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World Music - Ch. 12

From Baladi to Belly Dance: Egyptian and Arabic Dance Rhythms
by

Omar Carmenates

on 29 March 2012

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Transcript of World Music - Ch. 12

Ch. 12 - Egyptian/Arabic Dance Music Women's Dance/music Traditions in egypt Raqs Baladi Raqs Sharqi Belly Dance Raqs Baladi: lit. "Folk Dance" - This encompasses the traditional dance styles
associated with women's social gatherings and rituals, as well as with certain types of folk rituals and ceremonial performances not restricted to women. Raqs Sharqi: lit. "Oriental Dance" - This is the professional entertainment
medium of women's dance, associated with Egyptian weddings
nightclub and cabaret performances, and Egyptian films and
other mass media. It combines a root identity of raqs baladi with
various imported elements (i.e. - European ballet and Hollywood musicals). The music of raqs sharqi tends to be more cosmopolitan and modern that raqs baladi and the dancing favors showmanship and entertainment. It is primarily associated with urban centers such as Cairo. Belly Dance This is the generic, all-encompassing English-language term
used to define ALL Middle-Eastern style dances for women. In
our text, we will use it to denote many of the western/international offshoots and derivates of Egyptian and Middle Eastern raqs baladi and raqs sharqi. Egyptian Women's Dance hold a
significant yet controversial place in
Egyptian society. One one hand, public women's dance is a significant social practice and many
prominent figures of Arab culture have been dnacers. On the other, women's dance, particularly raqs sharqi, is highly criticized throughout the Arab world as excessively sensual and againt Arab-Islamic morals. Then there is the stereotypical Western portrayal of the mysterious and alluring Middle Eastern woman dancer. The "Orientalist" image has been portrayed everywhere from 19th C. European paintings to Hollywood cinema. (see quote on pg. 255) Egypt: timeline 5,000 years ago Ancient Egyptian civilization is one of the most advanced cultures of antiquity. Tombs from this period depict female dancers and dance performances. 7th Century A.D. (CE) Egypt becomes part of the large Arab-Islamic Empire leading to the adoption of Islam and the Arabic language. Here begin the roots of the conflict between the Islamic religion and women's dancing. The adoption of Islam and Arabic serves as the foundation for new cultural foundations including "maqam" and Quranic recitation. 1517 Egypt is ruled by the Ottoman Empire and will be until 1914. Egypt was ruled on-and-off during this period by other countries including France (1798-1801) and by the British (Early 19th C.) 1952 Egypt gains independence from British rule and is recognized as an independent state through the "bloodless revolution". Foundations of Women's Dance A deeply ingrained part of Egyptian culture is the domestic women's gathering.
Here, away from men, women would gather to sing, share stories, provide support to one another, and teach younger generations lessons about life and womanhood.
Dance was/is a central aspect to this gathering The exact roots of women's dance are unknown. Some (see text pg. 261) believe that dancing originated with matriarchal cults' and societies' worship a Great Mother goddess.
Here, women would gather to honor the earth, moon, and the goddesses of fertility and maternity.
The dances they performed focused on pelvic and hip movements in circles to symbolize giving birth and the cycle of life.
As part of Egypt's move towards independence (beginning in the 19th-century), the country starts to develop a sense of nationalism or "Egypt-ness."

Localism - Pride in "Egyptian-ness"
Pan-Arabism - Identification with other Arab-speaking peoples.
Islamism - Identification with the Muslim religion. Paradoxically (and during the same time), Egyptian experience a wave of "modernism." This led to a large-scale appropriation of Western cultural influences including music, dance, and film. The Ghawazi Tradition The tradition of professional, public women's dancing in Egypt is
associated with a hereditary line of dancers known as Ghawazi (lit. "outsider" or "invader")

They are believed to be descendent from the dancers that entertained the Pharoahs OR from families of "Roma" (gypsies) that came to Egypt during the Ottoman invasion.
These Roma immigrants filled a niche for dancing for men, which was considered reprehensible in Muslim Egypt.
Ghawazi now is an all-encmpassing term for all middle-eastern dances.



