An Oleh’s Guide to Mizrahi Music

Much to the chagrin of many of my Israeli friends, I love Mizrahi music.

After hearing the song “Mabsut” by Hadag Nachash with one of the most well known Mizrahi singers, Daklon, this morning I felt compelled to share some of the interesting information I have acquired over the last few years about one of my favorite musical styles: “Mizrahi!” From Eyal Golan to Daklon, I am usually listening to uplifting darbuka laden melodies with roots in from Yemen to Morroco.

According to Wikipedia, “Mizrahi music (Hebrew: מוזיקה מזרחית, Muziqa mizraḥit, “Oriental music”, “Musica mizrahi”) refers to the music integration that combines elements from Europe, the West, and Middle Eastern/North African countries, transported to Israel by migrating Jews. It is usually sung in Hebrew, literary Hebrew, or Arabic slang.The literal translation of Mizrahi from Hebrew is “Eastern”.

According to me, it’s awesome!

The author with Eyal Golan
The author with Eyal Golan

When I first visited in Israel in 2008 I fell in love with Mizrachi music. I had listened to a bit of Moshik Afia, Zohar Argov and Eyal Golan prior to my arrival, but listening to Mizrachi music on a rainy day in Vancouver is entirely different than experiencing it in the Shuk on a scorching Friday afternoon in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

During that first visit to Israel I barely spoke any Hebrew. My attraction to Mizrahi music centered around the melodies, not the lyrics.

When I hear the exotic metallic slaps and rolls of the darbuka, Eastern violin riffs and the ancient sounds of the oud and qanan, I am transported to a different world. There is something about this combination of instruments that awakens the soul.

The King of Mizrahi music is Zohar Argov. He was a Yemenite Jew who grew up in poverty. He is known for his hits “Perah Bgani” and my favorite, “Od Yom Yavo.” He fell victim to drugs and died too young.

If Zohar is the king, I would crown Ofra Haza as the queen of Mizrahi music. Her song “Im Ninalu” was a giant hit both in and out of Israel. It is a poem by the famous Yemenite poet Shalom Shabazi. Notable lyrics from this song include “the gates of the rich may be closed, but the gates of heaven are always open.”

Zion Golan is also a very talented Yemenite singer. While many of his songs are in Arabic, my favorite “Pesek Zman” is in Hebrew and is a collaboration with fellow musician Lior Farhi.

Margalit Sanani has been in the news lately for her role in bringing kafkazi Jew Omer Adam to stardom. One of my favorite songs of Sanani’s is “Menta,” about the smell of home: the fragrance of coffee, roses and mint.

Eyal Golan is an institution in the Israeli music world. His numerous albums span decades and many of his songs are inspired by the Torah, including my favorite- “mi she maamin lo mefached (who believes does not fear).”

Dudu Aharon has catapulted to stardom in recent years. His quintessential Yemenite voice mixed with high energy Arabic-inspired electric guitar and techno beats make him a summer favorite.

Yehuda Kaisar is an incredible guitarist who played with Zohar Argov, Sharif and numerous others in the past. Today, you can hear his iconic Mizrahi guitar riffs in the song “Shir Nehama” by the rock fusion band Hadag Nagash.

What is YOUR favorite Mizrahi song? Write it in the comments below.

About the Author
Paul Curran was born in Vancouver, Canada, converted to Judaism at age 21, and moved to Israel at age 26. He is passionate about Israel, art, writing, fitness and social media. Paul is full of random facts, jokes and the odd bit of wisdom. He loves avocados and passionate about the future of personal powered transportation.
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