Raqs Sharqi Workbook – Week 5

from Shems for Sirena Studio – https://www.sirenastudio.com/ – come join in the fun 😀

Arabic words of the week

Tahkt  تخت – platform; also refers to a small traditional Arabic musical ensemble, typically comprising of Oud, Qanun, Nay, Riqq, Derbake and Rebaba/Kamanjā (sometimes replaced with a violin).

Dancer Beba Ibrahim, Singer Muharram Fouad, with Tahkt, source: https://youtu.be/FQwwsNSAASY

Firqa فرقة‎ – group; a large Arabic musical ensemble (eight or more, up to a full orchestra), expands on the instruments in a Tahkt with additional instruments including western instruments like the violin, bass, clarinet, organ, and accordion.

Egyptian Dancer Lucy with her Firqa (Band) – source: https://youtu.be/L91GJqgtnAk

Taqsim  تَقْسِيم‎  – solo instrument improvisation, played independently or backed by a drone or percussionist.

Mawwal موال‎ – connected to; An emotional vocal improvisation, often a lament over a lost love, that may precede a song.

Layali ليالي – nights;  A vocal improvisation, similar to the instrumental taqsim. The singer improvises on the words “Yā ‘ayn yā layl” (يا عين يا ليل), which means “oh eye, oh night”.

Tarab  طرب – Tarab is used in Arab culture to describe the emotional effect of music; it is also associated with a traditional form of art-music rooted in the pre World War 1 musical practice of Egypt and the East- Mediterranean Arab world and is directly associated with emotional evocation.

Takht to Firqa

A transition from Takht to Firqa coincided with the development of Raqs Sharqi in the urban Egyptian entertainment halls over the turn of the 19th to 20th century. The development was influenced by a combination of growing the ensembles to fill the larger theaters with sound, incorporating new element to engage and excite Egyptian audiences, as well as a political push to incorporate western influence in an effort to modernize Egyptian culture by King Fuâd in the 1930s. (See “Modernisation & Westernisation of Music in Egypt“)


Because all styles of raqs sharqi are very connected to the music, now is a good time to learn a little about Middle Eastern music. Take some time to familiarize yourself with some common instruments used in Turkish, Arabic, Greek and other Middle Eastern music.

Learn to identify and recognize by sound and sight several different musical instruments used commonly in the Middle East:

Instruments in the Tahkt

  • kanun – demonstrated by Umut Yasmut
  • oud – performance by the very famous Egyptian singer, actor and musician Farid El Atrache
  • ney – performance by Volkan Yılmaz
  • kawala – deeper sound than the ney but a related instrument demonstrated by Abdallah Helmey
  • rebaba (kemengeh)
  • riq – demonstrated by Nasser Salameh
  • tabla, darbuka, derbeke, or dumbek – demonstrated by Souhail Kaspar

Some additional Instruments found in a Firqat

Instruments used in Baladi/Folk music
typically played outdoors

Instruments mostly used in Turkey or Greece

  • saz, baglama (There are many varieties of this instrument, but that are in the same closely related family) demonstrated by Hasan Genc
  • buzuq (also in the saz/baglama family)
    bouzouki (mainly Greek) played by Manolis Karantinis
  • cümbüş (mainly Turkish)
  • zurna (mainly Turkish, related to the mizmar)

There are many other instruments used in Middle Eastern music, here is a good site to read descriptions: www.al-bab.com

Rhythm of the week

Saidi  –  صعيدي – a popular 4 beat rhythm from the Said region in Upper Egypt
You can listen to it here: http://www.maqamworld.com/en/iqaa/saidi.php


D-T-__D-D-__T-__| basic form

D-T-tkD-D-tkT-tk| filled

DkS-kkDDD-tkS-tk| 3 DUM variation

Raqs Sharqi Workbook – Week 4

from Shems for Sirena Studio – https://www.sirenastudio.com/

Arabic words of the week

Khalifa خليفة – title of the authority figure next in line to lead the Islamic empire

