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Israeli orchestra's classic Sephardic style fits Morocco

When the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra Ashdod takes the stage, what you hear is only a small part of what you get (By Barry Davis, Jerusalem Post, February 27, 2020)


 

It can’t be easy representing an entire culture. That task becomes even more daunting when the sector you are championing has, by and large, been kept under wraps for a large part of this still-young country’s history.

 
Many of us have learned of the way music and other areas of the arts brought here by olim from the Sephardic countries were sidelined by the ruling Ashkenazi establishment in the early years of the state. That continued, more or less unabated, for at least the first four decades following independence. The walls of the established order were initially rocked by the advent of the Black Panther movement, in the 1970s, when first-generation Israelis from families who made aliyah from Arab countries began to voice their frustration at what they saw as uneven distribution of rights and wealth.


On the musical front, it was the so-called “cassette singers,” such as Zohar Argov, Jacke Mekaiten and Shimmy Tavori, who began getting their work out there to a wider public via the aforementioned taped audio format, and bypassing the mainstream music industry captains.


But roots music from Sephardic countries had always been there in the sociodemographic mix, even if the opportunities to proffer their sonic and visual heritage on a wider, more prestigious, stage were few and far between. It is a measure of how far we have come in terms of social-cultural and sociopolitical equilibrium, with the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra Ashdod finally being officially sanctioned with “national orchestra status” just over two years ago. At the time, the ensemble’s general manager and artistic director, Jacob Ben Simon, welcomed the award, which comes with annual state support of NIS 5 million. “We have lots and lots of ideas for projects,” he said. “This enables us to realize some of them.”

 

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 Israeli Andalusian Orchestra