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  • Lisa Lumina

Rhythms for Level 2

This post is a place for level 2 students to find resources to support the rhythms and drum solo semester of classes. It is by NO MEANS a comprehensive list of rhythms! For the most part, the rhythms we start with are the most commonly used in bellydance music, there is a certain bias towards Egyptian music in this class. Count on continuing to learn more rhythms each semester.

Semester Overview:

During week 1, we review finger cymbal sounds, plus singles and gallop patterns. For a youtube tutorial that will help you review these at home, click below. We also practice the wahida rhythm. Wahida means 1, and this rhythm has a doum sound on the 1 but nowhere else.

Week 2 focuses on the malfoof, which is essentially a wahida played twice as fast and fits the chasse step well; and the ayoub, which can be played slowly in reference to zaar rituals, or quickly as another option for traveling steps and entrance music.

Week 3 focuses on the masmoudi kabir (big masmoudi) and the masmoudi saghir (small masmoudi, also known as beledi (also spelled baladi, baladee, etc.). You'll notice these are the same as each other in their pattern, but played at different tempos.

Their similarities are especially noticeable when written in the circular notation method that we go over in the first week, and that is included here. (This video may not always display embedded in this post, but clicking it open in youtube will play it.)

Week 4 moves on to the maksoom (also spelled maqsum, mazum, maqsoom, etc.). This is part of the same family as the big and small masmoudis, and comes in a variety of flavors. Sometimes feeling heavy (sitting/qaid), sometimes feeling pushy (walking/meshi), and more.

During week 5, we wrap up this family with the Saidi, an inside-out version of the beledi pattern popular in folkloric music for Upper Egypt; and the Fellahi, associated with the Nile Delta region, a fast rhythm that mirrors the maqsum pattern, filled in and sped up.

Week 6 includes the last rhythm found in our choreography, the chiftitelli. Not to be confused with the Greek name for bellydance (tsiftitelli, sometimes spelled with a ch), this rhythm is popular for playing under melodic taxeems and for the floorwok section of a Vintage American/Am-Cab show. The semai rhythm is also practiced this week, and is associated with mushwahat, a style of music that sets very old poetry to song.

Week 7 is reserved for reviewing the choreography and practicing the first odd time signature of our semester, called karshlimah in the US. The actual karshlimah dance is from the Black Sea region of Turkey. This rhythm is an oryantalized version of Romani folk rhythms. Rom style will use a different pattern of accents, the way karshlimah would be played in the MENAHT nightclubs of the US lent itself to energetic finales.

Week 8 is focused on finger cymbal (aka zills, sagat, champara, etc.) review. Practicing the basic rhythms on a drum or on your finger cymbals is a good way to get used to their structure, but when dancing along it is better to play a pattern that complements the rhythm, rather than reproduces it. For more at-home guidance, I recommend the DVD: Killer Ziller.

Week 9 introduces the valse rhythm, an oryantalized waltz.

During Week10 we take a short dabke break before choreography practice.


  • DVD: Killer Ziller.

  • For online recordings and info on these and many more rhythms, head to this section of Maqam World

  • For PDF booklet with the circular notation scroll to the 3rd product down on Dr. Sawa's site. His CD set also includes rhythm tracks, the rhythms played inside of some songs, and more information about melodic instruments, song structures, and advanced concepts like maqamat. BE SURE TO DOWNLOAD THE PDF THAT COMES WITH THE AUDIO TRACKS!

  • Jalilah's Raqs Sharki CDs are phenomenal, and Volume 4 is a rhythm CD. The tracks we use in class that include a snip of the rhythm followed in the same track by it playing inside of a song are from this CD, and it also includes some tracks of just the rhythm for a longer period of time.

  • For a traditional Egyptian drummer's style of playing the rhythms, the two volumes of Pulse of the Sphinx by the Henkesh brothers are excellent. Volume 1 is more drum solo style, and volume 2 is a little more drill oriented.

  • For more extended practice, Mary Ellen Donald's rhythm CDs come physically in the mail and include instruction booklets with the rhythms written in musical notation and finger cymbal notes. The beginner vs intermediate CDs are mostly the same rhythms, with the tempo slowed for the beginner versions.

  • Uncle Mafufo's Drumsongs for Dancers plays the basic rhythms in exciting ways, suitable for group improv style or for drilling.

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