Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Hannouka from Jewish Algeria and Blond Blond

Albert Rouimi aka Blond Blond
I know it looks misspelled but El Bonco – Hannouka is one of the greatest Hanukkah songs that you’ve never heard – courtesy, of course, of the master Algerian Jewish singer Blond Blond. Albert Rouimi, who was given the moniker Blond Blond due to his Albinism, was born in 1919 in Oran, Algeria. From a young age he frequented the cafes that featured legendary Orani musicians like Saoud L’Oranais, Maurice El Medioni’s father, and Reinette L’Oranaise. His influences ran across both sides of the Mediterranean, he was deeply affected by the music of Charles Trenet and Maurice Chevalier for example, and he found himself going back and forth between France and Algeria for much of his career. In 1937, he left for Paris only to return to Oran two years later. It’s unclear how the rise of Vichy France played into this but needless to say Blond Blond left Paris in 1939 and returned only after end of World War II.

Back in Oran, he became known as l’Ambianceur for his unique style of singing and his staccato-like spoken word that interspersed his music. While Blond Blond could make an audience laugh there was also no doubt that he was truly a master musician with significant technical knowledge. He was fluent in the Andalusian repertoire, nailed it in French, commanded chaabi (especially the musical styling of Lili L’abassi) and pioneered the Francarabe style, a mixture of French chansons and Arabic chaabi.

Blond Blond. Kouftanek Mahloul et El Bonco Hannouka. Dounia. #1278. 1970s
He released dozens of records throughout his career, including many on 78 rpm, and recorded for everyone from Pathe to Samyphone to Dounia. He not only performed from his own work and with his own orchestra but also collaborated with some of the finest musicians of his day like Reinette L’Oranaise, Samy Elmaghribi and Line Monty.

Thanks to Phocéephone for this great digitization of Blond Blond’s El Bonco – Hannouka below. Looks like the original Phocéephone link is dead but luckily I found a mislabeled Youtube video of the same tune. Notice that Blond Blond quickly switches languages at the beginning of the track and will do so throughout including when he sings about Hanukkah. Listen carefully at the beginning when he sings, “le mazal c’est la chance.” Mazal is Hebrew for luck.

Ignore the "Ghir Ajini Ajini" - this is indeed El Bonco-Hannouka

Blond Blond was one of the few Jewish Algerian musicians that performed in Algeria post-independence and gave two memorable performances at the Koutoubia music hall in Algiers in 1970 and 1974. Blond Blond, l’Ambianceur, died in 1999 at the age of 80.

Happy Hanukkah to everyone and please make sure to spread this around.


L'Espadrille said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful song. Another jewish moroccan vinyl recording on my blog:
And other ones to come!

L said...

Thanks for this. I am listening to a recording of Maurice el Medioni as I type.

Chris Silver said...

Thanks L. What song were you listening to?

Urban Frum said...

love the sephardis:

Andy Muchin said...

I believe that the "Mazel" lines he sings in the beginning are borrowed from the Yiddish song called "Mazel" by Leo Fuld. I love the idea that Blonde Blonde knew the Yiddish song.