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Andalucious, exploring roots through North African music

Andalucious is a Jewish band that covers songs from North Africa, mainly Morocco and Algeria. Singing in Arabic, the musicians revisit old songs that were once performed by the Jewish communities in North Africa.  

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The members of Andalucious, an Jewish band that covers old North African songs. / Ph. Facebook

They are 12 Israeli musicians who embrace their love for North African music through a band called Andalucious. Performing since 2015, the band members cover Chaabi songs form the Jewish North African memoir.

«We all come from different backgrounds, with some members who grew up on Moroccan music», Andalucious’ pianist Darya Mosenzon told Yabiladi. As a member of the Jerusalem-based band, Darya explained how interested these musicians are in Moroccan and Algerian music.

It all started for these young Jewish music lovers in 2015 when they decided to play old songs from the North African Jewish repertoire. «When we got together, we started studying Moroccan and Algerian music such as Chaabi and popular music from the 60s and 70s», Darya recalled.

«Although some of us did not listen to this kind of music growing up, we all ended up falling in love with it», she explained. Since then, the 12-membered music band started exploring songs that were sung by the Jewish community in both Morocco and Algeria. «Discovering this heritage was the main idea behind the band», the pianist said.

Reviving old North African songs

One of the first covers they recorded was «Hassebni», a song by Algerian Chaabi singer Dahmane El Harrachi. «It was amazing for us to see that the song has over one million views on Youtube», Darya proudly declared.

«We did not know that it would be this successful, we just fell in love with the music and recorded it and it turned out that people liked it too».

Darya Mosenzon

In addition to Hassebni, Andalucious made a cover of Moroccan classical song «Alach Ya Ghzali», sung by singer and composer Maati Benkacem. With their own touch added to each and every song, the band brings new blood into the North African repertoire. «Although the songs we play are old ones, we try to bring something new every time we perform them», Darya said.

«Each interpretation reflects the love we carry for the culture and the traditions», she stressed. Indeed, the 12 musicians try to embody the era that their songs come from. During their performances, female members wear kaftans, North African accessories, while others sing in Darija (Moroccan Arabic).

«When you dig into a certain type of music, there is always more than just songs and instruments to it», Darya said, stressing that «disconnecting music from culture, art and clothing is nearly impossible».

To find these old songs, the band relies on its violinist Elad Levi who is always on the hunt for old recordings. Most of these songs are famous among the North African community in Israel but, unfortunately not all of them have been under the «spotlight», Darya explained.

«North African music hasn’t been widely known until the last couple of years (…) it is now getting more and more famous and acknowledged», Darya said. Thanks to bands like Andalucious, older generations get to listen again to songs that they «have grown up dancing to during holidays and weekends», Dayra told Yabiladi.

«The generation of our parents wasn’t very open about teaching this kind of music. Each one of us tries in their own way to find a connection to their roots through music», Darya said.

In Israel, the music made by Andalucious attracts Jews of Moroccan and Algerian descent but also people with different backgrounds. In Morocco, the band was also lucky to meet its audience, playing in October 2018 in Essaouira.

«We had two shows in Essaouira, and each of them was ecstatic for us, the audience was singing with us, clapping and dancing to our music. The whole room was vibrating, it was really an honor to come to Morocco and play this music in the place where it came from».

Darya Mosenzon

Andalucious is all about reviving old memories and embracing roots, but also getting over differences. Speaking about the power of music, Darya stated that it has allowed them «bring together Jews and Muslims and hope for peace». The band has even a song called «Lihoud o Lemsselmin» (Jews and Muslims) in which they call for coexistence and peace.

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