Jewish singers from Tunisia

A radio program of the European Institute of Jewish Music hosted by Hervé Roten

MUSIQUES JUIVES D’HIER ET D’AUJOURD’HUI – APRIL 9, 2013, JUDAÏQUES FM (94.8), 21H05. Radio program in French

Jews are settled in the territories of today’s Tunisia since centuries. If one should believe the legend, when the first Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar, some Cohanim (priests) went into exile, and landed on the island of Djerba, where they built their first synagogue of la Ghriba, in which they incorporated one of the original rocks of the Temple, taken during their escape.


As diasporas went by, the Jewish culture progressively took root in this Tunisian land. Thus, in the 15th century, Jews chasen from Spain by the Inquisition of Isabel the Catholic found refuge in North Africa. Finally, in the 18th century, it’s the Granas, Jews coming from Livorno in Italy who crossed the Mediterranean Sea. The Israelites lived then under the protection of the Bey. These successive emigrations blended into the local cultures, the songs in Arab and the music rhythm joyously the celebrations from the Brit Milah (circumcision) to the wedding, passing by the Bar Mitsvah. And to better fit in the landscape, the biggest singers took pseudonyms with an Arabic consonance, therefore Isserène Israel Rozio became Cheïkh El Afrite, Elie Touitou was called El Kahlaoui Tounsi (Kahlaoui the Tunisian). And as singing is forbidden to Muslim women, the greatest women singers were often Jewish, like Louisa Tounisia (Louisa the Tunisian), Fritna Darmon, Leyla Sfez or the famous Hbiba Msika, born Margueritte Mskika, who had a tragic fate.


For the release of the CD « Jewish singers from Tunisia », the producer Michel Lévy and musicologist Hervé Roten will talk of this singular story, uillustrated by many excerpts of songsb by Hbiba Msika, Fritna Darmon, Louisa Tounsia, Raoul Journo, Cheikh El Afrite, El Kahlaoui Tounsi and José de Suza…

herve_photo_retouche_fond_uni_bleu_500px.jpgOfficer of the Ordre of Arts and letters, PhD in musicology at Paris University Sorbonne, prize-winning graduate from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, Hervé Roten is the director of the European Institute of Jewish Music since its creation in 2006.
Ethnomusicologist, he quickly developed an interest in the safeguard and digitization of archives, subjects he taught for several years in Reims and Marne-La-Vallée universities.
Author of many articles, books and recordings related to Jewish music, producer of radio programs, Hervé Roten is recognized today as one of the best specialists of Jewish music in the world.

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