Al Khilafa الخلافة – Caliphate (the territory and people under the leadership of the Khalifa)

Iqa’/ Iqa’at  إيقاع / إيقاعات –  (singular/plural) a rhythmic cycle in Arabic music

Learn more about Iqa’at and hear it pronounced here: http://www.maqamworld.com/en/iqaa.php

Muwashah / Muwashahat – موشح /  موشحات   The Muwashah, which translates literally as “girdled” (plural Muwashahat) is an Arabic poetic form, and a complex vocal musical form based on classical Arabic poems from Andalusia. To learn more about the musical form: http://www.maqamworld.com/en/form/vocal_comp.php

Sama’i –  سماعي – Sama‘i, which literally translates to “hear me” is an Ottoman Turkish vocal and  instrumental composed musical form.  To learn more about the musical form: http://www.maqamworld.com/en/form/ottoman.php

Listening & Reading Context Comparison

Arabic music talk with Faisal Zedan
Faisal Zedan is a an Arabic percussion master instructor who born in Lebanon, raised in Syria and now lives in California.

“Oriental Dance: Myth and Reality, the Harem Slaves” by Jalilah Lorraine Zamora
Jalilah, originally from California, currently lives and teaches in Canada after having lived, studied, and/or worked as a professional dancer in several Middle Eastern countries, and toured with the Musicians of the Nile. She is well known in the international Raqs community for her “Raks Sharki” album series she put out with beautiful music for dance performance.

To help contextualize the reading & listening content, notice on the following map the shifting extents of the Caliphates, with the Umayyad in brown and the Abbasid in three greens.

Map source: https://www.worldhistory.biz/ancient-history/52883-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-caliphate-632-1258.html

Here is a map showing the shifting extents of the Ottoman Empire that followed the caliphates.

Map source: https://istanbultravelblog.com/ottoman-empire-maps/

Consider the multiple ways there was influence, shared heritage, and vocabulary in language, music, art, and dance, while each region, tribe, and people exchanged or asserted their cultural traditions.

At its height, Arabic cultural influence reached from Samarkand to Seville.  In addition to language and religion, the Arab caliphates valued knowledge.  They built universities, developed math, translated and wrote literature and poetry, they codified their musical traditions and forms, they put up street lights, paved sidewalks, built plumbing and other infrastructure, built bath houses and architecturally sophisticated Mosques, and spread these kinds of improvements throughout their territories.  Despite the benefits to being under the rule of the Caliphates, they were not totally beneficent rulers, keeping slaves, levying taxes, maintaining a religious caste system, and pushing religion through brutal violence.

Damascus in Syria was the seat of power for the Umayyad caliphate. Also, Damascus was and is a continual major cultural center as one of the oldest continually occupied cities in the world.  The Abbasid caliphate moved their seat of power to Bagdad.  Although the head of power during these caliphates remained in or near the Levant, the dramatic reach and long-term rule over a territory as far from the Levant as modern day Spain encourages many to explore the dance connections to Arab Andalusia. This is thematically connected to this week’s rhythm study.

Rhythm of the week

Sama‘i Thaqil  سماعي ثقيل – (also called Sama‘i, for short) is a very popular iqa‘ in the Muwashah vocal genre, as well as the principal iqa‘ used in the Sama‘i Turkish/Ottoman instrumental form. It is 10 beat rhythm.  Sama’i Thaquil translates literally to ‘my hearing is heavy’. Sama’i – my hearing, or hear me, & Thaquil – heavy

You can listen to it here: http://www.maqamworld.com/en/iqaa/samai_thaqil.php


D———T—k———D—-D—T———T—-| basic form

D—-t-k-T-k-S—-t-k-D—-D—-S—-t-k-T-k-| filled

Andalusia and Muwashahat Dance – A Little Additional Background
There is not a great deal of documentation that I know of detailing what Umayyad-Era Arab Andalusian Muwashahat dance looked like exactly. Though the musical forms and poetry at this time were beginning to be documented and preserved, dance is more elusive.

