Thursday, July 31, 2008

Video Clip: Saad in Cairo

Because my NYU class just finished a routine to a song by Saad, I wanted to share this clip. I saw him perform in an intimate nightclub (Cairo's Semiramis Hotel 2007) with a cast of at least fifty extras. He was in the middle of shooting a film and he recreated the feeling of the movie. His music is "shaabi," which means something like "my people" and is a bit earthier in tone. This particular show was jazzy and exuberant with an abundance of brass and dancing.

Music Recommendations for Students

This is a short list. Explore on your own!

Cabaret/Raks Sharki Music
Hossam Ramzy: Greatest Hits Vol. 2, Source of Fire
Omar Faruk Tekbilek: Fire Dance, Mystical Garden
Egyptian Academy: Wash Ya Wash Series (I like Vol. 3-4)
Jahlila’s Raks Sharki Series
Current Pop Music:
Najwa Karam
Saad: We are using his track "Bel Arabi"
Nancy Ajram
All of these singers have numerous recordings.
Classical Music:
Ali Jihad Racy: Ancient Egypt
Um Kolthoum: I recommend the real recordings (no remixes)
Simon Shaheen: especially the Abdel Wahab CD
Arabic Folk Music:
Musicians of the Nile especially Charcoal Gypsies
Recordings by local artists (we love to support them!):
Avram Pengas and the Noga Group
Scott Wilson Turkish cabaret music
Raquey and the Cavemen Local/international drum goddess and crew
Djinn New on the scene!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ahdaf Soueif on "The Lure of the East" at the Tate Britain

In London, the Tate Britain museum is currently showing the "Lure of the East," an exhibition of academic aka Orientalist paintings, prints, and drawings created by British artists between 1870-1930. This exhibition has sparked interesting discussion on the web and in print regarding identity politics, cultural representation, and questions of aesthetics. The Guardian ran a series of columns by guest writers responding to the exhibit. Among the columns I read, I found Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif's "Visions of the Harem" to be most thought-provoking. Through assessment of the works and the museum's catalog, she compares and details two types of Orientalist artists.

One type, characterized by William Hollman Hunt and Thomas Seddon, used self-proclaimed "accuracy" was instead camouflage for personal ideology. The second type, characterized by John Frederick Lewis, succeeded in a more honest portrayal of similar subject matter because of a conscious reach for personal understanding through his artistic medium: "Lewis entered into a true relationship with Cairo: the city gave him the colours, the light, the architecture - the material he needed to become a great artist. Unlike so many of his colleagues, though, he felt that the city demanded something of him in return. Cairo made Lewis interrogate himself, what he and his compatriots were doing, the artist's relationship to his material, his social and political role, his integrity and, finally, his historic responsibility. It was through this interrogation that he produced his masterpieces."
(Image: John Frederick Lewis, Study for the 'Courtyard of the Coptic Patriarch's House in Cairo,' c1864)

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Questions answered by other questons.....
What is belly dance? Why are so many women interested in it? Does it necessarily demean women of the Middle East? Can it be done just for beauty? Can the dance be taken seriously by men and/or women? Does it demean women of other cultures or other cultures in general? Is it a folk dance, a social dance, a solo dance, a troupe form inspired more by Hollywood than the Middle East? Can the dance be fun and not political?

Inspired by many experiences including this 30th anniversary year of the publication of Edward Said’s landmark work Orientalism, this blog aims to explore how “orientalism” makes its appearance in one person’s professional life, most notably in belly dance and writing. Topics that interest me: despite the United States’ continuing war and overall havoc in the Middle East, interest in belly dance continues to expand globally on a faster level. Why? What does “authenticity” mean when considering belly dance? How does one find a genuine approach to practicing, teaching, performing, and enjoying this art form? Exploration, no apologies.