Aroun Haouzi El Baidi – Koumtarra Barahim, Polyphon, 1932

This entry will no doubt change as more information comes to light. In the meantime, here are the few details we can begin to piece together on the life and career of the Algerian artist Aroun Haouzi, more commonly known as Aroun Haouzi El Baidi. Haouzi was born in eastern Algeria around the beginning of the twentieth century. As his recording name suggests, El Baidi could trace his origins to Aïn Beïda although it seems that he may have spent his earliest years in the larger entrepôt of Constantine as so many from the region did. It is also possible that Haouzi was the child of a certain Chaloum Haouzi and Rina bent Fredj Zerbib, married in Aïn Beïda in 1886, although at present that is impossible to determine.

The relatively small town of Aïn Beïda, south of Constantine and west of Tunisia, supplied a number of prominent practitioners of maluf, the Andalusian tradition straddling the Algerian-Tunisian border. In addition to our El Baidi, there was also Eliaou Assoun “El Baidi”, who recorded extensively for Pathé and Gramophone. Both El Baidis recorded at the same time in the 1920s and 1930s.

Aroun Haouzi El Baidi made a number of discs with the Pathé and Polyphon labels in the early 1930s. Among them, El Baidi recorded the classic “Qum Tara” (Arise, see the almond blossoms) for Polyphon in 1932.

El Baidi’s strong vocals, which begin with the repetition of “ya layl,” are punctuated by the early introduction of the zurna, a woodwind instrument found not only in Algeria but in the Middle East, Balkans, and Central Asia as well. As you will hear, there is also a shoutout to the violinist Youssef on side 1. Could this have been Youssef Benzarti, who also recorded for Polyphon at the time? If so, does this mean that his relative (brother?) Haroun Benzarti, a famed zurna player (zurnaji), was also captured here? Hopefully those with more knowledge will weigh in soon.

Notes
Label: Polyphon
Title: Koumtarra Barahim (قوم ترا براهيم) [Sides 1-2]
Artist: Aroun Haouzi el Baidi
Issue Number: V 45.564 A; V 45.564 B
Matrix Number: 5237 BK; 5238 BK
Date of Pressing: 1932

4 thoughts on “Aroun Haouzi El Baidi – Koumtarra Barahim, Polyphon, 1932

  1. Hey Chris – nice recording, this! The combination of violin and zurna is unusual to my ears – violin being such an indoor instrument, and zurna being such an outdoor instrument (that is, LOUD). I’m just trying to picture the recording setup – did the zurna player stand far away on the other side of the room and blow in the opposite direction so as not to overpower the violin and singing? Glad to hear this, and thanks for sharing so much wonderful music!

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    1. Thanks, Tim! This is a great question. What I can tell you is that Polyphon loved large recording spaces. As for where the musicians were actually positioned, though, I’m not sure.

      Like

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