Understanding the Egyptian Music Classical Style part 03

Are complex compositions for large orchestra, long structure, produced between the decades of 40 and 50, most of them present in Egyptian movies of the same period. Some recordings were made ​​live on stage and you can hear a wide audience in the background.

Currently there are modern versions of these compositions, especially played for belly dancing, though not always provided with full orchestra and often the original name does not appear. This happens because different musical pieces can be edited in a single composition that is called, Mezdeke. The adapted version for dance normally has lower quality of harmony.

To identify the Classical pieces,  the best way is to try to recognize the dominant musical instruments are in, for example, in classical music would be the Oud and Kanoun.

Musical Intruments

 The Oud : Its a name derives from the Arabic for 'wood', and this refers to the strips of wood used to make its rounded body

The Qanun: "The qanun is a descendent of the old Egyptian harp. It has played an integral part in Arabic music since the 10th century. The word qanun means 'law' in Arabic, and the word exists in English in the form of "canon." The qanun was introduced to Europe by the 12th Century, becoming known during the 14th to the 16th Century as a psaltery or zither. the qanun also resembles a dulcimer." - http://maqamworld.com/instruments.html

Violin / Kamanjah: Instrument introduced in Western classical Arabic music in the XIXcentury.

Ney Flute: Bamboo flute similar as the Egyptian Kawala.

Chant: In the classical music is essential the presence of a soloist who sings poetic verses: the Dawr, followed by a chorus that repeats the refrain.

Riqq: Is a small tambourine originally used in the Classical pieces.

Darbuka: does not appear much, only if the piece is adapted to belly dance.


Wahda Kebir



Importante names of Egyptian classical Music 

Oum Kulthum

 Is the most important  name when reffers to classical Egyptian music. Oum Kulthum had a wonderful voice and the best musicians and composers wanted to have the privilege to work with her. Oum Kulthum was nationalist, she sang in the traditional Arabic maqam refusing to adapt her songs to the influences of Western music. She refused to wear European clothes and her songs followed the  subjects of Love and nationalism.

Her songs were not specifically made for Oriental dance, but there are versions that have been adapted for performance. These versions are shorter and generally instrumental. The first dancer to interpret a piece of Oum Kulthum was Suhair Zaki.

Generaly the versions adapted for dance can lose in quality because it is usually used a keyboard Rolland TR 707 to replace the orchestral instruments and melodies. It earns an aspect of "Lounge Music" as this version of "Alf Leila Wa Leila".

 Although the interpretation of Suhair Zaki is awesome, the music has lower quality if you compare with the original version:

Leylat el Hob is another composition that has been adapted for Belly Dance and performed by Suhair Zaki:

Bellow the original version:

What may confuse a Belly Dancer
The art has no borders and when a classical singer as Oum Kulthum  becomes a national symbol and her music is so wonderful that crosses the boundaries between social classes, all styles absorb her. You can listen  popular versions of Oum Khultum and so if we are not aware of the history and the culture of the Egyptian people will be hardly to understand it. For example here, "Alf Leila Wa Leila" is interpreted in a night club in Cairo as a shaabi:

Farid al Atrache

Lebanese composer, singer and accomplished musician. Farid al Atrache became well known for the films of the Egyptian golden age, by composing and singing for big stars and  also for his affair with Samia Gamal.
Farid's compositions are gorgeous and produced specifically for the dance. Unfortunately there are a fell modern versions of his music and because of it his wonderful pieces might be lost in time.

One of my favorites pieces of Faride el Atrache is Zanouba, prettily danced by Samia Gamal in 1956:

Another lovely piece of Farid el Atrache "El Rabia" fits perfectly in the Classical Style:

It is one of the best examples of classical music which has many versions adapted for belly dancing and also the original are perfectly matched to what we call classic style.
Ismaooni and Batwanis Beek are the most well known songs interpreted by the dancers.
Here Randa Kamel dances a version of Al Eih Besoulouny as a Magency (Egyptian Entrance)

Abdel Halim Hafez
A great singer and musician. His songs are  as  long as Oum Kulthun pieces, for that exist several edited versions special for oriental dance and we fall back on the same problems wich are: the original title  does not appear  because is a Mezdek (compilation of songs), the harmony is really different of the original version.

I believe one of the best well known songs of Abdel Halim Hafez is Gana El Hawa. Although is a classical composition in the structure has  folkloric flavour. Some adapted versions to Belly Dancing are played with folk instruments and the dance also includes folk steps.


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