Level Two: 1.10 Bands & Orchestras, Plus Maleya
Updated: Mar 20
Listen to the song for next semester's choreography and review the music map we made. You can also re-write it into something that makes more sense for you (IE: rename sections). Listen so you can find and recognize where the repeats, transitions, phrases, sections, etc. are. This will make it much easier to learn the choreography starting next class!
I prefer to name the sections something that will spark my memory, or help me translate the sound into movement. Often I will use instruments and rhythms, along with descriptive terms, to name the sections. So instead of, for example, ABCBD, I might map a song with "introduction, sweepy violin section, call and response, sweepy violin, heavy maksoom". I also usually note any transitional bits.
If I am mapping the song for an improvisation, I might scribble out the "sentences", but won't tidy them up or do much more than trust myself to respond to them in the moment, and I'll make my improvisation plan around the "paragraphs". When I map a song for a choreography I will take better note of the phrases (sentences), to make it easier to keep track of where in the song I am during the choreography, and have a better idea of whether what I am envisioning will fit.
This semester, we've worked on musical phrasing and learning to identify different instruments (You can try a little quiz to see which ones you remember and which it would be helpful to review soon, when I get the youtube video made ^_^). All of that comes together when a band or orchestra plays. So to cap off the semester, let's finish looking at some different types of bands!
It was once the fashion for star performers in Egypt to hire large bands, it showed off their status and therefore the wealth of those hiring them, before the economy tanked in the 90s. Each dancer, of course, has her own style, and things vary from region to region (a bit like, each person has their own voice, but you can still hear regional accents and dialects), but I think you can see how the different composition of musicians changes how dancers perform. Where modern dancers have stronger moves to go with the percussive bands, more melody heavy arrangements call for a softer interpretation. Here is Aida Nour performing in a 5 star hotel, and Fifi Abdou making a spectacular entrance for one part of a show she did in the Gulf.
Modern economics and technology have changed the sound of raks sharki music. Bands hired by clubs, festivals, and dancers often have fewer members than star dancers would hire in the past, since wages are down. Drum machines and electric keyboards that imitate many different instruments (often poorly) are common, and the percussion section has grown, since drummers work cheaper than melodic instrumentalists you can get more (literal) bang for the buck. Some of this music can sound canned if you have only heard it on CD, but if you go to festivals where it is played it can fast develop an association with the joy and energy of those events and becomes more enjoyable.
In Turkey, bands are often being replaced by CDs, if there is even a venue for dancing at all. And the Turkish style music is often being replaced by Egyptian and Arabic tunes. Here is Tulay with a small band playing Turkish style music, and Didem dancing to a recording of Enta Omri, while a whole orchestra sits by and watches!
Prop of the Week
This week, the Meleya. This is a modesty garment common in Egypt many years ago, and was used as a character prop for a long time. The dance we generally associate with it comes from the Reda Troupe's performance with it. (We'll get more into the Reda Troupe during the folklore unit.) It is associated specifically with Alexandria because the troupe performed it as part of an Alexandrian tableau, but it's not specific to just Alexandria.
Song of the Week
This week it's Bitwanees Beek! Also spelled Betwanis bik, etc. It's a very dynamic song, popular with bellydancers, by the late and great Warda, who was prolific during the 80s and 90s. Here's a playlist of versions including Warda singing it herself, and a car commercial that featured it! And a link to the translation.