Balady, Beledi, Baladna or Balady Progression

Example of a Balady Dress with a little Saidi styling to go with

Beledy, baladi, balady…beledy tet, balady, or progression….

However you spell it , it is considered by many to be the heart and soul of Egyptian or Arabic music, a perfect buildup of anticipation to a climatic drum solo or a segue into another folkloric song. It’s a “Must Know” for any serious student of Middle Eastern Dance or music.

It can refer to My country, a rhythm, structure, a style of dance, a style of dancer, a class of peoples, or a section of a traditional 5-7 part cabaret style show in which it is danced usually right before drum solo.

There are progressions that can be categorized as Tet ( which Sahra Saida categorizes as “male” in origin and most likely originating in the Said region of Egypt and further exemplified in Amina Goodyear’s recollection of early lessons with Fatima Akef in the 70’s) where toe touches, taps and saidi like adornments of the accents flavors the progression. It is also characterized by the org (organ in modern times or /accordion way back) creates an accent in the music that begs for movement and in opposition to the common musicality rule of late..down on the down beat which I first heard taught in the 80’s by drummer Souhail Caspar.

There are progressions that can be categorized as Baladi Awad (Woman’s Style, again thanks to Sahra) which have a different feel, that can be easily be felt in comparison to the Tet. Which I won’t try to explain with words as you’ll need to feel both of them to understand!

There are older folk songs like the ones listed below that have the elements of beledy and have been historically part of the 5-7 Egyptian Style Routine, mentioned earlier. You could easily count on any musician from the region and age..lol to to know these. I laugh because the whole “routine” of any evening of entertainment with a dancer is no longer happening as the norm, but an exception in the US and many musicians are younger and may not have played music when this genre was popular, included in the dancers show and almost without exception a played in Arabic nightclubs.

Songs

Bint Al Sultan (Daughter of the sultan) Ahmed Adaweya.
Ya Hassan ghouli Tet wahada kabir into masmoudi kabir
Beledy Ya Wad/tet
Sheek Shak Shook
Habibi Aiyni
Aminti Billah Beledi Tet

Musical Elements

Taksim or Awwady
you may also see it spelled Taksim, Taxsim, Taxim, or Takasim. It is an Arabic word which means “division”, and refers to the section of music where a specific instrument is playing a solo. The Arabic taqsim is improvised—in a restricted sense—according to traditional patterns, and is almost never played in the same way twice. Musically speaking, any solo instrument improvising in the Arabic taqsim structure is playing a taqsim, including the drum taqsim that dancers usually call the drum solo.
Sekkat Transition
Melodic with drum accents
Me-Atta
In traditional Arabic music, this refers to the question-and-answer that goes back and forth between a melody instrument and a drummer.
Medium Maksoum into
Fast Maksoum Sahra says her musicians called it saeria, RanyRenee  calls it ingerara, mine called it fuss(fast) and may go into Fellahi.
Can end with  a drum solo, or slows down and merges into another song.

An Egyptian Musician’s Perspective
http://www.shira.net/baladi.htm

A really good example of some of the musical elements of a balady

Hayatim ya hassan a ghouli

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrCbiG0v9Ns

Fifi

https://youtu.be/I7opiTZO47g

Our little class study of a progression

Pure Improv at a wedding


Fini

Khalis

 

 

It’s all in the Music

DSC_0333Middle Eastern Dance aka Belly Dance..it’s all in the music!

I’ve often said to my students, unlike any other dance, our dance is intrinsically tied to the music. Learning music, theory and rhythms is a big part of a serious students journey.
Music facilitates our understanding of the movements. It’s that important. I’ve been very lucky to have had opportunities to work with amazing musicians for extended periods of time (like years) and that experience alone  expanded my understanding of the dance, comparable to the years of efforts spent in the dance studio.
This is why I like to offer live  music opportunities for students who choose the path of performance. For this reason, dances are made to explore music. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two.

Things to remember:

Even if you choreograph a dance to a recording, technical snafus occur. Including, but not limited to:
The DJ plays the wrong song
The electricity goes out
Poor sound system and it’s not loud enough or the applause from your audience is drowning out the music and all your well laid plans.
Your DJ is on the other side of a banquet room and you won’t be able to catch his eye and or he won’t understand your pantomime to go to the next song. If you are dancing right next to him, and he doesn’t understand your language.
Electricity goes out….you have zills right? Can you hum it? A beautiful moment happened a couple of years ago in Acapulco at a dance performance I was attending. The sound system was crap! It was interrupting almost every single dancer and group, some were so frustrated they left the stage, others kept dancing in hopes they could catch the musical cues when the music returned. The organizer of the event and her large dance ensemble  closed the set and of course the music tanked. The audience started humming the piece and the dancers finished the piece, it was magic!

Live music snafus:

Music or songs are different versions than you know
The band played it differently than they did the last time
The arrangement is all wrong
The band doesn’t know it or doesn’t know the finale.
It’s Ramadan and the keyboard player doesn’t want to play for the dancer

No matter how many recordings of the song or music you listen to, or even if you have had the band play it for you dozens of times before, there is no guarantee that it will be played the same way again.

While I generally prefer live music, I’ve been dancing long enough to have had a few musical nightmares.  Really, kind of like, me wondering to myself….what possessed you to become a dancer???

