Israeli Orchestra Plays To Full House And Warm Applause In Morocco
On December 12, in front of a full house in Casablanca Morocco, the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra played together with Moroccan musicians at the opening evening of the Andalussyat Festival, one of the most important Andalusian music festivals in Morocco in an event that was broadcast live and extensively covered by local media.
The Orchestra, which kept its arrival in Morocco a secret until the last minute, played on stage at the Megarama, the most important hall in Casablanca, a repertoire of Andalusian, Algerian and Egyptian music together with a choir of Moroccan singers and at the end of the performance received a roaring round of applause.
“We were 90 people on the stage, Muslims, Jews, and Christian all together dressed in the traditional white gown .” Yoram Azulay musical Conseiller of the Orchestra and who plays the Tar, a long-necked guitar told TPS “There were at least 1,200 people in the hall. When we started to play I felt a very powerful feeling “.
For years the Orchestra, its musicians and in particular its CEO Yakov Ben Simon built up relations with Moroccan musicians, artists and producers in secret due to the lack of diplomatic relations between the countries.
Some Moroccan musicians even performed in Israel under conditions of anonymity.
“ The trip was the culmination of a long process of dialogue over the years with Moroccan musicians and producers.” Ben Simon told TPS. “For years, many artists from Morocco came to Israel to perform, anonymously. We kept relations with all of them. I strongly believe in culture as a bridge between peoples, every artist who has been here became a peace ambassador between the nations.”
Ben Simon, who is of Moroccan origin, believe music is a tool to bridge between people
“Music creates a cultural dialogue between people even where Israel has no relations at all.” said Ben Simon. “I always prefer that the orchestra performs in places that have a special cultural meaning. For example, we played in the castle of the Spanish King, because of the Spanish origins of the Andalusian music”.
While this was the first time that the orchestra has been invited by the Moroccan government to perform, it was their second trip to Morocco.
Last year Ben Simon decided to organize a touristic trip to Morocco for all his musicians, although he scheduled also some informal performances.
“ We played in the courtyard of the synagogue in Marrakesh and in a restaurant owned by a Jewish man in Casablanca” Azoulay, said. “Many Muslims came to see our performance, and a few months later we got the invitation.”
Performing at the Festival was for Azoulay a very emotional experience that closes his personal life circle.
“ I am the seventh generation of a family of musicians. I was born in Israel, but my father was a musician in Morocco and in 1956 he arrived in Israel” he said. “Playing the biggest hall in Casablanca, dressed with our traditional clothes was very emotional for me.”
During their six-day stay, the Andalusian orchestra had the opportunity to meet musicians from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and other Arab countries.
“All the participants in the Festival stayed at the same hotel,” Azoulay says. “During the evenings we played together, sometimes even in our pyjamas, until the late hours of the night.
Before leaving Morocco, the musicians decided to keep in touch through a WhatsApp group
“We chat every day, “says Azoulay. “We speak about everything except politics.”