Mizrahi music

Mizrahi music

Mizrahi music (Hebrew: מוזיקה מזרחית, Muziqa Mizraḥit, "Oriental Music", "Musica Mizrahi") refers to the music integration that combines elements from Europe, the West, and Middle Eastern/North African countries transported to Israel by migrating Jews.[1] It is usually sung in Hebrew, literary Hebrew and Arabic slang.[2] The literal translation of Mizrahi from Hebrew is "Eastern".


Emergence of Mizrahi music


Israeli Jews from the Arab countries from the Middle East and North Africa who have over the last 50 years created a unique musical style that combines elements of Arabic, Turkish, and Greek music. This is not to be confused with the New Hebrew Style, which was the conscious creation of Eastern European immigrants trying to define their new Israeli identity, the Mizrahit style is spontaneous and indigenous.[3] Initially met with hostility by the mainstream cultural institutions of Israel, it has now become a major force in Israeli music culture.

After World War II, many Jewish families moved to the new state of Israel, created in 1948.[4] The Muzika Mizrahit movement started in the 1950s with homegrown performers in neighborhoods with a high concentration of Jews from Arab countries from the Middle East and North Africa who would play at weddings and other events. They performed songs in Hebrew, but in an Arabic style, on traditional Arabic instruments—the oud, kanun, and the darbuka. In the 1960s, they added acoustic and electric guitar to their sound and so their sound became more eclectic. Vocalists usually decorated their singing with trills, and delivery was often nasal or guttural in sound. Intonation was typically Western, however; singers did not use the quartertone scales typical of Arabic music. Into the 1980s synthesizers and electronic instruments made their debut in Mediterranean Israeli music. ").[5]

Lyrics were originally texts taken from classic Hebrew literature, including poems by medieval Hebrew poets. Later they added texts by Israeli poets, and began writing original lyrics as well. An example is the song "Hanale Hitbalbela" (Hannale was confused), sung by Yizhar Cohen. The lyrics are by the modern Israeli poet and lyricist Natan Alterman, to a traditional tune. Singers also translated childhood favorites from Arabic to Hebrew and added electronics and a faster tempo. [6]

The 1970s and onward

Two of the first popular Mizrahi musicians was Zohar Argov from Rishon LeZion and Avihu Medina. Argov grew up singing in his synagogue and a very defined Middle Eastern melisma. His defining Mizrahi hit was Haperah BeGani (פרח בגני) ("Flower in my Garden").[7] After his suicide he became an icon in Israel for what happens when one is cheated by society and a political activist. A play ha-Melekh was written about his life story, portrayed his fall to drugs and his troubles with the law. It was extremely popular.[8]

Avihu Medina was a singer and composer. He composed many popular hits for Argov. Women also began to play a significant part in popular Mizrahi music. A popular artist was Zehava Ben. Because of her ties to Morocco and the Middle East she began her career singing Umm Kulthum. .[9]

Because Mediterranean Israeli music was so popular within the Eastern Jewish communities, which were quickly becoming a large percentage of Israel, the natural outcome would be a continuous playback on the local radio station. However the national government restricted the play of Mizrahi music because it was not considered ‘authentic Israeli.’ The social researcher, Sami Shalom Chetrit, wrote "The educational and cultural establishment made every effort to separate the second generation of eastern immigrants from this music, by intense socialization in schools and in the media,".[10]

The penetration of Muzika Mizrahit into the Israeli mainstream was the result of pressure by Mizrahi composers and producers such as Avihu Medina, the overwhelming, undeniable popularity of the style, and the gradual adoption of elements of Muzika Mizrahit by popular Israeli artists. Yardena Arazi, one of Israel's most popular stars, made a recording in 1989 called "Dimion Mizrahi" (Eastern Imagination), and included original materials and some canonical Israeli songs.

The acceptance of Muzika Mizrahit, over the 1990s, parallels the social struggle of Israelis of Sephardic and Mizrahi origin to achieve social and cultural acceptance. "Today, the popular Muzika Mizrahit has begun to erase the differences from rock music, and we can see not a few artists turning into mainstream. This move to the mainstream culture includes cultural assimilation," writes literary researcher and critic Mati Shmuelof.[11]

It is a widely accepted fact by now that the invention of the recordable cassette by the Philips Corporation and the commercial cassette distribution network in the Tel Aviv train station had a large impact on the popularity of Mediterranean Israeli music. Cassettes allowed the Mizrahi population create and distribute their own music within their communities. They also allowed for more musical integration. One could have Umm Kulthum and a neighbor who is an emerging singer. Cassette tapes were a predominant factor in the growth of Mediterranean Israeli music in the 1970s. After first being a favorite at community celebrations, such as weddings and birthdays, the recording of one particular wedding party became a desired commodity in the Mizrahi ma'abarot ("transit camp"). These cassettes are what caused ethnomusicologist Amy Horowitz to start researching this blossoming new music style.[12]

"It all started with my wedding,” says Asher Reuveni "I didn't have a real wedding with a band and dancing and drinking till the morning. My wife's brother was killed in the [1973 Yom Kippur] War. Our happiness was shattered and we married in a quiet way in the offices of the Rabbinate. My friends promised that when the day comes, three months later, they will make it up to me with a real hafla [“party”]. They brought the original Oud Band from Kerem Ha’Teymanim, with Daklon and Ben Mosh. Close to sixty people squeezed into my mother’s little living room, three by four meters, and Daklon and Ben Moshe played and sang songs from our fathers’ home.” [Horowitz 1984]

After Reuveni’s friends and neighbors started offering to buy the cassettes he realized he might have a great opportunity on his hands.[13] He and his brother later went on to become one of the major Mizrahi cassette companies in Israel.

Fusion genres

During time fusions of Mizrahi music with other genres emerged, including oriental rock, hip hop and pop.

Rock Mizrahi

Rock Mizrahi ("oriental rock") is an Israeli musical style combining rock music with middle eastern instruments, compositions and singing techniques. The outcome usually resemble progressive rock. Lead musicians in this genre are Orphaned Land, Knesiyat Hasekhel, Algir (and lead singer Aviv Guedj) and Dudu Tassa. The song "Shtika" by Aviv Geffen and some works by Teapacks could also count though.

A closely related genre is oriental metal.


Today music in Israel continues to change and encorporate the artist's home country and native styles. However, the search for authentic "Israeliness" is steps closer as time progresses.[14]

Well known Mizrahi singers

See also


  1. ^ Horowitz, Amy (1999), pp 452-453 [1], "Israeli Mediterranean Music: Straddling Disputed Territories".
  2. ^ Horowtiz, Amy (1999)
  3. ^ Regev and Seroussi (2004), pp 191-235
  4. ^ U.S. Department of State> [2]
  5. ^ Horowitz, Amy (2010), "Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic pp 1-155
  6. ^ Friedman, Thomas (1987), “Using Songs, Israelis Touch Arab Feelings” pp 1-3 [3]
  7. ^ Regev, Motti (1996), “Musica Mizrakhit, Israeli Rock and National Culture in Israel” pp 275-284 [4]
  8. ^ Horowitz, Amy (2010)
  9. ^ Horowitz, Amy (2010)
  10. ^ Chetrit (2004).
  11. ^ Shmuelof (2006).
  12. ^ Horowitz, Amy (2010)
  13. ^ Horowtiz, Amy (1999)
  14. ^ Regev, Motti (1996)

External links

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