The Great Jewish-Algerian Pianist Maurice El Mediouni Died at 95

March 26, 2024

BAC bids farewell to a true innovator of Algerian music


 Yesterday (March 25, 2024) the world of music lost a true pioneer. The great Jewish-Algerian pianist
Maurice El Mediouni, who has performed at BAC multiple times over the years, has died, at the age
of 95. While lovers of Algerian music around the world all mourn his loss, his departure is also
devastating for a young generation of Israeli musicians attempting to connect to their North African
roots, who up until yesterday had such a master in their midst.

Maurice El Mediouni was born in 1928, in the Jewish quarter of the coastal city of Oran in Algeria,
which back then was under French rule. As a child El Mediouni taught himself to play the piano and
over the years developed a unique style, influenced by seemingly contradictory elements. But like
any great musician, El Mediouni knew intuitively that in music there are no contradictions, or

El Mediouni was a master of Algerian music, but never a purist. Entertaining American soldiers in the
bars of Oran during World War II, he was introduced to the infectious grooves of contemporary
Boogie Woogie, Jazz, Salsa and Cuban Rumba. But his interests lay not solely in new music but in
traditional sounds too. Like many Jews of the Maghreb, he embraced Andalusian music, which was
born in medieval Muslim Spain, and since Oran was the birthplace of Raï – a popular type of socially-
aware Algerian “folk” music – that too entered his style, although the idea of playing Raï on piano
was considered completely novel.

El Mediouni became a busy musician in Algeria, but his musical career was cut short by the Algerian
War of Independence. As a Jew, he had to leave his country, and after a short and unsuccessful stint
in Israel, he settled in Paris, where he worked as a tailor. This was a dark time for him, but the best
was still to come. The rise of World Music in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as a renewed interest in
Raï – a genre born more than 60 years prior – paved the way for El Mediouni’s first real taste of
international success.

Unbelievable as it may sound, his debut album, “Café Oran”, which included mostly original
compositions, was released in 1996, when he was 68 years old. Despite his age, it was an eclectic
and forward-thinking album, mixing Jazz, Latin, Folk, Afro-Cuban and Raï music. It included tracks
with titles like “Raï Rock Rumba”, and it put him on the World Music map.

He was already an international success when deciding, at the age of 83, to make Aliyah together
with his wife. They left Marseille, France, and moved to Netanya (later they relocated to Modi'in) to
be close to their children and grandchildren.

Arriving in Israel for the second time, he found out that even now, Israel wasn’t exactly waiting for
him with open arms. It took some championing from famous local fan, Kobi Oz from the band Tipex,
who in their own way combine traditional oriental music with western music, to get him through the
door. But once he got the stage, he wowed local Israeli audiences. He collaborated with Tipex, of
course, as well as other Israeli musicians such as Amir Benayoun and David Broza, as well as the
Israeli Andalusian Orchestra.

Maurice El Mediouni continued to perform and inspire until an extremely advanced age. As he grew
older, he never lost his touch, his fingers always bouncing sprightly over the piano keys with youthful
vitality and effortless virtuoso agility.


Watch Maurice El Mediouni celebrate his 90th birthday with a special live show at BAC:


Maurice El Mediouni – piano | Neta Elkayam – vox | Elad Levi – violin | Gilad Vaknin – Mandole|
Amit Chai Cohen – accordion, banjo | Hagai Bilitzky – double bass | Hillel Amsalem – percussion

Guests: Yasmin Levy | Amir Benayoun

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