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Gilded Serpent presents..
"In a Beirut Mood":
Jalilah's Raks Sharki 6 
A Review by Amina Goodyear

My recommendation is:  if the album label says "Piranha", buy it! I do not know of any Piranha CD (produced by Jalilah, at least) that has not been a personal hit for me. They are all great in some significant aspect.

I will admit, as an Egyptian dance fan, I was not sure about one carrying the title "In a Beirut Mood".  However, because Jalilah produced it, I bought it anyway. Initially, it stayed unopened-just happy to be in my collection of dance music. eventually, I would use it while teaching my classes. What a grand surprise it turned out to be! I should not have been surprised however, considering Jalilah's reputation for artistic taste and vision.

I found the selections included make exciting listening. Each selection is a beautiful arrangement and a good mix.  Best of all: each musical selection is useful and conducive for dance.

Every dancer I know is happy to buy a CD that has at least one useable piece. This CD is sure to fulfill that-and more.

Following are a few of my personal notes, observations, and comments:

1.     "Tales of the Sahara" 11:01
This 11 minute Raks Sharki arrangement is a complete routine.The earthy opening, gives a slight Nubian impression that quickly changes into an exciting magency  (entrance) with turns and spins evoking visions of veils flying. The solo instruments in this opening piece: the accordion, the nay, and the question and answer of the violin and nay, actually tell the dancer what needs to happen in her dance. This could be a great piece to use at parties or limited shows where there is a time constraint because one could easily stop it at three minutes and 28 seconds in length.

The next section, the Baladi with the accordion, is a great grounding prelude to the hypnotic bass sounds that are certainly my favorite sounds in this piece. Images of torsos twisting and hair flying come to my mind, and the music seems to be directing the dancer into an almost wild frenzy of movement. Then, the mood changes as the violin calms the spirit and soul, preparing the dancer for another trancelike passage. This time, though, the bass, violin, nay and kanoun enter into a wonderful musical conversation that speaks of serenity and peace while also pulling power and strength-possibly, from one's abdomen.

The following section also is quiet as the kanoun seems to tell the dancer's body to shimmy and the drum answers with an internal type of drum solo that (later) reprises the opening, turning out a very exciting finale section.

"Tales of the Sahara" is a great piece for the experienced dancer, and it could be helpful for teaching choreography to a class. Easily, a dance instructor could use for teaching any level of dance-from Beginners to Advanced. One might teach it in a "skeletal" form or use it to teach an advanced class with all the frills and nuances that match its variety of instruments.

2.     "Beirut Rhythms" 3:04
This is an intriguing drum solo that prompts the dancer to "question and answer" with various parts of her body. The drum is very clear and the rolls, pops, slaps, and teks give the dancer the choice of picking and choosing what she wants to accent. This is a danceable drum solo-but then-what else might we expect from such an accomplished drummer. Bassem Yazbek!

3.     "Mizmar Jabali" 1:30
This short piece would be fitting to use before a folkloric number, such as a Debke.

4.     "Ali's Nay" 2:56
Known for speaking to snakes, the nay also calls to our primordial essence. If the drum calls out to our passion and red aura, the nay reaches out to heavenly blues, whites, and our breath of life.

5.     "Lebanese Bouquet" 8:33

What Lebanese wedding would be complete without a Debke dance?

 It is only fitting that this bouquet of songs begins with the sounds of the tabla balady (folkloric drum) and the mizmar to announce that a Debke is about take place. There are many Debkes, both traditional and new-but the Debke chosen here, "Ala Da'lona", is one of the two or three most popular. Additionally, true to many Lebanese songs, this particular one is reminiscent of the time of Feiruz, love, and the past.

6.     "Rakset Banat Baladi" 8:08
This soulful accordion Balady slowly adds in the tabla to its formula. It picks up speed turning the Balady rhythm into rolling Maqsoum rhythm and finally ends with a driving drum solo. This Baladi Taqsim is delicate and builds with just the right amount of emotional content. (It might be a fitting addition to "Tales of the Sahara" to make a dynamic and memorable dance set.)

7.     "Kanoun Mood" 4:45
The kanoun has always been a favorite instrument for many dancers, and I find that my body automatically responds with different varieties of shimmies according to what the kanoun indicates.

The kanoun has that special kind of power!

8.     "Al-Houriyah" 14:51
Composed especially for this CD, "Al Houriyah" (the Siren) begins with a very danceable Dulab-type entrance that tells the dancer what to do, similar to the "Tales of the Sahara". There are walks, turns, chasses, spins and more-especially places to use the veil.  At times, the drum stops the action and then the violin, mizmar, and bass take turns talking to the dancer.

Bassem Yazbek
The next section, the Baladi section, is in question and answer form involving the accordion and violin.  First, it turns into a nay and violin call and response, and then it repeats the sequence with a Baladi type of Masmoudi rhythm.  This is a moving section as Baladi taqsim is an enduring favorite among dancers and musicians.

Speaking of favorites-here comes another one! This driving percussion section alternates between mizmar and percussion playing the Malfouf rhythm and later violins and drum rolls, using the rhythm Ayoub as its base. The sequence repeats but employs another rhythm-Maqsoum.

Composer Ihsan Al Mounzer, like many Arabic composers, uses the same melody lines repetitiously but changes the rhythms to make the piece different or more interesting. The same is true of the songs sung by many great singers, (such as Oum Kalsoum, Warda, and Abdul Halim).  The same word repeats, and each time, the sounds and use of vowels change to make the meanings different-thereby, driving the audience toward more intense responses.

These changes can be ever so slight and hardly noticeable, but it truly makes the music magically different.

Just when I thought I was through naming my favorites, the violin slinks into the next section-a Chiftitelli section-with a solo that is so hauntingly beautiful that at one point, the violin seems to have double strings.

Well, maybe this entire CD is composed of my personal favorites because the next section qualifies as another one! It is a slow, hypnotic, drum solo involving many dooms, that adds on a nay solo. Next, it becomes a rolling, intricate, drum solo, continuing into the hypnotic trance-like mood of a duf playing with the intricate fingering of another drum solo layered on top of it!  The drum continues to play with the music, but now it is the violin and drum and it has almost climaxed. (However, it is not the finale of the piece.)  The drum and violin play with each other again until the violin surrenders finally, and the drum takes over with another solo. Following this solo, the drum leads finally into the formal Finale.  This Finale is a long, involved, and more exciting rendition of the arrangement's Dulab beginning.

To sum up this CD:

  • I call many of its parts my favorites.
  • It is equally useful for teachers and for performers.
  • It has an element of artistic taste and quality control (in regards to music, musicians, instruments, and mixing) that other producers ought to emulate.

This DVD is available through

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