The closest description I know of is George Sawa’s translation of a description of dancing in Andalusia written by Aḥmad b. Yūsuf al-Tīfāshī (1184-1253) (you may have to join the facebook group to see it.) Ahmad’s writings would have been between the Abbasid and the Ottoman rule, when the Almohad Caliphate controlled the Iberian Peninsula, and the Ayyubid Sultanate ruled large chunks of Egypt, the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Whatever traditional heritage remained of Muwashahat music and dance after the fall of the Caliphates in the Iberian Peninsula was likely dispersed when the Moors were forced out of Spain in the 1490s, most of whom settled in the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, & Libya). It is my understanding that although they mixed some with Syrians, Arabs, and Turks, over time, most of the Moors were North African Amazigh people.  Once back in Africa, the Muwashahat and other Andalusian arts were most likely influenced by other African music and dance traditions, probably also later by interpretations of Muwashahat coming out of the Mashriq (Egypt, Arabian Peninsula, Levant, & Iraq).  See these interviews with Amel Tasfout for a little more about the Amazigh and Andalusia: https://youtu.be/12d0vxcH6TY & https://youtu.be/KDbyT1vwyw8)

Because Andalusia symbolized the Arab empire at the height of its ruling extent, nostalgia surrounding the preserved poetic form of Muwashahat inspired more modern folklorists in other parts of the Arab speaking world to present their re-imagined presentations of this heritage through musical compositions and choreographies. One of the most famous and most emulated of such imaginative approaches to dancing Muwashahat was from the Egyptian Folkloric Dance Choreographer Mahmoud Reda. Reda was not the first to present a dance interpretation of Muwashahat in Egypt, as is evidenced by its presentation by Raqs Sharqi performers in earlier films.  The legendary Lebanese singer Fairuz, also put out a beautiful theatrical production and album called Andaloussiyat.  Her backup dancers danced and sang in a style reminiscent of the more classic styles of dance from the Levant and near east.

Although Muwashahat dance and music art presentations included many rhythms, Samai Thaqil is very strongly associated with this tradition.  It is my understanding that it’s inclusion in music for Muwashahat was invented by the Egyptian composer Muḥammad ‘Uthmān, who was drawing from the Turkish Samai musical form for inspiration.  To read more about this musical history: https://www.amar-foundation.org/003-al-muwashshah/

To read more about muwashahat, I recommend checking out:

Video Studies

Here is an exploration of the Arab Andalus connection in dance.

Leila Mourad singing the muwashsha ‘Mala al-Kasat’ with a chorus of oriental dancers in two-piece bedlah, in the 1948 film ‘Anbar’ Words by Ahmed Ashour Suleiman and Composition by Muhammad Othman. This presentation pre-dates the famous Mahmoud Reda choreographic styling.

Fairuz, a beloved cultural icon in Lebanon, presenting a performance in Andalusian character in 1976, with back up dancers performing to the Muwashahat.
and another performance to a recording of Fairuz in 1960 that shows more of the dancers: https://youtu.be/RImmQAQDYig

Mahmoud Reda’s Folkoric Dance Choreography of Muwashahat featuring Farida Fahmy in the 1979 film Gharib el dar. 

You can also read an article by Farida Fahmy about the creation of this choreography: http://faridafahmy.com/Muwashahat.html

A selection of clips from Nesma of Spain’s more modern interpretation of Andalusian Muwashahaat:

Not Muwashahat, but another interesting connection on display the Moroccan dance El Kaaada and its close relative Flamenco, in a modern dance off.

Raqs Sharqi Workbook – Week 3

Raqs Shaqi Level 1 – Workbook: Week Three

Arabic words of the week

Misr مصر – Egypt (also transliterated Masr)

Misr is what Egyptians call Egypt. Check out this video to understand more about why these two terms sound so different.

