News / Arts & Entertainment

After 50 Years, Muslim-Jewish Band Reunites

Muslim, Jewish Musicians Reunite After Decades Aparti
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
November 21, 2012 9:11 PM
Every year, the Arabian Sights Film Festival in Washington, D.C., presents new movies from the Arab world. This year’s highlight was El Gusto, a documentary about a group of Muslim and Jewish musicians torn apart by history 50 years ago and reunited recently by their common passion. VOA’s Julie Taboh has a report.
Arab, Jewish Musicians Reunite After Decades Apart
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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."