I was working at a nightclub that my regular band and singer had brought me to work with them. It was kind of an interim place until we could get our show back into a club that seated more than 100 people. (The club where we had worked together for 10 years had closed.)
During the transition…I stayed at the old club, while the band went to the new one. Of course all the parties involved knew what we were doing, so there were efforts all around to keep both owners and audiences  happy.
Two weeks went by with fill in musicians I had worked with before. Fun shows, happy audiences and owners. Third week, not so much. In place of the four piece band was a keyboard player with an additional drum pad machine. Nowadays,  the keyboards have drum machines built into them. They are like computers and can be programmed…or so I’m told. This musician had a classical opening piece or majenci, taxim/takseem and a saidi piece programmed in. I was pretty impressed how well the music was going and we were all having a great time. Then he started playing Salamet Om Hassam….and kept playing it. I mean he kept playing the opening verses, over and over again. Over and over again. over and over again.

Over to another nightclub, different night, different keyboard player, who I have worked with before.  Beautiful opening music. I love dancing to the richness of the classical majenci…it’s really for me a show case of art, not just entertainment.  Well, I guess it also is for this particular keyboard player. In the takseem/taxim section of the opening piece, he elaborated. I mean taxim means solo and improvise literally, so I get that, but these are classics!  I didn’t know Korgs could play a jazz solo….His solo went on long enough for the drummer to leave the stage and go to the bathroom.Thankfully, there was a wedding party, where I could occupy myself with pictures and audience interaction.

Another night, different keyboard player. It’s Ramadan, no keyboard player for the show.

Another night club, different band, different state, keyboard player doesn’t show up.

All of these things can and more will happen. Rule number #1, don’t panic. Rule #2, keep dancing, or not!

 

 

 

 

She Dancing through Time

I call her She.  Just like captains of sea going vessels name their boats, or guys name their cars a feminine. I just call her She. She has been with me since before puberty.

I’m a life long dancer. What does that mean? Well, I’ve been making dances for myself and my friends since I was a small girl. When I say small, I mean even before I started school. I was one of those little girls who danced through her house, backyard and everywhere in between and when I stopped long enough to answer the question; “what do you want to be when you grow up”…a ballerina I would scream as danced away!

Well, I didn’t become a”ballerina”, (but took regular classes for 3 years straight in college),which is a good thing, as I would have been long retired now, and my joints wouldn’t be in as good a shape as they are! Through my childhood and adolescence I studied Hula, Tahitian (I lived in Hawaii for a couple of years), jazz and pre-hiphop….don’t what else to call it! I was a cheerleader and a gymnast. By the time puberty rolled around it was becoming obvious I didn’t have a “ballerina” body and was fast losing upper body strength to whip myself around those parallel bars. Didn’t matter, I still loved to dance and continued to study many dance forms throughout the years. In high school, I took a belly dance class, and I was hooked. My first teacher, Lynette  was a partner of Bert Balladine. (No, it’s not Lynette of Gilded Serpent), but they both had a beautiful head of long, blond, big curly hair! Enchanted with her and the dance, I took twice weekly classes from her for 2 years, until she retired. Thirty plus years have passed and I still wonder about her. She then referred me to DeAnn of Dream Dancers and Light Rain fame. Another blond, long, haired beauty! I had the fortune of performing with her troupe for many years and DeAnn was always very encouraging of my continued study even after the troupe disbanded and she quit teaching. She supported me so and encouraged my teaching. DeAnn has been gone since 1998, RIP friend and dancer extraordinaire. So today, I can say that I have taught for over 20 years (and still going strong, Thank You very Much)! I have had the honor of teaching hundreds of lovely women and a few men and some of them have been with me almost all that time!

So, today, I can also say that I have had an amazing performing career! Just imagine, when I started performing, there were no CD’s…we barely had any good cassette tapes. When I mean good…the whole set or side had to be good, to play all the way through. The technology to make a good set via cassette wasn’t easily available. When I started doing private parties, we didn’t have cell phones or a computer for that matter!!! No Google maps, I had paper maps! With no computers, all dance work was word of mouth, or they saw me dancing at a club or a wedding somewhere.

I’ve had the pleasure of entertaining foreign dignitaries, movie stars, and royalty. I’ve had the pleasure of working with my band for over 10 yrs. Yes, they were my band…I didn’t have to rotate or share my nights! I was in what I call the ‘tween generation.  In between Casbah and Baghdad days, where there were several dancers a night doing 40-50 minute sets.  My era, was after that! A lot of club owners were trying to clean house a little after and during all the debauchery of the times! I was lucky enough to work in an era of time where clubs had house dancers. Where my boss would always make sure I was fed, yes dinner and refreshments or even to go containers included.  And safe from any unwanted elements!!It was an era when musicians also had an interest in the music and making a dynamic show for a dancer, after all it was their show too; and if I looked good they did too! When each club closed and another opened (due to economic times) the band, singer and I would be hired by the management. Working with live music in a nightclub environment for appreciative Arab audiences was one of my preferred venue. Even today, I will see some of those customers and out comes the smart phone, where they have downloaded their daughter’s wedding video with me dancing!

At some point, I started to embrace the digital age. Hasn’t been easy! For a couple of years I was thinking I wasn’t smart enough for a smart phone! My mailing lists are now digital, I have a huge digital musical library that gets bigger and bigger. I’ve finally learned how to convert videos for YouTube, have converted most of my cassettes to digital form and have clients prepay via PayPal. I even have  Skype and Face-time students!

Today, five years after I’ve stopped performing regularly (at clubs; there are none left) I still can’t get to bed before 2 am on the weekends! I continue to teach regular classes, choreograph and dance with my student troupe, RaksTerayz and do at a few parties. In addition to my day gig (health care), I teach therapeutic movement (Lebed) to chronically ill patients and my form of “Body Lessons” that I have developed for myself and share my dances for anyone who wants them.

This is a chapter in the story of a little girl who dreamed of becoming  a ballerina and became a life long dancer instead.

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