December 7, 2012

Belly Dancing to Arabic Dance Music

Do you want to learn another dance or do you want to learn HOW to dance?”

Music can and does exist without dance, but dance cannot exist without music.  If you want to learn HOW to DANCE to Arabic Oriental music instead of being a prisoner of combinations, the best place to start is to learn about the music. The best way to start to understand the enchanted world of oriental music is to learn the rhythms.

The principal percussion instrument is called a tabla aka darabuka or derbeke. This hand drum has 2 primary sounds; a deep resonating sound known as “doum” which is made by hitting the centre of the drum, and a sharper, lighter sound called “tak” made by striking the edge of the drum. The various combinations of these two sounds create what we call the rhythms.

The sound that dancers hear most easily is the doum. And the rhythm that most dancers learn first is called Baladi aka Masmoudi Saghir (small masmoudi). Please note that some people use this term to describe the 8 count rhythm with the accents on the first 2 counts. The heavy base of these main beats and the particular order of where they are found, have a very magical effect on virtually all dancers and natives of the Middle East – We have no choice but to get up and dance, while a huge smile appears on our faces and arms move through the air above our heads. This very special rhythm is indeed the Heartbeat of Belly Dance

Although Middle Eastern rhythms are very different in structure from Western rhythms, most of our principal dancing rhythms are in 4/4 time, which makes them easier to understand.  The most commonly found 4/4 rhythm, which is considered the metronome (keeper of the time) for the majority of popular songs, is the maqsum or maksoum rhythm.  However, because this rhythm is ruled by the tak, instead of the doum, it is one of the most challenging rhythms for dancers to hear and to recognize in the music. Other common rhythms are in 2/4 time, such as Malfoufaka “Lef” and Ayoub, or 8/4 time, such as Masmoudi Kebir or Chiftitelli, while some less common rhythms are in 6/8, or tricky, uneven counts such as 9/8, 10/8 or 12/8.  For more detailed information on each of the rhythms click on the highlighted name. You can also hear what these rhythms sound like by clicking on the mp3 button after each name.

Other percussion instruments which are played together with tabla are the riq, daf, dahola, the large tabl baladi and zagat or zills. Click on the names to see what they look like.

Here are some of my favourite rhythm CDs that will help you to become familiar with and practice dancing to the most rhythms:

To learn more about the interconnections between rhythms, instruments and much more, I also highly recommend Dr. George Sawa’s booklet/CD combination, “EGYPTIAN MUSIC APPRECIATION”, which has 2 CDs with 65 tracks of instruction: 21 rhythms, finger cymbal patterns, drum solos; 8 “maqams” or Arabic scales; photographs, description and sound of 32 instruments; 6 musical forms.

My dear friend, Dr. Sawa, has agreed to offer us a very special Christmas Discount price of $50.00 (plus shipping) and he will include, as a gift ,“The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, vols. 1 and 2.  These CDs are historical recordings on period instruments whose aim is to bring to life the sound of the dances of Badia Masabni, Tahiya Carioca and Samia Gamal. They also contain spiritual dances from Egypt and the 17th-century Ottoman court. All in all this deal will give you 4 CDs, a 32-page book and two CDs liner notes. For yourself of as A GREAT XMAS PRESENT!  

In the USA and Canada $55.00 (includes shipping); all other areas $60 (includes shipping). Payment through paypal to gsawa3303@rogers.com or a cheque or money order to George Sawa,  22 Fermanagh Ave.,  Toronto ON, M6R 1M2 Canada

Now all of this is very helpful information but let’s get back to your second question:

WHERE CAN I LEARN TO DANCE TO THE MUSIC?

I admit that I am biased on this point, but I highly recommend that you study my Volume 3 DVD in my Raks Sharki Series. Raks Sharki Vol. 3 Rhythms – The Heartbeat of Belly Dance. Together with my wonderful, percussionist, Pierre Khoury, I present the rhythms and dance movements one by one and step by step. Pierre begins each rhythm with what I refer to as the ‘skeleton’, or essential beats, so that you can hear and see the sounds being made. He gradually fills in the secondary beats, one piece at a time, until he is playing the complete embellished version. I join in the fun by playing finger cymbals, so that we can give you a sense of how the drum and the cymbals work together in harmony to make the rhythm even richer. Then, I demonstrate a series of very typical movements and steps and even some variations of those steps that would fit well with that particular rhythm. We work together through each of the major rhythms (and even throw in some tricky ones), in the same way so that you can practice, practice and practice my suggestions and perhaps start to explore some of your own movements to Pierre’s skillful drumming. Finally, we put everything together for a grand finale with an improvised performance; Pierre on drum and myself in full costume, dancing to a typical progression of these rhythms in the order that they might be found in an oriental belly dance composition. To make things crystal clear for you, we present only the drum and the dance so that you can clearly hear each rhythm and each rhythmical change and see the dance movements as they follow these rhythms.

Check out the video below for a quick peek at our rhythms:

If you don’t already own this DVD, now is a great time to add it to your collection by taking advantage of our “Christmas Cane” special discounted price. Click on this link to get it now.  Thanks so much for joining us here and reading through this post. If you found it helpful and enjoyed reading it, please send your comments and questions and feel free to share it with your friends by clicking the ‘share’ and ‘like’ buttons as well as the social media icons below.

Click here to watch video of Samia Gamal

Click here to watch video of Taheya Karioka

Click here to watch Samia Gamal


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