Zaar زار – visit (also transliterated Zar)

Zaar is the term used to refer a possessing spirit or djinn, and the term for the ritual used to appease that spirit. A zaar is never exorcised, but coexists within the individual and must sometimes be brought into balance or harmony when things fall out of balance in an individual’s life.

image: Abbis, I. (n.d.). The Egyptian “zar” ritual. Qantara.de. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://en.qantara.de/content/the-egyptian-zar-ritual

Firqit فرقة – Troupe, Band, or Squad (also transliterated Ferqat), as in Firqit Reda

“What if we viewed Egyptian Folklore as a Puzzle” by Sahra

Image source: Egypt celebrates late folkloric dance icon Mahmoud Reda. (2020, September 21). Daily News Egypt. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://dailynewsegypt.com/2020/09/21/egypt-celebrates-late-folkloric-dance-icon-mahmoud-reda/

Rhythm of the week

Ayyub  – أيوب – Ayyub rhythm, also sometimes called Zaar is also transliterated Ayub, Ayoub, Ayoube

Ayyub is a name, the same name as the biblical and Islamic figure Job, although, I don’t know if there is any relation between that Job and this rhythm. It is a 2-beat rhythm frequently used in Raqs Sharqi music, in Sufi music and some folk music.  It is famously used for the zaar ritual, starting slowly and building up to breakneck speed.

You can listen to it here: http://maqamworld.com/en/iqaa/ayyub.php


D—D-T-| basic form

D-k-D-T-| filled

Video Study

Zaar in ethnic ritual context:

Footage in Cairo Egypt 1990 captured by Amina Goodyear (1st ½ of clip)

Zaar in folkloric dance presentation:

Ahmed Khalil’s Egyptian Folkloric Dance Company in Egypt Zaar Tableau

Zaar in raqs sharqi:

Shoo Shoo Amin – Zaar Tableau in her nightclub show in Egypt
Nadia Gamal – Zaar expression imbedded in her solo routine in her nightclub show in Lebanon

Learn More about the Zaar:
Yasmin Henkish’s Mini-Explainer on Zaar:
Yasmin also wrote the book ‘Trance Dancing with the Jinn’ if you are interested in a deeper dive on Zaar and related ritual practices.

Explore some other Zaar Traditions as they appear in different places:
Sudan: https://youtu.be/g9fxnHB0vQc
Iran: https://youtu.be/rm9Io7gKjbU

Raqs Sharqi Workbook – Week 2

Arabic words of the week

y’Allah – يالله  

ya –  يا oh

Allah – الله Allah or God

  1. Oh God! (Calling on God, like to start a prayer)
  2. Oh my God! (Similar to OMG! An expression of amazement.)
  3. Let’s go!

marathania – مرة ثانية  – again

              mara – مرة – one time

              thania – ثانية – a 2nd

khalas – خلاص – it is finished or stop

aywa – أيوة – Yes

pronounced like the state of ‘Iowa’ this is a uniquely Egyptian (not pan-Arabic) word

habibi – حبيبي – sweetheart or darling in the masculine form
(feminine form habibti – حبيبتي )

The masculine form ‘habibi’ has been used historically for both genders in Arabic poetry and music lyrics both as a sign of respect towards the more intimate usage of ‘habibti’ for a female, and to obscure who was being referred to in a story or song. 


“Misconceptions in Arabic Dance” by Amani
Amani is a famous Lebanese Raqasah (dancer) widely respected in the field.  She brings a unique and knowledgeable native perspective, and she offers ideas that both complement and expand upon the understanding of the artform that we gain from experts that take an Egyptian perspective.   I particularly like her take on the idea of regional styles.  I had previously accepted the idea that each region in the Middle East had its own flavor, but her perspective on style in Raqs Sharqi opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.

