Sheikh El Afrite: The Talented Singer

Sheikh El Afrite was born in 1897 in the Mellah of Tunis, but his origins go back to a small Amazigh village in the Moroccan region of Souss, on the outskirts of Agadir, where his father, Salam Rosio, was born before emigrating to Tunisia and meeting Estorie Khalfoun, a Libyan Jewess who became his wife and gave him Essran Israel, later known by the nickname of Sheikh El Afrite.

His friends and fans of his art nicknamed him Cheikh El Afrite because of his perfect mastery of music and singing as well as his ability to improvise, worthy of a genius. The word “Afrite” which means ” Genie “.

Sheikh El Afrite lived a difficult childhood, characterized by poverty. His father abandoned his family and returned to his native village, forcing Esran to work at an early age. He sold sweets and pastries.

The story of Sheikh El Afrite began when an art lover heard him humming while working in a small craft factory. He was captivated by his voice. It was he who encouraged him to sing at parties and private events. Thus his career began. He was 18 years old. Before that, he used to perform religious songs in synagogues.

Cheikh El Afrite inherited his passion for music and singing from his mother who was a professional singer before she married his father. But he learned the fundamentals of music from great Jewish artists before earning the title of “Sheikh” when he was barely 20 years old.

Cheikh El Afrite was well ahead of his time. Gifted with great intelligence, he did not remain a prisoner of the Tunisian “Malouf”. Instead, he opened himself up to simple popular songs, simple lyrics and dancing rhythms. Thus, he soon became the star of family parties, to the point that the Bey of Tunis himself had begun to ask him to host concerts in his palace.

Cheikh El Afrite died in Ariana in 1939, leaving behind him some 480 songs which continue to be preformed by great artists to this day.

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