Munira al-Mahdiyya (1884-1965) is among the earliest female recording artists of Egypt. She was a celebrity during her day and appeared in films, much like Umm Kulthum who, shortly after she began recording, eclipsed nearly all artists in Egypt in terms of popularity. I believe this recording was made ca. 1914. On violin and kanun are two accompanists, one of whom (I assume) joins Munira in singing the last third of the song. The title of the piece translates literally to “adversities tore me apart.” I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to take a little more liberty and say that it could also be “hard times tore me apart,” which sounds a lot like countless blues songs.

The Baidaphon label was an early independent label out of Beirut, Lebanon. Started before 1912 by several members of the Bayda family (including singer Farjallah Bayda, also a Baidaphon talent), the label recorded throughout the Middle East and North Africa, sending their masters to Germany to be manufactured. I’ve been lucky to find Baidaphons from Morocco to Central Asia. The label pictured here is their 1920s design. However, I believe the song is from an early session of al-Mahdiyya’s, so in effect this very well may be a 1920s re-release. Baidaphon, like Odeon and a few other companies, seemed to like the 10.5? record, of which this is an example.

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