As we begin to fill out the biography for the Moroccan Jewish musician Zohra El Fassia––thanks in no small part to the scholarship of Tamar Sella––it is important that we consider the contours of her recording career as well. El Fassia (née Hamou) was born in 1905 in the city of Sefrou. As Sella has gleaned from her oral history interviews, El Fassia settled in Casablanca (via Fez) sometime in the mid-1920s and there she began performing. If some of her best known recording sessions are associated with her Philips releases of the late 1940s and 1950s and Pathé in the 1950s, her earliest entrance to the studio––that we know of––took place in 1938 with Polyphon. In a cavernous space at the end of the interwar period, Zohra El Fassia made at least six records for the label directed locally by Jules Toledano. “Kif Youassi,” a song-poem from the hawzi tradition in which the narrator seeks consolation for a lost love, was among those half-dozen 78s made by the thirty-three year old artist in the course of a morning or more likely an afternoon.
But one has to wonder if she did not record earlier. Indeed, in his memoirs, Mahieddine Bachetarzi, the Algerian vocalist, impresario, and artistic director for Gramophone, mentions El Fassia as one of the musicians he recorded during a 1929 session in Morocco. While I have never seen mention of the records in question in any catalogue, it does not mean that they do not exist. And of course, should those purported 1929 sessions be found, you will be the first to know (and hear them).
Title: Kif Youassi
Artist: Zohra El Fassia
Issue Number: 47008
Matrix Number: 5740 HPP
Date of Pressing: 1938
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