For the fourth night of Hannukah, I bring you the earliest recording of the classic, "Ya Oummi."
Like their Ashkenazi counterparts, North African Jewish musicians sang songs to honor their mothers. "Ya Oummi" (Dear Mama), written, composed, and eventually recorded by Tunisian-born Youcef Hedjaj (aka José de Suza), was one of those songs. While Algerian Jewish chanteuse Line Monty is most closely associated with Ya Oummi - and indeed, her version is stunning, she was not the first woman to record it.
That distinction went to a young, up-and-coming Muslim vocalist who then went by the stage name of la jeune Ouarda (al-fattat Ouarda). Yes, before she went from Ouarda to Warda, before she appended al Jazairia (the Algerian) to her name, and before she left Algeria and married Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, la jeune Ouarda committed a beautiful version of Youcef Hedjaj’s Ya Oummi to record. For those who know the stately Warda, I think you'll be blown away by her teenage self.
You can compare to Line Monty's iconic take here:
And you can hear Youcef Hedjaj not only singing Ya Oummi here but also providing us with the details of just how popular the song was (in French).
Since that time we have been blessed with a number of remarkable covers, including this by young Israeli Moroccan artist Neta Elkayam (with exquisite piano by Amit Hai Cohen).