Msika: the Charismatic and Daring Singer

Only few people know Habiba Mssika, the Tunisian Jewish artist that God endowed with an angelic voice like that of Ismahane or Leila Mourad and who represented a revolutionary musical phenomenon during the 1920s, thanks to her daring musical choices and her controversial artistic orientation, marked in particular by titles like “Ala Sarir annoum dalaani”, “Hawant rassi li assahar wa alqamra” and the poem “Mali foutintou bi lahdika al fattak” that Oum Koulthoum sang before, among other songs that celebrate, directly and without any hesitation or restraint, the vigils, love and alcohol, thus becoming one of the most important and famous night stars in Tunisia.

Mademoiselle Habiba, as she was presented at parties and on the records, was coached by musicians such as Acher Mizrahi and Khemaïs Tarnane, who accompanied her like a shadow, during all her concerts in Tunisia or abroad, especially in Germany where she got used to recording her songs.

She was also very influenced by her aunt who taught her piano from an early age, when she lived with her family in the city of Testour, one of the strongholds of the Jewish community in Tunisia, where she grew up in a Jewish family in love with the Malouf and the Andalusian heritage, and this before she moved to Tunis at the age of 17 to join the “Najma” theater troupe, where she played many roles in which she demonstrated a great talent for theater and dance, becoming the first woman in the Arab world to perform on a theater stage from 1911.

Habiba, whose real name is Margaret, did not attend school for long, but she educated herself. She wrote her dialogues and roles in Latin and performed them in Arabic and French, which earned her a reputation in many Arab countries, which invited her to give concerts, allowing her to be known among the greatest symbols of Arab song, including the Iraqi artist Mohammed Kabanji, in whose company she performed her famous song “Tala min bit abouha” and almost joined him in other musical projects, but Msika’s death had another say.

She died when she was barely 34 years old, in a tragic event after being burned by Eliyahu Mimouni, her rich Jewish lover whom she wanted to leave, driving him away from the paradise of her love.

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