Review of Valentine's Party - Salamat Sundays - at El Valenciano
by Amina Goodyear
It was the end of January, we had just had the Eid el Fotour at El Valenciano and felt good. Our customers had brought in balloons, and candy for the the breaking of the fast for Ramadan and we didn't want to stop the party feeling that we were starting to have with our audience. Jacques (Al Asmar) and I were wondering what other party we could have at our Salamat Sundays and we realized that this year Valentine's Day fell on Sunday. At first I was dismayed. Would my "Valentine" want to celebrate the day a day early or would he be mad that I would rather be at Salamat Sundays? Well, I shouldn't have worried because when I suggested that we do Valentine's a day early, he said, "No" - that he would rather have dinner and hang out at El Valenciano with me - even though he knew that hanging out with me would be hanging out alone since I would be on stage playing percussion all evening.
So, with the coast clear, Jacques and I planned our Valentine's Party. There really wasn't much to plan. We felt good about our band and knew that our audience was very willing to have a good time. We had good music, a wonderful singer and a willing crowd just waiting to party. We made little flyers telling everyone to wear red and to get ready to participate in a dance contest because we were going to crown two people King and Queen of Salamat Sundays.
I wanted to have my romantic dinner with my Valentine next to the dance floor so that I could leave him and jump up on stage and start playing when the customers came. It didn't happen. I was able to have a nice long romantic dinner because there were no customers. Here we were with 2 beautiful crowns for our King and Queen, 2 boxes of chocolates for them to take home, chocolate kisses on all the tables, our singer Fadi Hanani and our fine musicians, Reda Darwish, Mohanned El Wir, Raed Tewfik, Loay Dahrbour, Shar Mundi, Jacques El Asmar and me, Amina Goodyear. All of us just antsy to play and no one to play for. Then, by clockwork, as usual, between 10:15 and 10:30 people started coming in. The men nicely dressed, and the women mostly wearing beautiful red outfits as we had asked. We started playing and there was my Valentine sitting by himself in the back of the room and here I was on stage, wondering why I was up there instead of with my Valentine. But then, the gypsy flower sellers came in, my Valentine presented me with roses to attach to my mike stand, Reda started yelling yallah, awee awee and hubba hubba and pretty soon the place was packed and everyone was dancing and having fun, especially me and then I knew why he was my Valentine. I was so happy playing music and he was enjoying himself socializing and listening to the music.
Since I don't dance that often anymore (by my own choice - I've had my time, my fun, my turn), I am now fulfilling my lifelong dream of playing in a band with real musicians. It is so exciting I can't even describe it. It is so much fun that I am even singing. And anyone who knows me knows I can't carry
a tune. But it doesn't even matter. I am singing anyway. Singing words I don't even know to sometimes songs I have just heard for the first time that night. But it doesn't matter. I'm not miked! But Fadi, our wonderful singer is and does he know how to get the crowd going. They yell debke, he yells
chobi and pretty soon we have everyone going wild, hopping, jumping and carrying on.
We had two dancers that evening. Mona Farid did the first show in a beautiful blue costume she just brought back from Egypt and, just before the break we had Anke perform a beautiful dance dressed in Valentine's red. She has such a feminine style. So soft - yet she is a very strong dancer. During the break we, as usual, had to do the broom dance to sweep up the dollar bills thrown on her and then the Aswan Dancers performed a couple of dances to their favorite Egyptian singer, Hakim.
After the break, we had the dance contest. At first it seemed as though no one would enter. So I got off stage and rounded up a few volunteers. I found one guy from one side of the room and paired him with a girl from the other side of the room. Pretty soon we found more volunteers. Couples of mixed
gender, guys with guys, girls with girls, odd couples and so on. Reda and Mohanned led the music and everyone danced. Then we told the audience to clap for their favorites. We thought Didi and Rheamon were winners and then our last couple took their turn. It was Somaya (a Moroccan woman who I think has come to every single Salamat Sunday since we started last September) with Faten El Sombati (daughter of the former owner of S.F.'s Bagdad Cabaret). The guys voted them winners by not only clapping, but yelling, whistling and jumping up and down. They were crowned Queen and Queen and then did a wonderful victory dance to a song by Sami Ali.
After they finished, there was more debke, more just plain dancing and then cake. One of our customers was celebrating 10 years of having his leukemia in remission and Mona Farid brought in a huge cake so everyone could celebrate with him.
The evening ended, as usual, at 2 a.m. with everyone asking for more. Since the next day was a holiday at least we didn't have to worry about calling in sick the next day. We could sleep without a guilty conscience.
Since our Valentine's Party we've had other birthdays with cake for all, an after Rakkasah party where Nourhan Sharif of New York and I danced, we just celebrated the Eid el Adha with Arabic candies, and Easter with candy eggs. Each Salamat Sunday is just another excuse to party. And probably, as usual, the evening will start empty until that predictable hour of about 10:15 when everyone comes ready to party.
Salamat Sundays is every Sunday from 9 pm at El Valenciano,1153 Valencia St. in San Francisco. Admission includes free raffle tickets. Prizes given out have been everything from cameras to airline tickets.
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