Israeli Andalusian Orchestra Ashdod brings its talent to Morocco

The Israelis were warmly accepted in Casablanca and the orchestra's CEO, Jacob Ben Simon, got an award for his ongoing efforts to bring his musicians to the festival.

Israeli Andalusian Orchestra Ashdod  (photo credit: MIKE EDRI)
Israeli Andalusian Orchestra Ashdod
(photo credit: MIKE EDRI)
Despite massive pressure to cancel its participation and cries from BDS activists to boycott the festival, Israeli Andalusian Orchestra Ashdod performed at the Andalussyat Festival in Casablanca, Morocco and garnered praise for producing and performing the opening concert earlier this month.
The orchestra, which performed on December 4, only made the news public on Wednesday after all its members returned home safely.
The Israeli musicians who performed Andalussyat music, the musical style that evolved in Muslim-Spain in the 9th century, were warmly accepted in Casablanca for their choice to bring the Jewish traditions of that musical style back home.
During the Almoravid dynasty of the 11th century, North Africa and Spain were united under Muslim rule, which is why Andalussyat music is a vital cultural tradition in Morocco.
Among Jews with North African heritage, Andalussyat music is widely used in religious music. This made the 16th edition of the Musiques Andalouses festival a rare opportunity for residents of Morocco to re-experience the wide cultural diversity that once flourished there. 
Widely held as one of the most important musical events in that style, the festival included roughly 100 musicians. The festival took place in Casablanca, Rabat and El Jadida, and featured Chorale Dar Al Ala, musicians in the Aissawa Sufi tradition, and singer Said Belcadi.
The orchestra was selected to open the festival. Its CEO, Jacob Ben-Simon, received an award for his ongoing work to bring Jewish voices back to the North African kingdom.
Addressing his Moroccan hosts, Ben-Simon said he is “filled with appreciation and awe of your silent efforts behind the scene to reject any attempt to cancel our performance.” He lauded their commitment to keep politics away from music and that “one must study the uniqueness of Morocco as a place that offers security to all religions.”
The orchestra was created in 2009 after an earlier orchestra with the same name closed down despite gaining a massive public following and critical acclaim, including the Israel Prize in 2006.
Andalusian music is often seen as one of the great jumping points of Western music as well, seeing as the lute was made possible by the Arab string instrument oud. The troubadours, to name but one school of musicians, would be unable to exist without it.