Aroun Haouzi El Baidi – Koumtarra Barahim, Polyphon, 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.
Saoud l’Oranais – El Idd El Kebir [Sides 1-2], Pathé, c. 1930-31-As its name implies, the song-text performed here by the renowned Jewish musician invokes the Muslim holiday which commemorates the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to fulfill God’s command to sacrifice his son Ismail (as in “the Binding of Isaac” in the Jewish tradition, God intervenes to replace the child with a ram). Ben Triki’s qasida itself deals with issues of longing for home and family.
Salim Halali – Adhrob Kassi and Atini – Pathé, c. 1947-Like Halali, “Adhrob Kassi” is salacious. It begins with an invitation to an unnamed lover for a drink, which leads to a kiss, and then proceeds with the Algerian Jewish vocalist invoking all manner of sexual innuendo.
Sariza – Plainte (Chekoua) – Polydor, c. 1936-1938-This Polydor side, “Plainte” (“Chekoua”), which might be best translated as “lamentation,” ornamented simply but stunningly with Sariza’s voice, her own accompaniment on piano, and strings, may have hailed from those 1936 session although the record itself indicates it was pressed in 1938. Nonetheless, the result is breathtaking.
Lili Boniche – Carmelita – Pacific, c. 1950-Written and composed by Boniche, “Carmelita,” a paso-doble about a Spanish woman who drives him wild, was a major hit across North Africa when it was released c. 1950 (and possibly as early as 1947).
Alice Fitoussi – Ya msalmin kalbi – Polyphon – 1933-Alice Fitoussi (1916-1978?) was one of a handful of Algerian Jewish musicians to remain in Algeria after independence in 1962. In many ways, the continued presence of a highly visible and audible Algerian Jew in independent Algeria reminds that music can complicate periodization schemes.
Saoud l’Oranais – Gheniet U.S.M.O. – Polyphon, 1934-Presented here is what is almost certainly the first soccer chant ever captured on 78 rpm record in North Africa. It dates to 1934. That it was written, performed, and recorded by Saoud l’Oranais, with accompaniment by the violinist Doudane, intrigues.
Line Monty – Ouine houa? – Pathé, c. 1952-Algerian Paris in 1952 must have been quite the scene. In and out of the Pathé recording studio that year, for example, was a who’s who of Algerian artists including the rising star Line Monty.
Cheikh El Afrite – Lamodate Lamodate – Gramophone, c. 1932-It is in this way––in inveighing against the bob and lipstick––that Cheikh El Afrite and his music provide us with Arabic-language insight into the potency, power, and pull of what we might think of as the age of the modern girl in the Maghrib.
Zohra El Fassia – Mayli Sadr Hnine – Pathé, c. 1956-Among the many North African musical forms recorded by Zohra El Fassia, her interpretations of Algerian hawzi (or haouzi) stand out. Her “Mayli Sadr Hnine,” recorded c. 1956 for Pathé and complete with accordion accompaniment, is no exception.
Sassi – Tchambar Sika – Parlophone, c. 1930-Sassi, born in Constantine but raised in Algiers, was not only the most accomplished mandolin player of his generation––almost always described as a virtuoso––but among the most prolific recording artists of his era.