Collaborative discography North Africa

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  • Incorporating conventions in poetic composition reminiscent of the shared Arab and Jewish traditions from the Iberian Peninsula, the repertoire of Jewish para-liturgical music in Morocco includes Baqqashot (supplication) and Piyyutim (religious-themed) poems. Often sung without instrumental accompaniment by members of the congregation, this heterophonic style applies the maqam modal system, rhythmic cycles and at times melodies from the al-Ala al-Andalusiyya musical tradition (Morocco’s Classical music). Unlike the folk songs of Moroccan Jewry, this repertoire is written in poetic Hebrew and at times Arabic, and incorporates religious themes centered on life-cycle events, biblical references and a deeply rooted longing for an end to exile from the land of Israel.

Chants Hebreux de la Tradition des Juifs Marocains: Chantés par Rabbi David Bouzaglo. 1993 (Recorded in Morocco, 1957). Compact disc. Bet Hatefusot: BTR 8401.

As an example of this para-liturgical tradition of Moroccan Jewry, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora produced the only sanctioned recording of Rabbi David Bouzaglo. This CD includes eight tracks and liner notes compiled by Haim Zafrani. The liner notes provide a comprehensive explanation of the roots of the Baqqashot tradition as practiced by Moroccan Jews. This discussion includes an introduction to the poetic tradition from which the lyrics are composed, the Andalusian musical tradition from whence the musical material is drawn, and finally an important section on the position of the paytan or poet/chanter in the community. Each track is well designated with genre, function, poetic meter, maqam and when possible, composer. Translations of the Hebrew and Arabic are also provided for each piece. As Zafrani points out in his notes on the paytan, this hi-fidelity recording provides us with the only example of one of the most respected performers and teachers of this tradition, Rabbi David Bouzaglo. His masterful representations of these pieces, along with the supporting singers, show how the paytan functions as master soloist and as leader of the ensemble. The major shortcoming of this recording is its brevity. Only the final track, Dodi Yarad le-Gano, comes close to showing the development inherent in this style by allowing a nice 18:09. The other tracks are mere glimpses of this diverse musical tradition. With the participation of Rabbi David Bouzaglo, its hi-fidelity and the superb liner notes by noted scholar Haim Zafrani, Chants Hebreux de la Tradition des Juifs Marocains is a valuable contribution to understanding the diversity and complexity of the musical traditions of the Maghreb.

Samuel Thomas, City University of New York