Launched in 2017, Gharamophone.com 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 at Gharamophone.com.
The name “Gharamophone” was originally dreamed up by the visionary behind Toukadime. For the gift of this name, I am forever grateful. Gharamophone combines the Arabic “gharam” (غرام) –– meaning, “love,” “passion,” and “infatuation” in Arabic and which is the frequent subject of North African song –– and “gramophone,” the word which has long been nearly synonymous with the early twentieth century phonograph. Gharamophone is thus an exceedingly appropriate title for this project which aims to share my love, passion, and infatuation with a subset of Maghribi gramophone records with the wider public.
Start-up funding for this website was generously provided by the Maurice Amado Foundation.
–– Christopher Silver, Segal Family Assistant Professor in Jewish History and Culture, McGill University; and curator, Gharamophone.com