Murassa Urshan Georges
Did you know that one of the first people to record Assyrian music in the United States was a woman who lived in Chicago named Murassa Urshan Daniels (later Georges)? The Great Depression began in the United States in 1929, making it hard for people to find jobs or make money. Fortunately, for the Daniels family, Murassa Daniels managed to sign a contract with Columbia Records and record 10 Assyrian and 2 Azeri (the Azerbaijani dialect of Turkish) folksongs onto six separate records. The proceeds from these recordings helped support her family. However, her singing career ended after she married Paul Georges in 1930, and started her own family.
Murassa Urshan met Paul Georges at the Baqubah Refugee Camp in Baqubah, Iraq a little over ten years earlier. Both of them had fled their villages in Urmia, Persia (Iran) around 1917, during the Assyrian Genocide. Murassa had been born in the village of Abajaloo in 1906, and Paul had been born in the village of Gavilan in 1905. They fell in love with each other in Baqubah at the ages of 11 and 12, respectively. The Assyrian Genocide left Murassa an orphan, so she went to the United States in 1920 with her cousin’s wife, to reunite with her cousin in Chicago. Paul left his family and followed Murassa to the United States.
Once Murassa arrived in the United States, her cousin did not allow her to marry the penniless Paul. Instead, she had to marry one of his relatives, Saul Daniels. It was while she was married to Daniels that she made the recordings for Columbia Records. However, unhappy with her marriage, she soon divorced Daniels and eloped with Paul, who had been waiting for her for ten years. During the early twentieth century, this behavior would have been scandalous, but that did not matter to Murassa and Paul. They remained happily married for the next fifty years.
Both Murassa and Paul remained active in the Assyrian community once they arrived in the United States. Murassa became the Assyrian American Association of Chicago’s Ladies Auxiliary president in 1956, while Paul became the general president of the Association in 1975. The couple is now buried in the Assyrian section of Elmwood Cemetery and Mausoleum in River Grove, Illinois.
For more information about Murassa and Paul Georges, listen to their son’s 2019 interview about them on the Assyrian Podcast. Although the quality of the recording has deteriorated over time, you can hear one of Murassa’s Columbia Records songs here.
Written by Esther Lang
Daniels, Murassa Urshan. “Old Assyrian Song – Murassa Urshan Daniels – Shaqqi Weela Ahwali.” Teddy Dihaya, May 11, 2020. YouTube video, 3:13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8ghJ9bMyw8 (accessed March 12, 2021).
Daniels, Ramon. “Murassa Georges (Urshan).” Geni. November 22, 2020. https://www.geni.com/people/Murassa-Georges/6000000007273176756 (accessed March 12, 2021).
Kiryakos, Adessa. “Dr. Georges and Gary Daniels.” Interview with Ramon Georges and Gary Daniels. Assyrian Podcast. Podcast audio. May 28, 20219. http://podcast.assyrianpodcast.com/e/dr-georges-and-gary-daniels/ (accessed March 12, 2021).
“Murassa R. ‘Margaret’ Georges.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/111575149/murassa-r.-georges (accessed March 12, 2021).
“Murassa Urshan Daniels.” Qeenatha. https://www.qeenatha.com/artists/MurassaUrshanDaniels/3872/ (accessed March 12, 2021).
Shoumanov, Vasili. Assyrian American Association of Chicago: 100 Years. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2018.
Zeitoune, Abboud. Modern Assyrian Music. Wiesbaden, Germany: Abboud Zeitoune, 2015.