Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Claudia Cardinale, born in Tunisia, in Goha (1958), starring Omar Sharif

Claudia Cardinale, born in La Goulette, Tunisia, had her first film role at the age of 20 in Guha (1958), starring Omar Sharif. The film was made in Tunisia, directed by Jacques Baratier. Claudia had a minor role as Amina. Cardinale was raised speaking Arabic, French and Sicilian, and she only learned Italian later, when she started appearing in Italian films. When I first learned about this film, I had hoped that it would show Claudia speaking Arabic, but alas, the film is in French.

Claudia Cardinale (middle) in Goha

Like many people of my age, I had seen Cardinale in several films (among them, The Pink Panther, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Fitzcarraldo), but never knew she was born in Tunisia. Until I saw Tunisian director Férid Boughedir's 1996 film, Summer in La Goulette, where Cardinale makes an appearance, as herself. The best treatment I know of the various European populations of Tunisia is Julia Clancy-Smith's magisterial Mediterraneans: North Africa and Europe in an Age of Migration, C. 1800-1900 (2010). Highly recommended.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Franco-Arab music: Bob Azzam, Bruno Mory (Dalida's Brother), "Ya Mustapha," "Fattouma"

I first heard Bob Azzam's "Ya Mustapha" when I moved to Beirut in 1964, it was one of the very few songs in Arabic that any American kid would have been familiar with. It was a hit all over the Mediterranean, and I've posted about it previously. If you're not familiar with it, here it is:

I've since discovered a bit more about the song. First, it shows up in the Egyptian film "El Hob Kedda" (1961) which stars, among others, Salah Zo El Faqqar, Sabah and Abdelmonem Ibrahim. I'm not sure who is shown performing the song here, but it's the Bob Azzam's version. 

There is also another version, overshadowed by Bob Azzam's version, recorded by Dalida's younger brother Bruno Gigliotti, known in Egypt as Bruno Mory, and better known in France as "Orlando." Bruno had a brief career as an actor and a recording artist but then went on to become Dalida's artistic director and producer. It sounds much more "Egyptian" and less campy then Bob Azzam's version. 

It was released on record by the Egyptian label Sawt al-Qahira, and who knows, maybe it came out before Bob Azzam's version. Note that the lyrics are credited to Sa'id al-Masri, and the music to Muhammad Fawzi. According to an article from Rotana on "Franco-Arab" music, Bruno's version did precede Bob Azzam's.


Bruno's "Ya Mustapha" can also be found on a cassette, issued in 1978, called Al-Aghani al-Raqisa (Franco-Arab), or Dance Songs (Franco-Arab). I'd love to get my hands on this cassette.

The second song from Bruno on the cassette, "Fattouma," can be heard on YouTube (below). It's very very cool, more "Franco Arab" than his version of Mustapha.

"Fattouma" was released, according to discogs.com, in 1960, from the Egyptian label Misrphone. This song too was by Muhammad Fawzy and Sa'id al-Masri.

Finally, please check out the amazing scene of Bruno Mory, doing "Fattouma" while dancing the cha-cha-cha with the divine Egyptian actress Hind Rustom, from an online article from Rotana. Sorry, the article is in Arabic, it's the second video embedded here. Really, you must watch it. 

Bruno Mory and Hind Rustom in Fattouma, 1961

The scene is from the film of the same name, Fattouma, released in 1961. Here's a poster for the film. I've not seen it and don't know much about it.

And here is another poster for Fattouma, and note that it announces the participation of "Orlando" (on the right of the photo) in the film. (I cannot make out what it says above Orlando, sorry.)

That Franco-Arab cassette also has some songs from Karim Shukry, including "Take Me Back to Cairo," released on Sono Cairo, with lyrics in England. Not as interesting as Bob Azzam and Bruno's material, I don't think, but have a listen, you decide.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Hamza El Din, live in New York, 1989

Nubian Egyptian composer, oud player, tar player, and vocalist Hamza El Din live in concert at the Borough of Manhattan Community College Triplex Theater (now known as the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center) on April 15, 1989, broadcast on WNYC's show "Folkwave."

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Some Cheikha Rimitti 45 RPM Record Jackets

This is one of Rimitti's earliest recordings, if not the earliest (and I have the good luck to own this one). One of the tracks, "Erraï Arraï, was, according to Andy Morgan, her first recording, in 1952, for the French Pathé label. But on a 78 rpm, so I'm not sure when this 45 rpm version was pressed. (It was made in France.) Note she was known at this time as Elrelizania (al-Relizania), due to the fact that she grew up in the town of Rélizane (Ghalīzān in Arabic) in Western Algeria. Side A: "Erraï Arraï" (in Arabic al-ray ya al-ray, or "rai o rai."), may be one of the earliest songs in the tradition with "rai" in the title. (Sorry, I'm not able to translate the lyrics.) The genre in which Rimitti performed at the time, however, was not known as rai but as "al-klām al-hazl" or “light, amusing, trifling, playful speech.” 

The reverse side of the jacket describes the tracks as "Chant Oranais avec flûte." The photo on the jacket suggests "folklore." Side B, "Kheira Sali Anbi" (Khayra Salli ‘Ala al-Nabi) -- I'm not sure how to translate the title. Salli ‘Ala al-Nabi means "prayers on the prophet," but what "khayra" (good, choice) means in this phrase, I do not know. 

But note, however, that this is, at some level, a "religious" song, challenging the notion that became prevalent in the late eighties that rai was quintessentially secular. (The work of Marie Virolle is an excellent guide to the place of religion in rai lyrics of artists like Rimitti.) Both these tracks can be found on the CD, Aux Sources du Rai: Les Cheikhat.

