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Awards for World Music 2007 - Culture Crossing
Maurice el Medioni


Maurice el Medioni and Roberto Rodriguez album cover
The combination of a Jewish Algerian pianist and a Cuban percussionist may seem like one of the more fanciful world music fusions dreamt up by record company marketeers in recent years. Despite this, these two musicians actually have far more in common than you might expect. Both are open-minded artists who have experienced the pain of exile, but soaked up the music of their changing surroundings, and both, surprisingly enough, have long been steeped in both Latin and Jewish music.

Maurice el Médioni was born in 1928 in the Mediterranean port of Oran, the fabled home of raï music. At the age of nine, he taught himself piano and soon began to incorporate whatever he heard around him into a uniquely florid and fluid style, since dubbed ‘piano oriental’. This meant combining Latin styles, jazz and boogie woogie learnt from visiting American GIs during World War Two with influences absorbed from the local raï musicians. However, the end of Algerian civil war in 1962 meant the expulsion of the local Jewish population, and Maurice’s family were forced into exile in Marseille, where he has lived ever since, becoming known internationally in recent years for albums such as Café Oran (1996) and Pianoriental (1982/2000).

Roberto Juan Rodrigues grew up in Havana, but when he was nine, his family became part of the Cuban Diaspora, leaving for Miami. It was here that his encounters with the local Jewish Diaspora began while playing percussion in his father’s band at Yiddish theatre and bar mitzvahs. His later move to New York furthered the connection, not only through his enthusiasm for the klezmer renaissance of the 1980s but also his association with Marc Ribot and John Zorn. In fact, he’s recorded three other albums with Jewish musicians – El Danzon de Moises (2002), Baila! Gitano Baila! (2004) and Oy Vey! Vey! (2006). As he drolly observes, “I’m not Jewish, but I’m getting closer.”

It’s not so surprising, then, that their joint album Descarga Oriental (2006) which was in fact initiated by the German world music label Piranha,is such a swinging triumph.

Jon Lusk 

Maurice el Medioni and Roberto Rodriguez on
Read other people's comments then Tell us what you think:

wonderful; his age has not diminished his verve on pinao.wonderful!!!bless you with health.

Jonathan, Sofia
Astonishing!!! COOOOOOLLLLLLLL, wonderful music...

Jonathan, London
Hi Ahmed:Sorry but you seem to have disinformation from somewhere: Maurice himself says that the choice in 1961-2 for the Jewish community was made very clear: 'la valise ou la tete' - to leave or be killed. Why else would such an ancient community choose to leave everything they had known and loved for so many generations, to go to France? Maurice to this day finds it painful to talk about Algeria and the fact that they had to leave....

I'd like to rectify a factual error in Maurice's biography: the jews were NOT expulsed from Oran, rather they decided to throw their lot in with the French Settlers...maybe you should ask Maurice...some did in fact stay behind...

Ron White
Nostalgic, unique, a surprising and melodious cultural melange.

Milie, Chicago, IL
This CD makes me feel nostalgic!It's an excellent fusion of two beautiful cultures that really are more like the soul and roots of one. You will love Roberto Rodriguez as well as Maurice el Médioni. When I listen to Maurice, I don't really hear him play the piano, I hear an extension of himself that seems so natural in his smooth as silk style of playing. I feel the passion he has for all styles music and for life itself. This is music that speaks to my heart!

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