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Week 9 (March 13 & 15)


“Israeli rock and SLI [Songs of the Land of Israel], the music cultures that express the variants of Israeliness we have labeled global Israeliness and Hebrewism, are conventionally associated with the dominant sectors of Israeli society, that is, the establishment, or the secular Ashkenazi middle and upper classes. Musiqah mizrahit (lit. Eastern or oriental music) is the popular music associated with mizrahiyut, the cultural variant of Israeliness created by Jews who came to Israel from Arab and Muslim countries in North Africa and the Near East. Referred to in earlier periods as ‘edot ha-mizrah (the Eastern communities), these Jews were relegated by the dominant Western perspective to an ‘ethnic’ component of Israeli Jewish culture and typically occupy the less-privileged socioeconomic positions (Arab-Israeli Palestinians are another such component)” (Regev-Seroussi, p. 191).

This week we are adding to the multifaceted mosaic of modern Israeli musical culture by looking at the contribution brought by the music of the Jews from the Lands of Islam. Initially a subculture, musiqah mizrahit has become a fully accepted component of mainstream Israeli culture: a long way from the early-day “Orientalism” expressed in the falling in love for Yemenite music by the early generations of immigrant composers! A classic “Cinderella” story, musiqah mizrahit started out as “cassette music,” distributed in the old Tel Aviv bus station. It then became the banner for the cultural/political/economic claims of non-Ashkenazi (i.e., non-Western) Israeli Jews. Later, it hit the charts, becoming one of the major forces in the Israeli music market. Finally, it started blending with other musical cultures, such as rock, “Mediterranean” sounds, and world music. No wonder it became such a “sexy” topic for academics, attracting all kinds of scholarly interests (Regev-Seroussi, p. 193-195).

With the addition of musiqah mizrahit to our research path, it may seem that we have somehow come in

a full circle: the early exoticism represented by “Oriental sounds” is now the bread and butter of

everyday music in the State of Israel. Oriental sounds can be freely incorporated in rock, ethnic, and

early world music contexts; they can become part of mainstream pop culture (such as TV programs); they can also carry the message of “religious” Israeliness.

Grove, paragraphs IV:1 and V:1 will provide you with a synthetic background on the role of non-liturgical

music in traditional Jewish life, with a particular stress on the communities located in the Lands of Islam. Once again, the audio anthology Gadalnu yachad can guide us step-by-step into the development of the “oriental” sounds of Israeli popular music. Listen to the following tracks, using Regev-Seroussi, chapter

9, as your guide. The songs are presented here chronologically from the early 1970’s to the mid-1980’s

(when possible with references to the book by Regev and Seroussi), but you may want to organize them according to different principles.




Eini yachol (I cannot), by Nessim Saroussi (see Regev-Seroussi 202), 1973


Chanale hitbalbela (Chanale was rattled), by Tzlile ha‘oud (see RS 213-214), 1974




Etzlenu biqfar Tudra (In our home village, Tudra), by Habrerah Hativ‘it (see RS 193), 1979



4: Haperach beganni (The flower in my garden), by Zohar Argov (see RS 207), 1982


Ganavim (Thieves), by Army Radio DJ Dori Ben-Zeev, who “plays” with the mizrahi genre, 1985


Todah (Thank You), Greek tune on religious lyrics by Yemenite leader of musiqah mizrahit Haim

Moshe (see RS 216), 1986


Eizo medinah (What a country), by Eli Louzon, a “pure” example of musiqah mizrahit from 1987




Ba lashkunah bachur chadash (A new kid on the block), by former Kaveret Alon Olearchick, 1985


Ekh hu shar (How he sings), by Dani Robas (possibly dedicated to Z. Argov), 1989: echoes of

“Mizrahi” synagogue song in the opening…

CD 9

2: Lamah libekh kmo qerach (Why is your heart like ice?), by Gidi Gov and Eli Louzon, 1991

15: Magi‘a yom chadash (A new day is coming), by Hachamishiyah Haqamerit (the Chamber Quintet);

and 16: Shir cham weyefet (Song of heat and beauty), by Haqomedi Stor (the Comedy Store) were

featured in 1995 TV comedy shows

17: Ma ‘asit (What did you do?), by rock group Tea Packs (see RS 193), 1995

Note: All required sound files and CD booklets available on bSpace.