The Zaar Ritual An healing ritual rooted in ancient shamanistic practices
Involves spirit possesion and "trance" dancing.
Officially prohibited among Egyptian Muslims, but is still practiced in secret ceremonies.
Despite its prohibited status, the Zaar ritual is embraced as a vital part of "baladi" heritage.
As part of this heritage, dramatized zaar rituals are often performed in Egypt and throughout East Africa and the Middle East.
Much of the common movement vocabulary from Zaar rituals (i.e. snake-like movements, bending backwards, etc...) have been appropriated in raqs sharqi, raqs baladi, and belly dance performances. About the Zaar Ritual: Focuses on "jinn", a magical spirit being.
Jinn are malevolent beings that have the ability to cause evil among humans by entering their souls.
Both genders can be possessed by a Jinn, but women are particularly susceptible.
The possessed person will experience a variety of illnesses ranging from neurotic conditions to psychotic episodes. Dealing with jinn: Unlike Christian exorcisms, which deal with commanding a demon to leave the afflicted body, a zaar ritual is a diplomatic process.
When spoken to, the jinn is addressed as "asyad" (master).
An elderly woman typically leads the ceremony and conducts negotiations with the jinn.
Throughout the ceremony, she holds a large circular drum called a "daff". She plays it and beats her chest with it to induce a trance state.
Once in a trance, the jinn reveals the conditions under which it will leave the afflicted Music of the Zaar Ritual: Music in integral to a Zaar ritual, as each jinn (asyad) is associated with specific songs and rhythms.
In order to appease the jinn, the correct song and rhythms must be played.
The musicians must also find the correct rhythms for the afflicted through experimentation. Once found, the correct rhythm will lead the afflicted and her entourage to dance into ecstasy and ultimately, catharsis (or a cure). The Zaar is typically a multiday affair (as many as 7!!) and on the final day, the afflicted is dressed as a bride, is paraded around an altar honoring the possessing jinn.
The zaar ends with a ritual dance, often convulsive and violent, which expels the jinn and renders the afflicted (and the accompanying dancers) exhausted and unconscious. Zaar instruments: Daff Mazhar Riqq Tabla Doholla Sagat Zaar Rhythm Into the 20th Century: With the development of Egyptian Nationalism and Modernism (assimilation of Western culture), Egyptian music and dance followed these same trends. 1920's - 1930's - Egyptian casinos become a cultural melting pot. The most prominent casino was
"Casino Badiaa" named after owner/dancer Badiaa Masabni. Casino Badiaa's stage shows mixed Hollywood glitz and glamour with Egyptian music and dance. In the manner of many Hollywood/Las Vegas musical numbers, Badiaa's dancers had sequined costumes with low slung skirts and bare midriffs Badiaa hired renowned musician/composer Sayyid Darwish
to lead the Casino's band. Here, a new form of Egyptian Nationalist music was being formed that mixed Egyptian rhythms with Western song styles and arrangements. Mid-20th Century Continuing in the tradition of Masabni and Darwish, a new breed of Egyptian
superstar was being born, ones that embraced Modernism and Western ideals. The two most famous were Samia Gamal and Muhammad 'Abd al-Wahab Samia Gamal was an international superstar of dance, music and film.
She innovated Egyptian dance styles by being the first to dance in high
heels and to dance with a veil. Muhammad 'Abd al-Wahab was a composer/actor/singer that was hugely
influential in creating a modern sound for Egyptian music, especially in film. He took the traditional "Takht" ensemble and mixed Western instruments to create a new "Firqa" ensemble The Takht Ensemble (Takht: lit. "Bed" or "Podium") oud nay qanun kamanjah or violin riqq May also include tabla (or daff), and/or singers (solo or groups) Melodic instruments typically play the same melodic lines in octaves, or solo individually.

Singers, particularly in groups, provide
refrains. By the 1950's, Muhammad 'Abd al-Wahab had incorporated
a number of new sounds and instruments into the traditional
"takht" ensemble.
He drew from Western and Afro-Cuban instruments, rhythms, forms, and harmonies while still placing the Egyptian instruments
at the fore.
It became common for a "takht" ensemble to be augmented by bass guitar, accordion, a full string section, or other instruments. This large ensemble is called "firqa" or "firqa musiqyaa" Post-Independence Egypt The "Bloodless Revolution" of 1952 led to the Egypt becoming an independent state, the Arab Republic of Egypt. Led by Egyptian military commander Gamal 'Abd al-Nasser, this revolution led to a large cultural shift placing emphasis on "baladi" culture. Under al-Nasser, Baladi heritage became the new Nationalist identity.
As such, professional raqs sharqi dance suffered and many dancers were expelled from the country, including Badiaa Masabni.
Led to the hutting down of many of Egypt’s casinos, night clubs, cinemas (including Casino Badiaa) and other vestiges of Western culture/entertainment.
The peasant class ("fellahin") were idealized as authentic Egyptians to be emulated by people of all classes. As "fallahin" culture became more ubiquitous, professional raqs sharqi dancers adopted traditional folk music and dances into their routines. Popular Egyptian Styles/Rhythms Masmoudi (most varied) also called "Maqsoum" Fallahi typically accompanies songs and dances of the agricultural
rituals of the Nile Delta farmers Saaidi assoc. with the baladi culture of Upper Egypt, or "Saaid". Closely linked to
a form of martial arts dancing called "tahtib", which incorprates mock cane
fighting.
Often is played alongside a "mizmar", an oboe-like instrument Malfuf typically begins a "tabla solo" dance routine Tabla Solo Dance In the 1970's, a neo-traditional raqs sharqi dance called the "Tabla Solo" was invented and popularized by Egyptian dancer Nagwa Fu'ad and her long-time tabla accompanist Ahmed Ammouda. The Tabla Solo is a sort of "dance suite" in which a solo dancer and solo tabla player (or an ensemble of percussionists led by the tabla player) perform a playful yet synergistic duet which rapidly changes moods, rhythms, tempos, and styles.
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