The Israeli Andalusian Orchestra-Ashdod

A musical and cultural dialogue

Rivka Zohar & Liron Lev - photo Ayelet Kanary
Rivka Zohar & Liron Lev - photo Ayelet Kanary
10 DEC 2016
by

The Israeli Andalusian Orchestra–Ashdod, founded in 1994, won the Israeli Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and symbolizes another cultural bridge between Israel and the Arab countries. The Orchestra tries to spread the musical heritage which was created during the Golden Age of Jewish culture in Spain.

For many years the Orchestra, headed today by Mr. Jacob Ben Simon, has struggled consistently to persuade Arab musicians and Arab producers to come and play with its artistes despite the threats and boycott which they may get from their own people and other organizations who are trying to sabotage the cultural dialogue between Israel and the Arab world. In doing so, the Orchestra committed not to publish their names. The purpose of that is to continue the musical and cultural dialogue between the Israeli artistes and the Arab artistes from North Africa and especially from Morocco, which today is considered to be the largest center of Andalusian music.

In this regard, it should be noted that Mr. Ben Simon travels often to Morocco and meets with Mr. Andre Azoulay, senior adviser to the King of Morocco, who is doing his best to support this important cultural dialogue and invests a lot of effort to promote this collaboration, and also doing his best to preserve and promote the Andalusian music in Morocco. It should be mentioned also that this activity has been continuing even in bad times from a security standpoint. But even so, personally I would prefer to see brave Arab artistes who will be proud to play in public with Israeli artistes. Culture: Literature, Music, Cinema - should be revealed and not hidden or depend on dark regimes who want to force their policy on artistes.

I was invited last week to watch one of the new season shows of the Orchestra in Jerusalem. In the current season the Orchestra has created a dialogue between its musicians and the Hebrew poetry performed by singers and lyricists. The combination is wonderful and rich. The Orchestra has also been giving a stage to young performers in what it calls a "Youth Stage," and when the pleasant and good-looking conductor, Sivan Albo Ben-Hur, invited the sixteen-year-old lyricist to perform in front of the audience, she trilled beautifully and I'm sure that she managed to move most of the spectators.

In the framework of its new show, the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra, presents leading Israeli liturgical poet-singers - Paytanim. A piyyut is actually a short poem sung as a rule as a prayer or personal request on Sabbaths and festivals but also on other religious occasions. The Paytanim tend to trill vocally and the combination of their pleasant voices and the Orchestra's instruments produces a magical effect. The piyyut generally is based on a verse from the Bible, but there are Paytanim who write their own piyyutim.

Watching the musicians, Israelis of Moroccan, Tunisian and Russia origin, playing together with the Israeli singers and lyricists, made me think again that there is still hope that people can unite and leave their disputes behind and concentrate on the real and important issues which life offers us - the ability to live and create, not to destroy.