The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The Digital Sphere and the Sensory: KHOYA—Jewish Morocco Sound Archive’s Yalalla Platform as a Repository for Jewish Women’s Silenced Voices

Women’s voices in the Maghreb have functioned as communal subterfuge to the colonial project of controlling sound and action. Their core importance for minority groups in ensuring transmission, fertility and group cohesion make a powerful case for what may appear to outsiders as a simple and unstable musical tradition. Dr. Vanessa Paloma Elbaz recently launched as part of the ERC project Past and Present Musical Encounters Across the Strait of Gibraltar together with Cambridge Arts and Humanities Impact Fund, Cambridge Digital Humanities, Digirati, the Mimouna Foundation, Matanel, and the Alliance Israélite Universelle. This launch is an initial pilot for KHOYA: Jewish Morocco Sound Archive, a project Dr. Elbaz began in 2012 to gather, digitize, and classify the sounds and oral histories of the Jewish presence in Morocco.
The choice to use material from Jewish women`s Saharan oral traditions on birth and fertility for this pilot project is firmly rooted in the core role of women’s songs, celebrations, protection and fertility in Morocco, regardless of geographical, religious or social position. The process of bringing a sensorial communal tradition based in orality to an interactive digital platform highlight both its heightened state of fragility of transmission and its enduring continuity.

This paper will explore the use of digital humanities to reinscribe the centrality of women`s voices to Jewish life in the Maghreb, and to recreate sonic worlds which have been atomised with the dispersion of these communities in the last century.