Image: Amani at International Conference on M. E. Dance, May 1997. Photo by Laura Lee Intscher. Source: http://thebestofhabibi.com/vol-16-no-2-spring-1997/amani/

Rhythm of the week

Masmoudi Kabir – مصمودي كبير – Big Masmoudi

              Kabir – كبير  – big

              Masmoudi – مصمودي – Masmoudi

The name of a popular 8 beat rhythm in folk and popular Arabic music. You can listen to it here: http://maqamworld.com/en/iqaa/masmudi_kabir.php


D—D—____T—D—____T—T—| basic form

D—D—tktkT-tkD-tktkt-TktkT-tk| filled

Get to know a few famous Egyptian stars of Raqs Sharqi through Yamê’s excellent selection:

Nagua Fouad – Egyptian Dance Star

Get to know a few famous Lebanese Stars of Raqs Sharqi:

Nadia Gamal – of Greek &Italian heritage & born in Egypt, Nadia started her career in Egypt, however she grew to her greatest celebrity while in Lebanon. She was the first to bring Raqs Sharqi to the Baalbek Festival, she starred in several films internationally, and was a highly sought after performer and instructor.

Image: Nadia Gamal, source: https://es.paperblog.com/nadia-gamal-2483946/

Nadia Gamal dance scene in the 1973 film “Mesk wa Anbar

Amani – Born in Lebanon in a small town between Beirut and Tripoli, Amani built her career and fame in Lebanon and internationally. She made several appearances on Lebanese TV and is well known for her theatrical dance productions. It is her article and photo I shared above.

Footage of Amani at a dance festival in Cairo, Egypt performing with a riq (tambourine).

Samara – Iraqi born, she moved to Lebanon as a young adult and built her career there. She took lessons from Nadia Gamal before developing her own style.

image: Samara in the 1990s, source:http://thebestofhabibi.com/vol-15-no-3-summer-1996/samara/

Footage of Samara at an outdoor concert in Lebanon.

Get to know a few famous Turkish Stars of Raqs Sharqi (known in Turkey as Oryantal Dans):

Nesrin Topkapı – Born in Akhisar, Turkey, Nesrin was raised by a Mother and Father who were involved in theater. Her mother loved to dance. After starting her performance career first in London, England, Nesrin returned to Turkey and quickly became beloved by the nation after appearing on TV for the New Year.

Nesrin Topkapı on Turkish TV New Year 1979

Enjoy this selection of more Turkish dance stars.
Tulay Karaca – https://youtu.be/GmKu2dxgkpE
Nejla Ates – https://youtu.be/ucKDPh0uOjI
Didem – https://youtu.be/nLxe8EJ7ZpU
Sandrali – https://youtu.be/QXYY-i5oRKU
Birgul Berai – https://youtu.be/NMv99PiXrLg

Image Tulay Karaca source: https://bellydancershabibi.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/tulay-karaca/

Raqs Sharqi Workbook – Week 1

from Shems for Sirena Studio – https://www.sirenastudio.com/ – come join in the fun 😀

Arabic words of the week

‘ahlaan أهلا  – Hello or Welcome

raqs sharqi رقص شرقي  – Eastern/Oriental Dance
(more commonly known in English as Belly Dance)

raqs رقص dance

sharqi – شرقي Eastern or Oriental


The term Raqs Sharqi first appeared in newspapers in early 20th century Egypt referencing a professional stage version of Egyptian dance developed in the entertainment halls of Cairo & Alexandra at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. It was likely called this to differentiate it from western or occidental dance, which was also on offer at these entertainment halls, and possibly to also to differentiate it from beledi (homestyle) Egyptian dance.  Integrating local Egyptian professional dance traditions with influences from the variety of musical, theatrical, and dance entertainment on display in the urban Egyptian entertainment halls (including artistic contributions from various Middle Eastern countries, Europe, & the Americas), Egyptians created a new expression of authentic Egyptian cultural identity for Egyptian audiences, in defiance of colonial occupation. This was Raqs Sharqi. (see “Egyptian Belly Dance in Transition: The Raqs Sharqi Revolution” by Heather D. Ward)

Image: Egyptian Dancer 1860
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Danseuse.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1860 – 1929. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-614b-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

There is evidence that similar integrated developments in professional dance were simultaneously occurring in other Middle Eastern urban centers, to a greater or lesser extent, and with some differing sets of influences, all of which contribute to our contemporary understanding of Raqs Sharqi. Built on the foundation of shared movement vocabulary in professional and homestyle dance as well as musical ties that existed throughout the territories previously controlled by the Ottoman Empire and earlier Islamic Caliphates, these regions (which include most Arabic speaking countries as well as Turkey and Greece) developed their own interpretations, or close dance relatives, of Raqs Sharqi.

