Although the name Lili Boniche is not exactly a household word in America, ask any Algerian or French person who lived there and they’ll give an ear-to-ear smile. Boniche (1921-2008) was born to a Sephardic Jewish family in the Kasbah area of Algiers, and sung in the Arab-Andalusian style with a good dollop of schmaltz thrown in. A new cd titled simply “Anthologie” will be issued in January by Harmonia Mundi’s wonderful World Village imprint, and it is a thoroughly delightful and moving reflection of his life and art. You don’t have to speak Algerian arabic or French to feel the pulse and get what he’s singing about.
The songs are filled with pain balanced by joy; sorrow mixed with gratitude. You hear wonderful Arabic modes, great guitar playing, and a powerful Imam-Cantor style voice. You can see people dancing to it in communal celebration. The songs drip with feeling. And joy. You detect the 1492 rejection by Spain followed by the sorrow of exile. You hear the wonderful mix of Arabic and Jewish music. It is a music based on feeling and camaraderie, of friendships and family. It’s truly a celebration of life and love.The songs are culled from Boniche’s long career and are well chosen. The music is different and will have wide appeal for curious ears and hearts.
Here’s a youtube video of one of his famous songs, “Alger Alger” (Algiers Algiers)