The Astor: the last Kosher restaurant in Fez
Chris Silver is a man on a musical mission – to find the stars of 1940s and 50s popular music in the dusty record shops of Morocco. Read his Jewish Morocco blog (with thanks: Michelle):
Some three years after first discovering the magic of
musician Haim Botbol in a record store in Casablanca, I returned to Morocco to
find his music in cassette stalls across the country. In fact, I got an even
deeper sense of the critical importance of music in the Maghreb on this trip.
In Tafraoute, in the country’s deep southwest, frescos of musical instruments
like the rebab and images of musical standouts from the 1940s like Hadj Belaid
adorned walls throughout the region’s ancient villages.
At a pizza joint along
the Tizi-n-Tichka pass, a banjo on a chair was displayed prominently. When the
restaurant’s owner wasn’t making pies, he would strum a few chaabi notes. And
in Casablanca, by the former Lincoln Hotel, a cd seller played Samy
Elmaghribi’s version of Gheniet Bensoussan for passersby.
After years of collecting Moroccan and then North African
music in general, I was interested in not only finding dusty recordings from
Tangier to Fez but also to collect musical memories. I was interested in how
Moroccans, Jews and Muslims, understood and remembered their Jewish pop icons
of yesteryear and so I went looking.
I started in Tangier and found very little. I figured a
Mediterranean port city with a once large Jewish community would herald in an