Government and public recognition
The Mediterranean Orchestra is the successor of the previous Israeli Andalusian Orchestra which had been terminated in February 2009 due to the dismissal of all musicians and workers, most of whom refused to be dissuaded and therefore continued to hold rehearsals and concerts in a steadfast struggle for government recognition and public funding.
This struggle was met with success when the Israeli Ministry of Culture granted the orchestra recognition on February 28, 2010. This was accompanied by the decision to retroactively fund the orchestra for their activities in 2009 and to veto the Ashdod Municipality's petition to transfer these funds to their service.
East and west
Over the past 15 years the musicians and soloists of the orchestra have been performing in concert halls both in Israel and abroad.
Their work has brought to life the music and heritage of a culture that had almost disappeared forever.
The Andalusian music and culture have evolved into a unique aspect of Israeli culture, enticing various audiences from all over Israel and around the world.
Most of the musicians play from sheet music on classical western instruments- Violin, Viola, Cello, Contrabass and Oboe. These are accompanied by a traditional ensemble of classic eastern instruments- oud, Kamanja (knee violin), Kanoun, Ney, Darbuka and tar all of whom play without sheet music, through the knowledge that has been passed on to them from hundreds of generations.
Musical and Executive Management
The orchestra's artistic director and head conductor is Tom Cohen, born in Be'er Sheva, graduate of The Jerusalem Academy of Music and dance.
Tom composes and arranges music in a wide variety of genres for the Andalusian Orchestra and for a number of the industry's top musicians.
Tom is among the world's leading mandolin players.
Musical consultation is given by Rabbi Meir Atia, a well-known expert of Ala-Andalusian music, who has also written a number of books and provided musical instruction over the past few decades; and the leading Andalusian musician, Mr. Yossi Shriki, a Kamanja player from Beit Shemesh who comes from a large family of musicians.
The repertoire committee includes: Shimon Yifrah- graduate of the Center for Liturgical Music and Song and the production manager; Shira Ohayon- an instructor who prepares study plans for classes in eastern and Spanish Jewish heritage, with a B.A. in Middle Eastern history and Arabic and manager of the disciplinary department; Menny Cohen- a liturgical singer and teacher of Andalusian music and singing; and Naftali Aberjel, who is an expert in Algerian music and who is also a lead musician and banjo player.
The orchestra's general manager, Mr. Ofer Amsalem, was born in Ashdod and has an M.A. from the EMBA program of the Bar Ilan University. He is widely experienced in management, marketing and consultation and has knowledge and experience in a number of fields including technology, database systems, finance, and worker management. He is also a freelance instructor in the Economics Faculty at The Ashkelon Academic College.
Voice and Song Interwoven
In Andalusian music, voice and instruments are enmeshed as one.
The liturgical songs of Andalusia began hundreds of years ago in a time when Muslims and Jews wrote words for the same Andalusian melodies, in Arabic and Hebrew.
Over the years, these songs went on to form the core of the magnificent liturgical tradition of Moroccan Judaism and Hebraic communities in general.
The orchestra plays a variety of Andalusian genres, from west to east, including- Andalusian - Ala, Algerian, Sha’abi, Flamenco, Ladino and world music. The ethnic variety of the orchestra's musicians and soloists creates a strong cultural intensity which can be felt in their impeccable musical excellence.
The orchestra has a number of soloists in a variety of genres of Andalusian song. All of them are adept in liturgical song and in Hebrew, Arabic, French and Spanish music.
Emil Zrihan has been the orchestra's lead singer since its establishment. Emil is an internationally renowned singer who has performed in Israel and around the world for over 40 years.
The orchestra's house soloist is Binyamin Bouzaglo, a promising young singer who is adept in musical performance.