Image: Famous Turkish dancer Nesrin Topkapı 1990
source: https://mavedans.blogspot.com/2016/11/nesrin-topkapi.html

Baladi – بلدي (other common transliterations include: beledy, balady, beledi)

  1. My country, of the country or of the people.
  2. It can be used a complement as the balad are considered the salt of the earth or a slur when referring to somebody as unrefined, like calling somebody a hick.
  3. In dance it refers to the dance of the everyday people, homestyle dance, raqs baladi.
  4. In dance it can also refer to a particular music and dance construct, also called baladi taksim, awadi baladi, tet baladi or ashra baladi (achrah baladi)
  5. It also sometimes used to refer to a Lebanese variation of the rhythm masmoudi saghir.

Image: Fifi Abdo is famous for her Baladi character in her professional performances. Mealema Fifi Abdou Cairo, photography by Youssef Nabil, source: https://www.phillips.com/detail/YOUSSEF-NABIL/NY010107/216


“What is Belly Dance?” by Nissa (https://www.bellydancewithnisaa.com/bellydance.html)

Rhythm of the week

Masmoudi Saghir  – مصمودي صغير – Little Masmoudi (aka Baladi)

              Saghir – صغير – little

              Masmoudi – مصمودي – Masmoudi

The name of a popular 4 beat rhythm in folk and popular Arabic music, also called “Baladi”. You can listen to it here: http://www.maqamworld.com/en/iqaa/baladi.php


D—D–T-D—T—| basic form

D-D-tkT-D-tkT-tk| filled

Video Studies: Travel through time with Egyptian Raqs Sharqi


The Egyptians Chadiga and Amina perform in the “Divan des fées” at the Swiss National Exhibition 1896 with their belly dance. Jenny Lavanchy-Clarke, Max Leu and Emil Beurmann sit in the audience. The usual hyperactive Francois-Henri Lavanchy-Clarke also crosses the recording several times.


Badia Masabni performing at Casino Badia in Cairo 1934, footage provided by Jalilah, courtesy of El Hami Hassan.


Taheya Karioka was probably only 17 or 18 when this scene from the 1936 Egyptian film ‘Kafeer el Derk’ (The Nightwatchman خفير الدرك) was filmed. As she was, at that time, an unknown, she’s not even listed in the movie credits. The film was directed by Togo Mizrahi and starred Ali Abdel Aal, Ali El Kassar and Zozo Labib.


These are sisters Lys and Lyn Gamal, in a scene from “Achki Lamin” (To Whom Do I Complain? اشكي لامين) which starred Shadia, Faten Hamama, Mohsen Sarhan, Farid Shawki and Emad Hamdy. Trivia: They were born as Helena and Bertha Alpert. blog.nli.org.il/en/jamal_sisters/ Despite the PR, they are not twins.


This is a scene from the 1977 film “A Thousand and One Kisses” (ألف بوسة وبوسة Alf Bousa wa Bousa) starring Najwa Fouad and Yousra who are the dancers in this scene.


This is the multi-costume finale from the 1991 film ‘Baia al shay’ (The Tea Seller بائعة الشاي) which starred Dina along with Saeed Saleh and Hussein al Sherbini.


Randa Kamel in opening show Raqs of Course 2019

Fifi Abdo’s Lessa Faker

Um Koulthum Singing Lissa Faker
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
take out a bunch of repeats and these first 3 parts consist of the part of music most dancers use. Here is the rest of the song:
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

A transliteration from the Arabic as well as an English Translation can be found on Shira’s website.

