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Album Review

A Moroccan Jew who moved to Israel, Emil Zrihan became the cantor for a synagogue in the ancient city of Ashkelon. It was in Tel Aviv that the passionate, big-voiced singer made this 1998 recording, which uses Moroccan/North African music as its foundation but incorporates elements of Spanish/Andalusian music. Zrihan's emotional, full-bodied vocals are accompanied not only by instruments typically associated with North African and Middle Eastern music — including the violin, the darbouka and the oud, a legendary Arabic lute — but also by the flamenco guitar of Baldi Olier. Hearing flamenco elements on an album of mostly traditional Moroccan songs is quite natural, for the Jews and Muslims who lived in Spain centuries ago played a key role in the development of flamenco. (Although Jews and Muslims were violently driven out of Spain in the name of Christianity, their influence on flamenco remained for centuries after their departure and continued to be felt in the late 1990s). Released in Germany on the Piranha label, the excellent Ashkelon contains English and French liner notes and reached North American stores as an import.


Born: 1954 in Rabat, Morocco

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Respectfully known as "the voice of the mocking bird" and "the Moroccan nightingale," Emil Zrihan has brought the musical traditions of Morocco to Israel. Accompanied by oud, violin, kanoun, and darbouka, Zrihan has used his multi-octave countertenor vocals to inject new life into a rich mixture of Moroccan and Judeo-Andalusian folk music, Sephardic and North African songs, improvisational mawals, and tunes from the Mediterranean and the Orient. According to RootsWorld, Zrihan "exhibits a startling...
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Ashkelon, Emil Zrihan
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