Understanding the Egyptian music and dance styles- part 01

Maqam - Egyptian Center for Culture and Art
The Arabic music, especially the Egyptian has subtle nuances that becomes difficult to identify the differences between the styles. But like all musical culture of any country the Egyptian music has historical and regional differences and can be classified in different styles such as progression baladi, classical, folklore, al jeel, shaabi etc... and is really important to learn how to identify the type of music to understand the style of dance.
The most important type to start is, in my opinion: the Folklore. Because there (in the folklore) you find the basis. In the folklore you find the hopes, fears, dreams and life details about a culture. The lyrics songs tell us the history, how a group of people live, the values of theirs society, who they are. If you want to dance how they dance you need first to understand how they live.

Egyptian Folk Music

Usually are compositions of Upper Egypt, eastern area of Sinai or near Lybia,  played by musicians who learn to play and compose into their families from one generation to the next. It's a knowledge based in the family heritage.

This kind of music has a festive nature and is usually played outside and for that the rhythms are heavier than  the other styles. 

Basic Egyptian Folk Rhythms
Maksoum 4/4

Saiid 4/4
Fellahi 2/4


Musical Instruments

Tabla or Darabuka - is the most important drum in the Egyptian dance. It was used during the wedding celebrations to produces the rhtyhm Zeffa.

Tabla Baladi - It is a double-skinned bass beaten with a thick stick on one side and with a thin stick on another side. 

Daff - it is a large frame drum

Mizmar is a kind of Oboe, with a particular sound. You can find this kind of instrument in other Middle Eastern Musical traditions.

Rababa is an early form of violin with no more than 2 strings:

Kawala is a long bamboo flute used in the Egyptian music since the Ancient time. In Turkey you have a similar one called Ney.

Argul is a bamboo twin piped clarinete. Normally one cane is longer than the other one and produces a very rich sound.

Magrouna is also a twin piped reed. The two tubes are of equal lenght tied in parallel. The Magrouna produces an uninterrupte sound.

The musical structure
The structure of folk music is simple, short and repetitive. If you understand a bit of Arabic realize that most of the folk songs are in dialect, a mixture of Arabic words with Copt, Nubian that belongs to the Egyptian ethnical groups.
Egyptian folk music is based in the improvisation started by the kawala flute, or by the Mizmar, is a kind of earlier taksim.  A song can start also with the Mawal, a vocal improvisation with the common verses :  "Ya Leil Ya einin" - "Oh Night, Oh eyes!"


Examples of Egyptian Folk Music

 There are different folk traditions alive in Egypt. In the dance we know a little part of the popular manifestations of this amazing and rich culture,  such as the rural Egyptians (fellahin), the Nubians,  the Arab and Berber Bedouins, and the Ghawazee. Sawahli (coastal) music is a type of popular music from the northern coast, and is based around the simsimaya, an indigenous stringed instrument. Well-known singers include Abdo'l Iskandrani and Aid el-Gannirni.
Bedouin Music and Hagallah dance
Bedouin music is found in the deserts of the west, near Libya, and the eastern Sinai area. The Mizmar, a twin-pipe clarinet, is the most popular folk instrument, and popular singers include Awad e'Medic.The choreographer Mahmoud Reda, together with Farida Fahmy and Dr. Mo Geddawi adapted some steps of the typical Bedouin dances and created a espetacle dance style called Hagallah.

Said Music and Dance

Is called Said the music and the dance of Upper Egypt, may is the most well known folk style of Egypt.  Les Musiciens du Nil are the most popular said group but there are other performers include Shoukoukou, Ahmad Ismail, Omar Gharzawi, Sohar Magdy and Ahmed Mougahid.

Here is a Reda Troupe version of the Saidi dances

The Ghawazee are also from the Upper Egypt. I this old movie is possible to watch the most famous Ghawazee group: the Banat Mazin ( Mazin girls) . The Ghawazee play sagat (finger cymbals) simultaneuousily theirs dances.

Nubian Music

This imformation came by the professor  Khairy El-Malt of Helwan University in Cairo:

"Nubians are native to the south of Egypt and northern Sudan, though many live in Cairo and other cities. Nubian folk music can still be heard, but migration and intercultural contact with Egyptian and other musical genres have produced new innovations. Ali Hassan Kuban's jazz fusions had made him a regular on the world music scene, while Mohamed Mounir's social criticism and sophisticated pop have made him a star among Nubians, Egyptians, and other people worldwide. Ahmed Mounib, Mohamed Mounir's mentor, was by far the most notable Nubian singer to hit the Egyptian music scene, singing in both Egyptian Arabic and his native Nobiin. Hamza El Din is another popular Nubian artist, well-known on the world music scene and has collaborated with the Kronos Quartet."

Here there are an example, by Mercedes Nieto of Nubian dance adapted to the Theater concept:



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