Here is the Arabic text from Al Mashriq.

– Notice how Fifi relates to the meaning of the lyrics. Look into yourself and see what they mean to you and how you relate.

– Notice how Fifi changes speed, engaging a powerful dynamic, especially when approaching or entering shifts between lyric and interim music. See if you can incorporate dramatic energy shifts and speed changes into your dancing at the shifts between lyric and interim music.

– Notice how Fifi will use only a limited number of steps, drawing one or two steps in combination over the length of an entire musical phrase. Also notice how she transitions. See if you can utilize this in your own dancing as an improvisational tool.

– Notice how Fifi uses layering to enhance the melodic line, both physically noting the sweep of the melodic line in crescents and 8s as well as expressing the tremolo of the oud in her shimmies. See if you can develop this tool in your layering.

– Notice how Fifi will stay stationary for most of the lyrics, particularly the deepest lyrics and how she travels more for the interim music. Note how she tends to become more internally focused for the intense lyrics as well. Think about how you might use this kind of choice as a dynamic tool when you are interpreting songs with lyrics in performance.

Leylet Hob

Laylet Houb is a classic Arabic song written originally by the famous composer Mohamed Abdel Wahab and sung by Um Koulthoum, a very important singer to Arabs in general, but to Egyptians in particular. The original version is around 50 minutes long. They used to compose songs that were a whole concert unto themselves. A shortened version was first used for dance by Souhair Zaki, a dancer who was reputed to be the first to use Um Koulthum music for Oriental dance. Of course our version is a modern remix by Said Mrad of this gorgeous old piece of music. Here are some links for you to enjoy – The full concert sung by Um Koulthum in 5 parts:

part I:

part II:

part III:

part IV:

part V:

Click on these 3 additional links for lyrics and to see Souhair Zaki dancing to Leylet Hob.

lyrics translated from Arabic
another translation with English transliteration

Souhair Zaki dancing to Leylet Hob in a film

Fifi Abdou

Concert at Al Esmailia, Egypt – we will be working with this entrance for next class as well. I highly recommend you buy the original DVD for your collection:

Fifi signature moves to add to your arsenal that we broke down in first class:
1 – traveling triple step, don’t be afraid to cover ground
2- Fifi step hip
3- Fifi hip drop
4- double drop walk
5- fifi 8s

pay extra attention to her arms and upper body! Notice how natural and relaxed they feel, but still graceful and very responsive.
Notice how she uses an entire musical phrase up with one step, then uses the last 2 or 4 counts to transition into the next step. Notice the times she breaks this pattern and how she breaks it up. Notice how she changes her body angle and how she uses her whole stage. Think about how you can incorporate this into your dance.

Recommended Belly Dance Rhythm CDs

The Dancing Drum by Issam & Issam’s the Dancing Drum Vol. II – 14 Arabic rhythms & 3 nice drum solos on each CD by the drummer for the Belly Dance Super Stars.

Jalilah’s Raks Sharki 4 – 23 Arabic rhythms & examples of them in classic songs.

Uncle Mafufo’s 25 Essential Rhythms
– 25 common belly dance rhythms including Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Armenian and Pakistani rhythms. He speaks the rhythm, then plays it.

Nourhan Sharif Presents Arabic Rhythms Volumes 1(Wahid),2(Eitneen),3(Talata) and Rhythms from Around the Arab World – a series of CDs full of a variety of Arabic Rhythms. There is introductory information about each rhythm. Each CD has 8-10 rhythms and 2 drum solos.

Souhail Kaspar’s Awzan: Arab Rhythmic Modes – good variety of Arabic Rhythms some with other instruments as accompaniment.

Tayyar Akdeniz’s Rhythms of Turkey – 20 Turkish Rhythms with intros and examples in music and 5 really wonderful fully orchestrated Turkish musical tracks. Amazing CD with awful distribution. If you want, I can get it directly from Tayyar for you. Just ask me.

