Monday, March 19, 2012

Back in the Day: Alon Braier's Mizrachi Musician Cards

Zohar ArgovAlon Braier is a freelance graphic artist and illustrator based in Tel Aviv. I recently ran across his fantastic project "Back in the Day (בזכרי ימים ימימה)" which consists of a boxed set of cards that pay "tribute to the great Israeli mizrachi music pioneers of the 60's and 70's." Looking to get a bit more information, and hopefully score a set of the cards, I contacted Braier about the project.

Teruah: What was origin of the Mizrachi musician card project? Was this something you did as a freelancer for a customer? A personal project? Are you personally a fan Mizrachi music?

Braier: I started working on the Mizrachi musician card project, or "back in the day" as it translates from its Hebrew name, about two years ago. It was my final project before achieving a bachelor's degree at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. On my junior year I spent one semester as an exchange student at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and while visiting New York City on spring break, I stumbled upon a beautiful, illustrated trading card deck named "Legends of Rap". I was blown away by the whole idea of illustrated music related trading cards, It was then that I decided to make my own deck as a final project when I'll get back to Israel.

Mizrachi music was never exactly my cup of tea (at least not before the project). I chose to focus on that specific genre because I wasn’t familiar with it. Back then, it occurred to me that by digging into a subject I know very little about my interest will stay high throughout the process.

I also wanted my project to deal with social matters and I knew Mizrahi music always carried a big social and political baggage. Mizrahi music was created by migrating Jews from the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa who created a unique musical style that combines elements of Arabic, Greek, and Turkish music. At the early days of Israeli radio this type of music was excluded from the airwaves, basically because the people who owned the media and the main cultural institutions in those years where of Ashkenazi heritage and preferred a more European taste. At the beginning of the 80's Mizrahi music suddenly got in to the playlists and became very popular until this very day. The sad thing is that in order to reach this state the genre lost most of its authenticity and unique musical roots. Today it's basically all about simple pop songs on an Arabic scale with some occasional oriental instrument thrown in the mix. My project is focusing on the early days, the 60's and 70's, when Mizrahi music was a special fusion of east and west, a one of a kind blend of rock soul and middle eastern music.

Teruah: Who is included?

Braier: The deck has all the great pioneers of the genre, people who became legends like Zohar Argov (pictured above) – the king of Mizrahi music (5) and Aviu Medina (1) the composer who wrote many mizrahi classics like "Haperach Begani" which was Zohar's first international hit. I also included the main producers and representatives of Mizrahi artists, "The Reuveni Brothers" (12) and the most essential Mizrahi bands- Tzlilei haoud (3) and Tzlilei hakerem (11 )

Among the well known artists I illustrated some truly underrated ones, like Aris San (10) - Filfel al Masri (19) - The Gang (15) - Jo Amar (17) (my personal favorite). And some surprising rarities like Shechunat Hatikva workshop Theater (8, pictured) includes the very young and talented Ofra Haza.

I really wanted to include Yosef Ben Israel, the first DJ who actually played Mizrahi music on the radio, but I couldn't find any pictures of him.

Teruah: Are these cards available for purchase?

Braier: I'm afraid not, I did have a few of them in a handmade box with a poster in every pack but they were sold out pretty quickly (I have only one complete pack left, which I carry with me to job interviews) but I'm planning to re-print them sometime during this year.

Teruah: Have you done any additional music related projects? Do you plan any?

Braier: Since the Mizrahi project came out I did some editorial illustrations for local papers that had article about Mizrahi culture. I also did the cover art for Lo dubim's debut album lately, I began working on another card deck about the Israeli new wave scene of the 80's but I'm still in the research stage.


Jo Amar
So no cards for me. At least not yet. But go check out the full set on Braier's website.

As a final treat, here's Braier's favorite, the great Jo Amar, singing Great My Cousin. Amar, who passed away in 2009, was a widely popular Moroccan born vocalist whose 1971 "Shalom le-ben dodi" was one of the first big Mizrachi hits.

Jo Amar Greet my cousin ג'ו עמר שלום לבן דודי

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