The Jewish singer the Arabs loved

The Jewish singer the Arabs loved


norman lebrecht

April 28, 2018

There’s an illuminating article in History Today on the Tunisian singer Habiba Messika, whose music was received as a covert call for an Arab uprising.

Habiba was brutally murdered in 1930.

Chris Silver writes:

Between 1924 and 1930 Messika released a staggering number of phonograph records – close to 100 – for the Pathé, Gramophone and Baidaphon record labels. She was an accomplished actress, heralded as the ‘Second Sarah Bernhardt’ by her 21st birthday. Her style and looks also earned her a coterie of (male) fans known as the ‘soldiers of the night’, an ‘army’ which included Habib Bourguiba, who would become the first president of independent Tunisia in 1957. That Messika achieved so much, so quickly and did so at such a young age meant that her interwar funeral constituted one of the largest and most significant Tunisian gatherings of the early 20th century….

Read on here.



  • ketzel says:

    Fascinating, I’d never heard of her before. She reminds me of the Jewish-Greek rebetiko singer Roza Eskenazi.

  • Laszlo says:

    Who does not have some Jewish in him/her? Even Hitler fell into problems and contradictions when enforcing his policy.
    You take all JEWISH from world culture and many things, many, many, will simply disappear.

  • BillG says:

    From above –
    the early 20th century….

    Read on here.

    Read on where? Is something missing?