Leila Haddad presents
Traditional Tunisian Rhythms (2001)

CD Review by Sadira

Leila Haddad is an internationally known dancer, artist and teacher. She is one of the only dance instructors currently teaching throughout the U.S. who was born in North Africa and is of North African descent. Her vast knowledge of the dances that originated in this area is profound, as is her outstanding performance of traditional dances, and folkloric Egyptian dance.

Leila Haddad is an exquisite performer who captures the audience immediately with her powerful dancing. Whether she is performing Traditional Tunisian Dance or Raks Sharqi, Leila is a consummate artist who claims the stage and transforms it into a backdrop of the regions from which she is performing. Her dedication to preserving and passing on the traditional dances from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, the Ouled Nail, Shikkhat, Berber and Bedouin is a dedication that goes beyond the normal borders of dance.

All who have found delight in meeting Leila, know her as a warm, inspiring, loving spirit. Her infectious smile and joyfulness resound through her dance and her life. She is also a deeply spiritual person who shows a higher level in the transcendence of her dancing and her teaching.

Not since the hey-day of Aisha Ali's introduction of the first album: "Music of the Ghawazee" (and subsequent albums of traditional folkloric music from Egypt through North Africa) have we been able to find music on that high level of quality and authenticity that is now available through Leila's new CD.

With "Leila Haddad presents: Traditional Tunisian Rhythms", we now have an excellent choice of ethnomusicology in the forms of the dances from Tunisia to which we may listen, study, and utilize.

This CD is well produced and excellent in sound quality. All instrumentation and musicians are authentic to the music itself and the area from which it comes. Anyone who has taken classes in Tunisian Dance will recognize some of the traditional selections on this CD, but there are many other varieties of rhythms and musical pieces included that are exuberant and exciting to hear. The listing of songs on the back cover includes the style or region from which each tune is taken and the rhythm used in that arrangement or presentation. In North African dance, the traditional rhythms used are 6/8, 2/4, (and variations on these rhythms) along with more complex rhythmical forms. Most Egyptian style dances and Arabic/Armenian style music is formatted in a 4/4 base with variations upon that. In North African music, though the base rhythm may carry a 6/8 or 2/4 count, the complex variety on its different forms of emphasis, makes it a challenge to create steps to match. That is why it is so important that any dancer using this music for a performance should have a background in Tunisian/North African dance.

The variations and intensity of the music with its heavy rhythmical beats and strong Zokra and Mezoued instrumentation will transport you to the dawn of our ancestors. No 6/8 rhythm in a piece is alike, nor will you hear the same 2/4 rhythm in any other piece. The variety is intricate and emphasizes different portions of the beat. This intricate variety represents the heart and soul of Tunisia/North Africa and it comes sweeping out through this particular CD. The complexity and primal emphasis of this style of music is unlike that of any other Arabic or Middle Eastern form of music. Be prepared to fall in love with the beauty of Tunisian rhythms, and its heart, spirit, and fullness, which will make you stand proudly on the balls of your feet and lift your head high as you twirl upon imaginary sands of Tunisia, your ankle bracelets (khol khal) casting their soft sounds upon the wind.

It is a compliment to Leila that she not only created a CD that others who are learning and dancing authentic traditional dances may use; but she is also creating a musical legacy of the desert people's and their culture, dance, and heart through the preservation of their soulful music. The quality of the musicians, sound recording, and variety are excellent. I highly recommend this CD for students of music as well as those who love the dances of North Africa. My only negative criticism is that I would have liked a musical footnote page to have been included that annotated each piece, (its origins, how it is used, from where it comes, and more explanation of it's stylizing).

Don't miss Leyla's Workshop July 26 & 28 in Oakland, California!

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