News / Arts & Entertainment

    After 50 Years, Muslim-Jewish Band Reunites

    A new documentary from the Arab world focuses on Muslim and Jewish musicians who reunite thanks to their common passion, after being torn apart by war 50 years ago.

    The film "El Gusto," showcases the group performing together in concert after the half-century of separation.

    The men play Chaabi, a traditional Algerian music they learned as young students at the Music Conservatory of Algiers in the 1940s.

    Side by side

    For decades, the Muslim and Jewish friends played music together and lived side by side in the hilly neighborhoods of the Casbah.

    “Whether you were Jewish, Christian or Muslim, it didn’t matter,” says filmmaker Safinez Bousbia. “These men that used to hang around in all these underground bars and drinking and jamming all night, with Africans, with Western Africans, with Corsican people, with Maltese. It was just a boiling point of meeting all sorts of people.”

    Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia during the filming of "El Gusto." (Courtesy Quidam Production El Gusto)Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia during the filming of "El Gusto." (Courtesy Quidam Production El Gusto)
    x
    Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia during the filming of "El Gusto." (Courtesy Quidam Production El Gusto)
    Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia during the filming of "El Gusto." (Courtesy Quidam Production El Gusto)
    Bousbia, who was born in Algiers but grew up in Europe, hadn't heard much about the music which originated in the land of her ancestors. But she's learned quite a bit about it over the past decade.

    Chaabi music comes from the word "Chaab", meaning "people," according to Bousbia.

    “Chaabi music is a bit like jazz,” she says. “It actually originates from different influences where there’s Andalusian, there is Flamenco, Spanish, there is a lot of African beat and there is Oriental tunes and melodies. It’s mixing all these styles together with a lot of improvisation.”

    Separated by war

    In the mid-1950s, three decades before Bousbia was born, the Algerian War of Independence forced the group of Chaabi musicians to disperse.

    The Jewish members fled to France, while the others scattered throughout Algeria. The men didn’t see each other again for more than 50 years.
    Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia with Mohamed Ferkioui, the mirror maker who inspired her to make "El Gusto." (Kays Djilali)Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia with Mohamed Ferkioui, the mirror maker who inspired her to make "El Gusto." (Kays Djilali)
    x
    Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia with Mohamed Ferkioui, the mirror maker who inspired her to make "El Gusto." (Kays Djilali)
    Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia with Mohamed Ferkioui, the mirror maker who inspired her to make "El Gusto." (Kays Djilali)

    In 2003, during a trip to Algiers, Bousbia met one of the group's original members in his mirror shop. Along with his old photographs, Mohamed Ferkioui shared his story about the fellow musicians he'd become separated from.

    “I just was so touched by this man’s passion and story,” she says, “that I wanted to help him find his friends.”

    It took her more than two years to find his long-lost friends, mainly by searching through the conservatory's registration records. Soon after, she started organizing a reunion concert for the group, now called El Gusto, in Marseilles, France.

    Going through the ardous and emotional process of reuniting the men gave her the idea for a documentary.

    El Gusto - the film

    Since she had no experience as a filmmaker, the young architect sold her home and jewelry to finance the project. The entire adventure, from start to finish, took nine years.

    Bousbia says it was all worthwhile.
    The El Gusto orchestra during filming in France. (Courtesy Quidam Production El Gusto)The El Gusto orchestra during filming in France. (Courtesy Quidam Production El Gusto)
    x
    The El Gusto orchestra during filming in France. (Courtesy Quidam Production El Gusto)
    The El Gusto orchestra during filming in France. (Courtesy Quidam Production El Gusto)

    “For me, it was the attachment of the men. I was fascinated by these men that were just full of passion,” she says, especially given their age. “The youngest was 72, the oldest was 96 or 97."

    Despite the challenges of age and distance, the musicians travelled from Algeria and all parts of France to reconnect with their old friends in celebration of their shared passion.
     
    Life was very difficult for these men, says the filmmaker, “and that’s why it was important for me to show it through the film, and for people to understand what these people went through.”

    “What was fascinating about these men,” she adds, “is no matter what ordeal they went through, they weren’t bitter about it. It was a page of history they didn’t choose.”

    Labor of love

    While El Gusto might have started as their dream, she says, at some point, it became hers as well.

    “I saw these men change and open up and for me it was important to understand.”

    "El Gusto," the documentary, was recently presented at the Arabian Sights Film festival in Washington DC. The sold-out crowd gave Bousbia a standing ovation.

    “Chaabi is something really unique to the city of Algiers, to the Casbah,” said Abdallah Baali, Algeria's ambassador to the U.S., who attended the film’s opening. “And this music, which is intended to really please a category of Algerians in Algiers, has become the music of everybody.”

    As for the El Gusto orchestra, the men are currently on a sold-out European tour and recently produced their third album. A U.S. concert is planned for the near future.

    Bousbia says she hopes El Gusto will remain as a Chaabi orchestra and that her film, and the music of these passionate men, will inspire future generations to continue the Chaabi tradition.

    Extended Interview with 'El Gusto' Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia by VOA's Carol Castiel
    Extended Interview with 'El Gusto' Filmmaker Safinez Bousbia by VOA's Carol Castieli
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    You May Like

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Rob Swift from: Great Britain
    November 24, 2012 8:50 AM
    Excellent. A mention of the true open society. This is the way.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs

    African Music Treasures