and Pathe. He left Tunisia in 1965, a full 9 years after Tunisian independence, and later continued to record for Pathe, Dounia, Bel Air and others. He was truly one of the greatest Tunisian vocalists, if not the greatest, of the modern era. It is said that the Egyptian singer Mohammed Abdel Wahab sought him out frequently and even attended his concert at the Olympia in Paris. Raoul Journo died in 2001 and is buried in Jerusalem.

Alain Scetbon, also known as Rabbi Mikhael-Alain Scetbon, was another Tunisian-born singer known for his piyyutim while Victor Zeitoun, the qanoun player on this EP, was also born in Tunisia. There are some fantastic Youtube recordings of Alain Scetbon out there but I have seen little to nothing written of Victor Zeitoun. I will work on getting some information on him. It always amazes me that only a few years after the deaths of many of these great musicians, so little is written about them. I hope in some small way that this blog can contribute to their memory.

The first side of this record is the Kol Nidre prayer. Kol Nidre is recited every Yom Kippur and is one of the most awe-inspiring (and controversial) pieces of Jewish liturgy. It is most often described as haunting. This is a very different Kol Nidre. It is less haunting, more rhythmic and to me more spiritually uplifting. The qanun accompaniment is incredibly powerful. Listen to Raoul Journo, Alain Scetbon and Victor Zeitoun perform Kol Nidre here.
Raoul Journo et Alain Scetbon. Kol Nidre (Festival Records - FX45-1543). 1970s. by CBSilver

The second side is two different prayers – Kilou Nahi and Il Nora Alila. Kilou Nahi is a hymn to the glory of God and his reign while Il Nora Alila (also El Nora Alila) is a piyyut, a liturgical acrostic poem set to music, which is part of the closing Neilah service for Yom Kippur. Listen to Raoul Journo, Alain Scetbon and Victor Zeitoun perform Kilou Nahi and Il Nora Alila here.
Raoul Journo et Alain Scetbon. Kilou Nahi, Il Nora Alila (Festival Records - FX45-1543). 1970s. by CBSilver