In the 15th century, thousands of Jews made their way from Iberia to Morocco and other parts of northwest Africa, joining an existing Jewish community that had its own long history. Mohamed Chtatou describes how the musical traditions they brought with them from southern Spain (Andalusia) blended with local Jewish, Arab, and Berber (Amazigh) musical tradition to create a unique Moroccan-Jewish art form—and that art form’s modern legacy:
In recent years, Jews of Moroccan origin living in Israel and elsewhere have made contact with Morocco again and this population is gradually rediscovering Andalusian music. The Andalusian Orchestra of Israel was established in 1994 and offers a new field of collaboration between Jews and Arabs. Moroccan Muslim musicians perform in Israel, and Jewish musicians from Israel and elsewhere perform in Morocco and share generously experiences and artistic creations.
The matrûz—in Arabic, “that what is embroidered”—is an oral . . . musical tradition [derived from the] Hebraic, Muslim, and Christian artistic practice that blended in the melting pot of multicultural Andalusia. The matrûz designates a musical concept of Judeo-Arabic crossbreeding characterized by the alternation of Arabic and Hebrew in the lyrics. It is a music of oral tradition still present in certain Moroccan circles that value this common heritage of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian cultures of Andalusia. Usually, the first part of the [lyrics of a song in the] matrûz style is composed in Arabic, while the second part is in Hebrew.
The matrûz, which originated in the Middle Ages in Andalusia, which was at the time a Muslim territory . . . is more present in Morocco than in any other country.
Indeed, in the early part of the last century, there were several now-forgotten Moroccan Jewish performers, working in a modern version of the matrûz idiom, who were considered major stars by Jews and Muslims alike.