Finding Music to Practice to
And organizing playlists for easier practice sessions
It's extremely important that we support musicians, this dance is a translation of the music into movement, so without good music, the dance suffers. Free services like youtube are great for shopping, but be sure to purchase the music, directly from the artist if at all possible. For some albums to get your music collection started, and to help you discover your tastes, scroll on down!
First Album Picks
When you're just stating out in bellydance I recommend compilations, because they will help you find what you like. Keep in mind that your tastes might change over time, so keep exploring! Remember that not all MENAHT music is suitable to bellydance to. Some might have political messages, some might be religious, and some might be meant to have a different style of dance accompany it.
For compilations of classics, you can't go wrong with any of the Masters of Bellydance series (volumes 1, 2, and 3), or "10 songs every bellydancer should know" are great. If you plan to get all of them, do it via something like iTunes, so you can skip re-buying the songs that are duplicated between the Masters of Bellydance and 10 Songs... They were produced by the same company. One note about the Arabic classics that appear on many of these albums: most are instrumental versions of songs that DO have lyrics, so googling lyric translations is always a good idea!
For a good introduction to a variety of styles of music (including classical, folkloric, pop, club, and fusion), the Bellydance Superstars CDs are a good place to start, and many are available as MP3s/on iTunes. I personally have volumes 1, 3, 4, 5, & 7. These CDs vary quite a bit, and some of the volumes are mostly club/techno type songs, so read the reviews and listen to the sound samples to see if the volume you're looking at has the sound you enjoy.
A lot of the music produced for bellydancers is skewed towards Egypt, for reasons we'll get into in the level 2 reading. For an album with more Anatolian selections and some great dabke classics, check out Baklava, linked below.
Be aware, some albums, especially older ones, will include outdated terms in song or album titles, sometimes even in band names.
First Album Recommendations
The top few albums are excelent starters, to hear a variety of music and start figuring out your tastes.
The last couple are rhythm CDs, designed for extended practice when you need consistent music.
Organizing Your Music
The more MENAHT music you listen to, the more you'll develop an ear for it and be able to feel the transitions and flow of it, letting you translate the music into motion and get swept away, which is ultimately what dancing is all about.
When starting your practice, put on a song that doesn't have too many changes. As your library grows I recommend making the following playlists, so that you can pick one based on what you want to practice and not have to worry about finding music mid practice session. First, make one playlist of all your Raqs music (so, if you also listen to metal, that doesn't go on this playlist ^_^). Make each of the rest of these playlists groups from this master playlist. One song will wind up on several playlists:
fast songs, medium tempo songs, and slow songs
Egyptian, Levantine, Turkish/Anatolian, Gulf, North African, Am-Cab
Parts of a set: Entrance, Veil, Tarab, Mid-set Pickups, Pop, Sword/Floorwork, Taxeem, Drum Solos, Finales
Folk Styles: this will vary depending on your focus. I have playlists for Beledi, Shaabi, Saidi
I also have playlists for Pop, Techno/club music, Fusion, and "Old Timey"
Now, if you're just starting out, you probably can't tell if something makes a good entrance song vs a mid-set song, and probably have to look up a song before knowing if it would be better on an Egyptian playlist or a Turkish. But I can absolutely say that it is easier to organize music one album at a time, than to wait until you have 1,000 songs, so don't wait too long to try and organize things.
Streaming services like Spotify or Anghami have pre-made playlists, that can also help you find new-to-you music. If I were less of a Luddite, I would give more tips about using these!
Album Recommendations Based on Your Vibe
I recommend the compilations listed above, so you get a variety, first. If you've found something you like and want to get more of that sort of sound, here are some ideas to get you started.
These are mostly linked to AppleMusic for ease, but please pick whatever vendor you prefer.