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​"​Me and the Bouzouki in the Vineyards of Yemen"​: Greek Music and the Making of Mizrahiness in the 1970s

Department: Jewish Studies

Date and Time: April 9, 2018 - February 9, 2018 | 5:00 PM-7:00 PM

Event Location: HG 1010

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For over half a century now, Greek music has enjoyed a prominent place within the larger field of Israeli popular culture that is unparalleled outside of Greece and the world’s largest Grecophone communities. While Greek music fandom in Israel is a stratified phenomenon, it is most entrenched as a component of the subculture of Mizrahi Jews. This talk traces how this came to be the case, and in particular how in the 1970s Greek music became part of a distinct Mizrahi culture, and a pillar of the emerging local genre of Muziqah Mizraḥit (Mizrahi/Oriental music). Observing how the status of Greek music in Israel changed during the 70s - from a marker of Mediterranean cosmopolitanism at large, to the marker of a local sub-cultural group - sheds light on how the ethno-class category of Mizrahim was “invented” during that decade. As this talk will demonstrate, Greek music played a part in both the practice of a vernacular-cosmopolitan taste culture in Mizrahi neighborhoods, and in the consolidation of Mizrahiyut (Mizahi-ness) as a discursive category in mainstream national culture. By observing in “parallax view” both what Mizrahim do and how they are represented, through the single prism of Greek music, we are able to glean how the category of Mizrahim emerges as the product of a negotiation between Mizrahi subjects and Zionist hegemony.

Oded Erez is a postdoctoral fellow at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and will be joining the Department of Music at Bar Ilan University as Assistant Professor in October. He holds a doctorate in musicology from the University of California, Los Angeles. His academic interests include critical theory, popular music, and music in film. Currently, he is completing a book manuscript entitled Becoming Mediterranean: Greek Music and Ethno-Class politics in Israel, and leading (jointly with  anthropologist Nadeem Karkabi) a study on the post-vernacular uses of Arabic in contemporary popular music by Israeli Jews.