For those familiar with the Yazoo label’s Secret Museum of Mankind series, you may recognize the name Mimoun from their “Music of North Africa” album released in 1997. Indeed, the side presented below is the flip of track 14 on that CD, “Prélude et Touchiat Zidane,” performed as part of Parlophone’s “Orchestre Arabe” under the direction of Mimoun Chetrit. Chetrit, almost always referred to simply as Mimoun, was the virtuoso pianist of the acclaimed Algerian orchestra El Moutribia. Like so many other musicians in early twentieth century Algiers, he called the lower Casbah home, residing mere steps from the likes of his contemporaries Edmond Nathan Yafil, Laho Seror, and Alfred “Sassi” Lebrati.
“Danses Arabes,” released c. 1930, features a popular instrumental piece (a zindani) executed by Mimoun, an energetic Lili Labassi on violin, and a flutist that could very well be the famed Driss although it not uncertain.
Intriguingly, the Arabic text is misspelled. More important, however, is the exceptional quality of the music and some of the continuities that can be discerned. The melody here, for example, is the very same that would later grace Salim Halali’s “Danse de la mariée” (Polydor, c. 1960s), which provided prelude to his iconic and inescapable “Dour biha ya chibani.”
Title: Danses Arabes (رقصا عرابه) [رقصات عربية]
Artist: Orchestre Arabe, Direction Mimoun
Issue Number: 46.548
Matrix Number: 114095
Date of Pressing: c. 1930