Enrico's set to serenade London

James Martin - Thursday 25th 2012f October 2012

Enrico Macias

Enrico Macias, the popular French-Sephardi singer-songwriter, is perhaps one of the last of a rare breed.

A highly successful Jewish musician who grew up in north Africa, the 73-year-old has been shaped directly by this region's music and culture.

"My influence started long ago with Arab-Andalusian (southern Spanish)music," says Macias, who was born as Gaston Ghrenassia in Constantine, Algeria, in 1938.

Playing the guitar from an early age, Macias was born into a musical family. His father, Sylvain, was a violinist in an orchestra that played primarily Arab-Andalusian music. But it was not until he moved to Paris in 1961, just 11 months before the Algerian war of independence, that he began to consider music seriously as a career.

Despite developing a new French repertoire that he first performed in cafés and cabarets and later as popular French hits in the 1970s, he still remains popular today with fans of Arab-Andalusian and Judeo-Arab music.

With more than 12 successful albums to his name, and a new album due in January, Macias has thrilled audiences worldwide with famous guitar hits such as Zingarella, Oh! Guitare, Guitare and Enfants de Tous Pays.

Of great popularity were his tribute songs including Le Violon De mon Père (to his father), and Mon Chanteur Préferé (a tribute to his father-in-law Cheikh Raymond).

Macias is also a strong Zionist. He said: "My love for Israel - where I go every year - greatly influences my music. I sing many Israeli songs." The singer, who lives in Paris, adds: "I am heavily involved with Jewish communities both at home and abroad - it's my life."

Looking forward to his concert on Saturday, 8 December, Macias will perform a selection of songs in English, Yiddish and Hebrew. The singer hopes his music will "appeal to the Anglo Jewish community, Israelis and also English, French and people from the Magreb".

Ahead of his 12th concert in London, which has been organised by Tzemach Productions, Macias added: "I am always surprised by the warmth of the audiences."

Enrico Macias will perform on Saturday, 8 December, 7.30pm, at the London Metropole Hotel, Edgware Road. All proceeds will go to the Meir Panim.