Souhair Zaki Quiz – Answer Key

1. Souhair Zaki was born in

a) 1965

b) 1932

c) 1944

d) 1976

correct answer c

2. Souhair Zaki performed in

a) weddings

b) circus acts

c) movies

d) nightclubs

correct answers a, c and d

3. Souhair Zaki

a) started dancing as a young teen in the Greek nightclubs of Alexandria

b) started dancing in her twenties at Badia’s club in Cairo

c) never got an opportunity to dance on television

correct answer a

4. True or False: Souhair Zaki’s father opposed her career in dance.

correct answer true, however after her father’s death, her mother remarried and her step father helped her in her dance career

5. Souhair gained accolades and compliments from individuals of note, including the

a) Shah of Iran

b) Tunisian President

c) Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser

d) US President Nixon

correct answer a, b, c, and d

6. Souhair Zaki was famed to be the first Oriental dancer to:

a) have her photos on cassette tape covers

b) use a wide variety of props for theatrical effect

c) dance in America

d) dance to the music of Um Koulthum

correct answer d – she also had her photos on many cassette tape covers, but there is nothing to indicate she was the first

7. Souhair Zaki was contemporaries with Nagua Fouad and they were

a) great friends

b) very competitive

c) very similar in style and costuming

d) both featured together in a duet

correct answers b and d – kind of tricky, I know you probably all didn’t have access to the footage of Souhair and Nagua dancing together

8. Who said “As she sings with her voice, you sing with your body” comparing Souhair Zaki to Um Kolthoum?

a) Egyptian President Mohammed Anwar Al Sadat

b) Composer Mohamed Abdel Wahab

c) US President Nixon

d) Um Koulthum herself, worded a little differently

correct answer a – most commonly attributed to Anwar Sadat, saw one reference to it possibly being Mohamed Abel Wahab

9. Souhair Zaki was in

a) over 100 films

b) many starring roles as an actress & dancer

c) only a few films

d) the film “Beauty and the Scoundrel”

correct answers a and d

10. True or False: Souhair Zaki indirectly assisted the Egyptian government in acquiring arms from the Soviet Union.

correct answer true

11. In 1986 Souhair Zaki

a) began touring more internationally

b) began to teach workshops for the first time

c) had her first and only son

d) decided to take the hijab (the veil) and retire from dance

correct answer c

12. Souhair Zaki

a) recently passed away

b) is currently in retirement from all dance activities

c) recently taught and performed at the Ahlan We Sahlan festival in Cairo, Egypt

correct answer c

13. Name 3 or more attributes of Souhair Zaki’s dance style and whether you think they are positive or negative:

Your Answers:

1. positive: hip downs! amazing, crisp, awesome!
2. positive: sense of musicality; she can hear all the little accents
3. positive: emotion (sweet): it’d be interesting to see her do more serious stuff, but for the most part you enjoy watching her anyway!

1. Sweet and innocent way of dancing
2. Soft but dominant hip movements
3. Light barrel turns

1. Same movement repeated in different directions and angles: positive. She adds variety to her dance without being too busy.
2. Dancing to the rhythm: positive.
3. body locks: looks good on her (positive), not sure about on everyone though

1. Relatively uncomplicated/un-showy performance. Positive – she is very elegant and relaxed
2. Sweet smile. Both positive and negative – positive because she is very pleasant to watch, negative because I personally prefer more variety in expression (but many of her clips are from movies so that may factor in)
3. I like her chest tilts/how she will often incorporate a tilt or lean into various moves.

1. She dances with her eyes closed a lot. It makes her dance seem more modest and delicate.
2. Her hips follow the pitches of the melody. It shows how closely she listens, and gives a sense of deeper understanding in the dance.
3. She repeats the same several moves a lot. Many of her motions are expected, I guess I am used to flashier styles of dance, but it’s what I prefer.

14. Name 3 pieces of music that Souhair Zaki danced to and albums you can find them each on:

refer to the Souhair song list on this blog