Understanding the Egyptian music Baladi Awadi - part 02

It is a musical structure that originated in Cairo, specifically in Mohamed Ali Street  around the year 1940. This musical style is special since it combines elements of classical Arabic, Turkish and Western orchestral instruments as violin, accordion, saxophone and trumpet with some popular Egyptian instruments as the darabuka.

According with Suraya Hilal's article*, the Baladi roots are from the female entertainers who worked in Egypt to the royal courts during the 1800s untill the 1900s. They were learned women, well known as "Awalin"
The Almeh (singular of Awalim) were singers, dancers and musicians. They were responsible for the tradition of the "Tarab", the emotional structure in the Classical Arabic music.

During the 1920s Cairo became a turistic city, with a lot of Coffe houses and closed Theaters. Because this kind of new venues were much popular in that time, the Awalin troupes started to work there. The Awalim also were living in the Mohamed Ali street, in the area called "Haret al Awalim". Altough they were famous in the begining of the XX century by the late 1940  their tradition were completely vanished.

Bamba Kashar - famous entertainer from the past
The Baladi Awadi has a similar structure of the old Awalin style with the difference that the woman may not sing more only dance.
The musical progression of the Baladi Awadi is specially of Cairo and Alexandria, was made to be played in cafes, restaurants, Nile cruises and Wedding. The Tet Baladi was made to the men dance and could be danced outside in the Streets.
Musical Instruments:

Accordion:became the major instrument for taksim (melodic piece based in the improvisation). In the folklore the taksim is played by the  Kawala.

riqq: small tambourine from the classical music.

Derback: the most popular drum in the Arabic Music.

Ney: Turkish Bamboo flute originally from the Turkish music.

Arranger Keyboard

Oud: stringed instrument of classical Arabic music.


Musical Structure

The musical progression of the Baladi has a subtle difference between the male with the female version - currently the dancers interpret both, but in the past one of these versions were danced only by men on the streets of Cairo.

The female version is called Awadi.

The Baladi Awadi starts with Takim (melodic improvisation) where the accordion is the main instrument then there is a moment called sekat, where derback, riqq and accordion  play together in a combination of call and response. Than melody and percussion are played together and presceds the percussion solo or folkloric song.

Introdutional piece.
Improvisation by the Accorodion
Interlude between melody and percussion also known as call and response.
The percussion takes more place in the composition and the musicians start to play well known songs, usually the underlying the rhythm maqsoum.
Tet Sari
Percussion and melody play with time and often the accordion returns with a taksim piece. Maqsoum  starts to be played faster.
Transiction from Masqoum to Fallahi rhythm
percussion solo

Final composition usually based on Fallahi and Malfuf

Fundamental Rhythms

Baladi Awadi


Baladi Tet Sari Basic Rhythms

Wahda Kabira 4/4


In the male version there is a diffrent moment than "question and answer" is continuous play between beat and down beat made by the accordion and derback. The rhythm are Wahda Kabir, Masmoudi Sagir and Fallahi.

Fifi Abdou was the first woman to dance the male version of the Baladi she dressed a white kaftan, smoking shishaand playing with the big Tahtib stick. The famous performance of Fifi Abdou is Mal'ema song. Male'ma is the boss woman who takes male atitudes inlcuding smokes in public (not very well regarded in Arab society).


Another example of Baladi progression by Randa Kamel:


By Joana Saahirah:


Traditional costume

Normally uses the galabiya, a dress with straight cuts on the sides and scarf tied in the hip area, there are no needs to be decorated with coinscan be just a piece of fabric around the hips.
The Original galabiya were made by a Assuit fabric also called Tulle-bi-Telli, a black cotton piece meshed with silver stripes.
How to dance
The Baladi is an espontaneus piece, can not be prepared as a choreography. Musicians and dancers need to share the emotions during the moment of the performance, this is the magic of the Baladi.
Combinations are made to study, to learn what kind of steps is better for each moment, but all the creative process needs to finish into a improvisation.
The improvisation piece is difficult because of the modern situations of the performance, may almost everybody listen and study a Baladi piece by a CD, recorded before in the studio and it's easier to prepare a choreography with beautiful combinations.




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