Blond Blond – Chekchouka – Pathé, 1952

At first listen, this record by Algerian Jewish ambianceur Blond Blond catches you off guard. To be sure, it begins as all North African 78 rpm records did in the first half of the twentieth century: with a spoken introduction. But while the label announced here is the correct one––Istwanat Pathé––the performer’s name invoked in what follows is that of his compatriot and coreligionist Salim Halali! Hence the confusion.

As far as I know, this 1952 release is unique in the history of early recorded North African music. Blond Blond, aided by the legendary banjoist Kaddour Cherchali (né Abdelkader Bouheraoua, 1911-1968) and his orchestra, provides us with four rather faithful impressions of four of the most important Algerian musicians of his era: the aforementioned Halali, Mahieddine Bachetarzi (the father of modern Algerian theater and inheritor of Edmond Nathan Yafil’s mantel), his master and close friend Lili Labassi (né Elie Moyal), and finally, Cheikh Zouzou (né Joseph Guenoun). In doing so, he testifies to the ubiquity of certain records and the particular formula employed therein across the Algerian soundscape at least until mid-twentieth century.

He labels all of this, “Chekchouka,” a dish of cooked and stewed tomatoes, peppers, and onions, to conjure the mixing or getting mixed up that is his series of impressions. Like shakshuka itself, the result is delicious.

Notes
Label: Pathé
Title: Chekchouka
Artist: Blond Blond
Issue Number: PA 2895
Matrix Number: CPT 9040-21
Date of Pressing: 1952

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