Topic: Exercise 3
Development of pan-Mizrahi music and recording and distribution network in reaction to exclusion from mainstream (cassettes, Perakh b’Gani.
In Asher Reuveni’s story (Exercise Two) he talks about the 1973 Yom Kippur War and its impact on his family. He also claims that his wedding party is considered the origin point for Mediterranean Israeli Music because his brother Meir recorded the musicians and was able to duplicate the recording and distribute it to the guests. The story goes on to tell about the upsurge of requests for this homemade recording, an unexpected outcome that led to the Reuveni Brother’s founding the first Mizrahi community recording company.
The opportunity for the Reuveni Brother’s to realize musical self-determination by founding the first Mizrahi-owned recording company was made possible in part by a new technological invention. The portable cassette recorder allowed Mizrahi entrepreneurs to mass-produce and distribute music excluded by the mainstream Israeli music industry.
[31. Beit Shemesh cassette market]
Using homemade cassettes, Mizrahi musicians and producers were able to sidestep the state-controlled radio programs and other mainstream music industry channels that had rejected their raw combination of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences with Western pop music.
The cassette revolution in Israel was part of an international phenomenon that transformed popular music. The explosion of a worldwide network of local cassette markets in the early 1970s produced an unforeseen convergence of technological invention and socio-political revolution. As a technological invention, the cassette provided an affordable and accessible mechanism for musicians and consumers, whose sounds had previously been excluded from local commercial recording industries. Community members could compose, combine, dub, and enjoy music that was neglected by mainstream recording and broadcasting companies. `With a homemade cassette you can get your work heard on international radio and be a citizen of the world.'
Name a technological invention that has transformed music in your lifetime. What impact did this technology have on musicians and listeners? What do you think the writer means by becoming a citizen of the world?
In Israel, Mediterranean Israeli music cassettes produced by the Reuveni Brothers made their retail debut in the mid 1970s in cassette form amidst vegetables and household.
[Figure 2 Vendors in Skhunat HaTikvah neighborhood Shuk (Marketplace), one of the early sites of cassette sales and also home of the largest cassette company, The Reuveni Brothers.]
We have seen several different kinds of sites in which the music is disseminated, including a wedding, a marketplace along the side of a road in a rural town, a marketplace in the heart of an urban center, and ghettoized radio time slots.
First, look at the marketplace photos above and observe the locations of the music. What makes it possible to include cassettes along with vegetables? What class markers do you see? Second, consider how these venues differ from your own experience. How do these “record stores” differ from contemporary means of acquiring and disseminating music?
[32. Elinor cassette cover]
When in 1980 the Reuveni Brothers released a tape by an unknown Yemenite singer, Zohar Argov, they were already positioned as a prominent Mizrahi cassette company. The new tape Elinor (Argov, 1980) sold by the hundreds of thousands, taxing their production operation. They quickly developed a distribution network by negotiating with several Iranian and Georgian merchants in Tel Aviv’s open-air marketplace next to the now old central bus station. Soon they entered other outdoor marketplaces. Tel Aviv’s Shuk Ha’Karmel, Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem, Ramle, and Beersheva.
[Original Mediterranean Israeli Music cassette distribution network]
Listen to an excerpt of Zohar Argov singing Elinor. Pay attention to Argov’s Yemenite vocal style juxtaposed with the Greek tune and rock accompaniment of the instrumentalists. Now listen to the Greek tune in the context of this recording of the song Paixe Xristo To Mpouzouki by Stella Sazatzidis. Describe two differences in this earlier version. Why do you think Mizrahi singers used Greek tunes for their Mediterreanean Israeli music compositions?
With Argov’s commercial success, Mediterranean Israeli Music gained increased airtime. The army’s official radio station, Galey Zahal, and Israel Radio’s popular music channel, Reshet Gimel, each added a two-hour weekly Mizrahi segment. While these were significant advances, Argov claimed ghettoization.
Read and comment on the following quote by Zohar Argov. Why does Argov protest the Mizrahi corner?
“Over 55% of Israel is my audience, but to hear me on the radio they have to wait until 2pm on Wednesday in the Mizrahi corner. We live in 1981 and those programs were old 10 years ago. We are fed up!!! Why are we being locked in a – I didn’t say ghetto, that’s your word. I only said it hurts. Scatter us on all the hours or don’t play us at all. “
As Mediterranean Israeli music began to enjoy some increased radio time and visibility, some said that the ghettoizing of Mizrahi musicians was a thing of the past. In this article Avihu Medina claims that ghetto still exists. Why do you think he makes this claim?
[Headline – The Ghetto is Not Dead]
A few years later, Haim Moshe predicted that Mediterranean Israeli music would not remain marginal for long. He said:In another twenty years this music will be known as the real Israeli music not eastern or western but the authentic sound. (Horowitz, 1984).
Listen to excerpts from two songs performed by Haim Moshe and released on two separate albums in the same period. The first excerpt is from an Arabic song entitled Linda Linda. Moshe sings the song in its original Arabic language. The second song, Nishba (I promise) is sung in a completely different style. To which audiences is Moshe directing each of these songs? How does his diverse repertoire relate to the quote above?