Monday, February 18, 2013

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Maurice el Medioni
b. 18 September 1928, Oran, Algeria. A Jewish pianist, El Medioni first took up the piano aged nine. Following the Allied invasion of Algeria in 1942, he played the hits of the day in bars frequented by American soldiers from whom who he learnt jazz, boogie woogie and Cuban rumba. After the war he worked as a tailor and also played with various western groups based in Algeria. In 1948 he discovered the rai music of Algeria’s Arab community and formed a multi-cultural group with whom he played both at Muslim weddings and at the Café Oran in the city’s Jewish Quarter. Two years later he also started to play with Jewish orchestras, performing the Andalusian music of Algeria’s Jewish community. Following the outbreak of the Algerian War of Independence, El Medioni moved to Paris where he resumed tailoring and also backed many of the best known French Jewish singers. In 1967 he bought a clothing business in Marseilles and, aside from very occasional one-off performances with Jewish singers, retired from music. In the 80s, inspired by the resurgence of interest in rai, El Medioni reunited with some of the Arab musicians he had played with in the 40s and 50s, and recreated his unique cross cultural style of Algerian music. Returning to music full time, he started to perform with young French-based Arab musicians and also Jewish singers in France and Israel. Café Oran, El Medioni’s belated international debut release, was produced by Hijaz Mustapha (of 3 Mustaphas 3) and featured guest appearances from Salamat’s Mahmoud Fadl and members of the Klezmatics, playing alongside musicians who had originally accompanied El Medioni nearly half a century earlier. The sound is a unique blend of influences, including Arabic, Jewish, Cuban, over which El Medioni improvises his own distinctly Algerian/Jewish variation of boogie woogie and jazz.

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