The cover of this 45 also indicates "folklore," and this is how Algerian labels had to market the music post-independence, in the puritanical Boumedienne era, which lasted until 1978. This Rimitti record was put out by Triomphe Musique, based in France. This is not Rimitti's photo on the cover. I've seen no Rimitti release with her own photo on it prior to the late eighties, when she became a star on the rai scene, particularly in France, where she had resided since 1978.

This is a release from the Algerian label El Feth, under the rubric "Chants Folkloriques Oranais." I find curious the decision to use a picture of Djoser's Step Pyramid at Sakkara in Egypt on the cover, rather than a scene of Algeria. Side B, "Touche Mami," is a well-known Rimitti song, and it seems sexually suggestive: "touche mami touche, à droite, à gauche." Which is why the label "folklore" was necessary as a kind of cover for music that was considered vulgar by official state culture.

This one is from the French label, La Voix De La Jeunesse, and although the disc itself contains the rubric, "Folklore Oranais," by the time this comes out it seems that the folklore marketed is much more sexualized than that sold under the name Rimitti (or Remitti) in previous years. 

This one is from Voix Nouvelle, a French label that specialized in North African music. When rai cassettes began to be released, it was pretty common for European women to be the face on the cover of releases from female rai singers, the chabas. I've found no links to any recordings of these two songs or any mention of them except for on discogs.com.

I don't know anything about Atlas Records. This seems to be a re-release of "Errai Arrai," from the 1950s. I've not found a version of "Hak Tachroub Hak" anywhere.

This one is really eye-opening, eh? This is apparently from 1980, since it is called "Nouveauté Folk 80." When rai was being marketed as something sexy and outré. I don't find these two tracks anywhere either.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Wild 45 rpm record jackets: Cheikh El Afrit

I have no idea why this recording of Cheikh El Afrit appears in a record jacket featuring what looks to be a women's underwear ad.

Cheikh El Afrit was a well respected Tunisian Jewish singer (born Issim Israël Rossio) who lived from 1897 to 1939. Listen to his song "Ya nas hmelt" here. Nothing salacious about it. About his name, Chris Silver writes: "his adoption of the name Cheikh El Afrite (roughly translating as Master of the Devil) paid homage to his wit and was perhaps also a play on the word ‘ivrit, which happens to mean Hebrew in Hebrew." 

I've no idea about the label ZEY that put this disc out. It is, as Gomer Pyle would say, a poser.

A little more on Mahieddine Bentir

I looked a bit more at the short Algerian TV documentary on Mahieddine Bentir that I linked to in my previous post. (I realize that it's a problem that I can't make too much of Algerian dialect. But I can't control my obsessions.) 

Two things: First, there is a reference to a film that Bentir starred in, called Fous de musique or غرام الموسيقي

screenshot from the documentary

It's from the early sixties, filmed prior to independence, a musical, no doubt with some of the rock'n'roll that Bentir became famous for in the late fifties and early sixties. 

Second, please check out Bentir doing rock'n'roll, in 1959, on Algerian television, in the documentary, starting at 4:00. It's very lively, Bentir's dancing -- he does a couple of flips at around 5:00 -- strong backing by a couple sax players, trumpeter, piano and drums. Quite amazing.

Finally, I found, courtesy the blog of the great Algerian music scholar Hadj Miliani, an article about Bentir, from the magazine Femmes Nouvelles, published in Algeria (April 10, 1961). 

There is a lot of information about Bentir's life (born in 1934, in the commune of Ménnerville, grew up in Algiers, worked for the PTT (Postes, télégraphes et téléphones). When he played guitar and sang for some of his friends at the PTT and one of them helped get him in touch with the RTF (Radiodiffusion Télévision Française) and he appeared on the show "Rendez-vous à 13 heures" of Françoise Espel and Jacque Bados. He performed with a band called Orchestre Chenouf, composed of musicians with full-time jobs (station master, anesthesiologist, cabinet maker), who must be the ones who appear in the documentary (and in the clip on my previous blog). 

According to the article, Bentir composed in a variety of genres: "Negro" spirituals, waltzes, jazz, chansons réalistes. And it claims he was the first to launch rock'n'roll in "Oriental" music. His records sold in Alexandria, Rabat, and throughout Algeria. 

As of the date of the article, he had recorded four songs: "Youp! Ya Aoud" (rock), "Sinbad et Amira Cha-Cha" ("cha cha cha oriental"), "Ya mama chérie" (cha cha cha bolero) and "Anaya Bouhali" (style not specified. 

He was also translating some French popular songs into Arabic (I don't know whether these were ever recorded other than "Ana bouhali") and was preparing songs for a singer named Samira -- cha cha cha, waltz, and jazz. 

A more recent account of Bentir, from January 2018 (Reporters: Quotidien national d'information -- Algiers) reports on an hommage to Bentir, and states that Bentir's rock'n'roll song "Scooter" dates from 1955 (there is no mention of the song in the 1961 article) and that the songs Bentir performed on television (see the documentary were "Cha Cha Cha Chechia" and "Anaya Bouhali," a remake of Darío Moreno's 1959 recording, "Le marchand de bonheur" -- this is the clip on my previous blog post. (Moreno was a Turkish singer who made his career in France in the fifties and sixties.)

This article also claims that Bentir made some banners attacking colonialism and because he was sought after by the security forces, he took refuge in Tunisia with the liberation army. Perhaps, although it seems somewhat unlikely, given that the article cited above was published in April 1961. It states that the musical Bentir was to appear in (certainly Fous de musique) was to be filmed in May and June, and we can see from the movie poster reproduced in the Bentir documentary, that the film was in fact released. Algeria gained its independence in March 1962, so the timing does not seem right. But even if Bentir did not flee to Tunisia for anti-colonial activity, he nonetheless continued to enjoy a musical career in Algeria after indpendence.