The story of the dispossessed in full and glorious possession of their music.
‘Jews and Arabs share the same musical story. We, the Moors, Arabs and Jews were kicked out of Spain in 1492 and in our baggage was the same music.’
The story is Maurice’s: ‘In the poor quarter of Oran where I came from people spoke bad French, in a singsong accent filled with expressions that were mixed with Arabic’
His life changed forever in 1937 when his brother came home with a cheap piano from the local flea market. Within days and without any lessons, nine-year-old Maurice was entertaining his family with popular French tunes - songs of the great Chansonniers like Charles Trenet, Rina Ketty and Tino Rossi.
In 1942, when the GI’s liberated Algeria, he was the teenage pianist who hung around the US Forces learning boogie-woogie and Latino numbers so he could play their requests.
In 1946, three young Algerian Rai singers turned up at the Café Oran ‘You play good piano. Play with us...we’ll sing and you follow’ and so Maurice introduced the piano into Rai music. His style remains unique, with his occidental left hand pumping out boogie, jazz and Cuban rhythms, while his oriental right hand plays in Arabic, Andalous style.
In 1962, Algerian Jews were driven into exile when the FLN won independence from France. ‘Life was good in Algeria but when we left we had to live from hand to mouth. It’s very tough to be driven from your country when you don’t want to leave. It’s not like being an emigrant searching for a better life.’
After exile to France, Maurice’s PianOriental was an essential fixture throughout the ’60’s at the Faubourg in Monmartre.
The growing interest in World music means that 90-year-old Maurice is in great demand again, triumphantly composing, recording and playing his legendary piano style worldwide. And now Maurice has been given the BBC World Music Award.
The film features Maurice revisiting his life and the musical influences which have made him the Grandmaster of PianOriental. It tells Maurice’s personal story against the backdrop of an enormous paradox of Jewish/Arab divide.
© Eclectic Films Ltd