Gharamophone: Digital Archive, Digital Humanities

Launched in 2017, is dedicated to preserving North Africa’s Jewish musical past, one record at a time. For much of the shellac era (roughly the first half of the twentieth century), Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian Jewish vocalists and instrumentalists played an outsized role in pioneering and preserving the various Arabic-language musical forms of North Africa –– and then some. These records, then, provide a soundtrack to the twentieth century Maghrib. In fact, these brittle discs –– surviving until the present against all odds –– reveal not just their time and the music animating it but so too lay bare a world of Jewish-Muslim cultural entanglement from the not too distant past. In other words, when it came to music in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, Jews and Muslims –– performers and fans alike –– were inseparable well into the twentieth century.

For years, I have been collecting these records –– one by one. In the process, I have assembled the first archive of North African 78 rpm records of its kind. That archive now has an online home: visit Gharamophone here.

Silver has cultivated a global community around this musical repertoire. He shares tracks and commentary on social media and through a dedicated website called Gharamophone, a portmanteau of gharam, which means “love” or “passion” in Arabic, and gramophone. Over the past few years, he has racked up some 200,000 plays through SoundCloud alone.

ASAF SHALEV, “This Historian is preserving North african jewish music from a bygone era,” JTA, MARCH 12, 2021
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