Khailou Esseghir and Sion Bissana – Hattab El Hattab – Pathé, c. 1930

The mizwid, the Tunisian bagpipe, has long had a vexed history.[1] For hundreds of years, Tunisian Jewish and Muslim communal authorities have objected to the goatskin instrument given the central role it has played in trance-inducing ceremonies––including those mixed in gender and confession and performed in private homes and at the tombs of sainted figures. But for a great many Jews and Muslims, the mizwid, a staple of the rebaybiyya tradition, was embraced with the gusto it deserved. Indeed, although it is most closely associated with a resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s, owing, in part, to the release of a number of LPs and EPs produced in France, it is important to recall that the mizwid featured among the earliest and most popular Tunisian recordings of the turn of the twentieth century and just afterward. Among the greatest interwar exponents of rebaybiyya, with its signature mizwid and bendir, were the Tunisian Jewish duo of Khailou Esseghir and Sion Bissana. In listening to their pulsating c. 1930 version of “Hattab El Hattab,” dedicated to the Muslim saint Sidi Ali El Hattab (the namesake of the Hattabiyya Sufi order), their renown, as well as the power of the mizwid to send its listeners into a state of exaltation, hopefully becomes clear.

Notes

Label: Pathé

Title: Hattab El Hattab (Bnaders & Mezoued)

Artists: Khailou Esseghir and Sion Bissana

Issue Number: X 65070

Matrix Number: N 57273

Date of Pressing: c. 1930


[1] For expert treatment of the mizwid and rebaybiyya, see Richard C. Jankowsky, Ambient Sufism: Ritual Niches and the Social Work of Musical Form (University of Chicago Press, 2021). Much of the above derives from Jankowsky’s work.

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