Level Two: 1.4 Mizmar, Mijwiz, and Wings
Updated: Mar 20
One reason for going over individual instruments in class, and for practicing phrasing (and why I make y'all improvise) is that I want to, proverbially, teach you to fish, rather than just giving out fish. When you learn to hear what the music is telling you to do, you will be able to dance to any song you enjoy and not have to depend on anyone else for choreography. Metaphorically, you can feed yourself, and have the option of expressing your own feeling through your dance, rather than having someone else put "words" in your mouth. I know it can be frustrating to work through these new skills, but I hope this encourages you, and shows why it is worth it.
This week, we started on noticing regular phrasing, without a call and response context. Try picking out a song you know well, and hum/sing along. You will notice there are some places that you naturally try to fit in a breath, and some places where you might have to awkwardly squeeze one in (unless you're in much better shape than me!). Those places where a breath naturally fits are the ends of a sentence/phrase. (As I mentioned in class, a sentence is just a way I conceptualize what a musician more properly calls a musical phrase).
Instrument of the Week
This week, we worked on another wind instrument, the mizmar. This instrument is associated with Upper Egypt (South of Cairo and north of Nubia, AKA the Saidi region). A family might all play the mizmar, with the oldest or most skilled getting to do the fancy notes, and the youngest or least skilled playing the drone. Mizmar is also played often with dancing horses, who are trained from a young age to get used to the sound (and volume) of the instrument. The horses are sometimes famous.
A somewhat similar sounding instrument, the mijwiz, is popular in Lebanese music (they might also use mizmar, mijwiz is more like a small arghul.) It has a buzzing sound, and makes me want to dabke.
Prop of the Week
On the "history of props" front, this week it's wings! Here's a little about the idea of imitating ancient Egyptian temples, and the real start of wings by Loie Fuller. An American dancer (I think it was Ayshe) brought them into bellydance, and they've spread from there. There is also a connection with Christian liturgical dancing, however as best I can tell this might be a convergent evolution situation. They can be the traditional pleated design or smooth silk. and they can be
used in theatrical pieces:
or in more traditional numbers
but they're always flashy!
One tricky thing, is wings magnify posture issues. These students do a great job
oh, and they can light up now!
Wings are pretty popular with the general pubic, but tricky to use in a small space
Here's another of the silk-type versions.
One of my favorite wings performances is on this DVD. The other top favorite of mine is on By Dancers For Dancers Vol 2, and is by Sadiyya (it appears to be out of print)
In Egypt, they aren't used often, but sometimes can show up in entrances, used the same way Egyptians use veils. Here's Brazillian born Asmahan, performing in Egypt. She's famous for her lavish entrances. Both of these look like they're on the Nile cruise boats.
Song of the Week
It's Inta Omri. AKA enta omry, etc. It is an Om Kalthoom classic that is a very long song and bellydancers usually dance to one part or another of it. Here's a playlist with lots of versions of it, and a translation of the lyrics.
AND, some info about The Great Lady, Om Kalthoom (she has her own museum in Cairo. She's a VERY big deal!) her wikipedia page, and info on her from a bellydance site, of course a lot of her music isn't in the bellydance realm, and it wasn't originally composed for bellydance, but some of the biggest bellydance songs came from her singing and collaborating with the best composers.