Louisa Tounsia – Ya Bent El Nass

tounsia“‘Stwanat Pacific, al mutriba Louisa Tounsia.”

Those words begin our second, and long overdue, selection originating from Tunisia. Despite being one of the most renowned vocalists in Tunisia during the mid-20th century, very little in English has been written about the great Louisa Tounsia. She was part of the deep tradition of Jewish singers of the Maghreb, along with her fellow countrymen Raoul Journo and Cheikh El-Afrit, among others. Jewish immigration into North Africa began as early as the 6th century BCE, and there was a large migration of Sephardic Jews into the region in the 5th century, then later in the 15th and 16th centuries, following expulsions from the Iberian peninsula. Ashkenazi Jews also were present in the region, beginning in the precolonial and colonial periods.

Louisa’s first sessions appear to have been for the French Polyphon label in 1938. She then made a few sides for Columbia immediately afterwards, and then recorded at least 25 songs for HMV starting in the mid-1940s. Her final sessions on 78 – at least from my documentation – occurred around 1950, for the Pacific record label, an independent. This track, for which I’ve combined both sides of the “suite” as it’s labeled, stems from those sessions. She’s accompanied here by an oud player, kanun, and percussion, with the second side being more of a jam. The title, “Ya Bent El Nass,” translates to “Oh Daughter of the People.”

I’ve always liked North African music from the mid-20th century more than Egyptian mid-century music – just a personal preference really, but I think it has something to do with a perceived looseness in the music, on my part. Or, perhaps it’s a means to escape the ubiquitousness of Umm Kalthoum, Mohammed Abdel-Wahab, and Farid el-Atrash, the popular and inescapable triumverate of mid-20th century Egyptian music (but, really, they’re national treasures, and each recorded some fantastic material).

Since this was recorded ca. 1950, it was recorded originally on tape. There’s a subtle, funky tape problem on this track and I’m not sure how you would define it, but it’s not really noticeable enough to detract. These are the issues, once again, that crop up when dealing with independent 78rpm labels, who, though they often employed an abundance of musical talent, they did not have the same advantages as the major labels had in terms of equipment and pressing materials.

Louisa Tounsia – Ya Bent El Nass

Technical Notes
Label: Pacific
Issue Number: 7114
Matrix Number: Part 10819/10820, AI 1335/1336

For more Louisa Tounsia, check the North African volume of the Secret Museum series.

7 thoughts on “Louisa Tounsia – Ya Bent El Nass

  1. Hello…many many thanks for making this available – I’ve been dying to hear more of her since first hearing “Ya Ourda” on the TSMOM compilation.

  2. Great to see your latest posts! Very happy that you decided to share these wonderful pieces with us!

    Unfortunately I missed the BBC program on Gaisberg, but there me be a re-run that I can miss later on 🙂

    Thank you kindly…


  3. I am an oriental musician living in ISRAEL, and appreciate very much your “excavated Shellak” site.
    I would like to know how to get all the Louisa Tounsia songs and especially if you have her french-arabic song “OU VOUS ETIEZ MADEMOISELLE’,Thank you in advance for your prompt reply. Visiting your blog is for me a great experience, you did a wonderfull work, please give me more information of your site.
    Thanking you in advance & sincerly yours RAYMOND ALLON

  4. Hello Raymond – thank you for visiting! As far as I know, there is no CD or place where more Louisa Tounsia songs are available. However, there is one included on the CD “Secret Museum of Mankind: North Africa.” Your best bet is to try to track down her records – many of her later records were on 45rpm and 33rpms.

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