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Hadia's International Belly Dance Academy archive
Category: Dance Facts
December 7, 2012
“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 “Malfouf” aka “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:
- Sayed Balaha “Oriental Grooves Vol 1″ and “Oriental Grooves Vol 2”
- Hossam Ramzy’s “Rhythms of the Nile”
- Samasem’s “Drum Rhythms for Oriental Dance” featuring Mohammed ‘Bibo’ Gaber
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
November 29, 2012
First Question: Where can I find a good source of authentic information about Cane Dance aka Raqs Assaya; Raqs Asaya
- Research and watch Egyptians (and their devoted students) who perform Raqs Assaya or Tahtiyb
- Read articles about the history of these dance forms, the people of the Said and the Ghawazee
- Watch performances of these dances by folkloric companies and the dancers of the golden era and the 80’s from old movies, videos and YouTube such as Fifi Abdo, Mona al Said and Lucy.
The use of the cane or stick can be seen in dances from many eastern countries, the country that is best known for its cane dance is Egypt. So, Egypt would be the most obvious and likely place to begin your search and because this is a traditional folkdance, the Egyptians best suited to guide you would be their professional folkloric dancers. The cane dance or Raqs Assaya had its origins in the man’s martial art/dance form called Tahtiyb, from the Said region (Upper Egypt). This was a skill enhancing training for combat using the Nabout or stick, which evolved into a stylized and elegant form of dance performed by Saidi men. This was eventually adopted and adapted by the female Ghawazee performers who had been banned to the Said region in the 19th century. These professional performers used a smaller and thinner stick, imitated some of the men’s movements, but also added skillful tricks and incorporated shimmies, and other feminine hip movements.
Following the golden era of Raqs Sharqi that began in the 1950’s, the great star Nagwaa Fouad began to present traditional folkloric dance as part of her nightclub performances, sometimes bringing musicians and villagers to Cairo to perform in her extravagant shows. The next generations of dancers chose to perform the baladi style and folk dances themselves. This led to the ‘orientalization’ of this charming and delightful dance, balancing the playful, stronger movements of tahtyb and cane with the more fluid and feminine movements of sharqi. For more background info I invite you to read my article, Cane Dance: Raks Asaya. I also recommend that you search for articles on the Guilded Serpent www.gildedserpent.com as some very knowledgeable writers submit to this site.
As a Canadian dancer who began my career back in the early 70’s (before there were such things as dance oriented tours, festivals or even dance classes in Egypt) I was very fortunate to find two professional Egyptian folkloric dancers from the National Egyptian Folkloric Company “Firqat Kowmeiyah” living in Canada; Denise Enan and Lala Hakim. I studied with both of these wonderful artists and teachers, in Ottawa and Montreal respectively. I continued to study with Denise, who had been the lead dancer for the company for many years before moving to Canada and who was an amazing wealth of knowledge, generosity of spirit and natural charm. Although I love all of the dances and music of Egypt, Saidi and Cane are definitely my favourites. Denise Enan is my favourite and most trusted teacher of folklore and cane dance, while her husband Ahmed Enan is a master artist and choreographer of Tahtyib.
Second Question: Where can I learn Cane Dance aka Raqs Assaya?
- Take classes and workshops with the “experts” i.e. Masters of Egyptian folklore and the students of these masters.
- Explore and study Saidi music, its rhythms and instruments
- Study DVDs and online classes by both the masters and their students.
Thanks to Denise’s status as a principal dancer of the National Kowmeiyah Company, when I traveled to Egypt to absorb and learn as much as possible, I was able to meet and attend rehearsals of the company and see their performances in the famous Balloon Theatre. I was even able to receive occasional coaching from some of the dancers. I would also go out night after night to the huge selection of major hotels and night clubs to drink in the magnificent music of the orchestras, study the dancers, including their folkloric and Saidi segments which often included Raqs Assaya and Tahtyb. OH those were the sweet days!!
After Cairo, I traveled south to the town of Luxor in the Said and home of the Banat Mazin Ghawazee. I spent many days dancing with the sisters in their home and gradually absorbing their unique movements and style. I could kick myself for refusing to trade my American belly dance coin belt for one of their traditional beaded skirts!!! They had never seen a coin belt before and I had never seen a ghawazee skirt, but apparently we both preferred the belt. These sessions often turned into events with their musician cousins, the extended family of the famous singer Metkal Kanawi. This extended family are part the Saidi “gypsies” who have maintained their timeless tradition of music, song, dance and entertainment through the eons!! Few things can pull at my hearts strings like the strings of the rough and raw rababa, joined by the etheric strains of the ancient nai (flute). There might also be earsplitting and piercing mizamar (which only die hard dancers and fans adore)or the mellower buzzing mijwiz, all accompanied by the tabla, riq and zaghat of the Mazin sisters. Once this raw, lively and edgy music gets into your veins it is in there forever with its power to transport you right back to the timeless, place, people and energy of Luxor – EVERYTIME!!
Throughout my career, I have been so lucky to be to these special places, to experience and learn first hand from so many incredible people like Denise and other Egyptian dancers who are also undisputed masters of the cane including Ibrahim Farrah and Mohamed Shelaby.
I hope that I have inspired you and given you a couple of ideas of what and who to seek out and where to seek them out. It is worth every effort. I would also like to share a bit of what I have learned about this delightful dance right now, in my Volume 2 Raks Sharki Series, which includes how to hold and twirl the cane, some wonderful steps and techniques and finishing with a really fun and lively complete choreography to a song called Ayeela Tayeeha buy the incomparable singer, Ahmad Adawiya. You can also take advantage of our Christmas Cane Promo Price from now until January 15th by clicking on the Tell Me More link right here.
Thank you for you time and interest and if you like what you have just read and/or my article link, please feel free to share it with your friends on Facebook and click the “like” button like and Facebook buttons below. I would also love to hear your comments and any other information that you would like to share with my other friends and readers.