Gilded Serpent presents...

A Look at Three Different Classical Egyptian CDs

# Cds reviewed by Taaj

Leila’s "Om Al Dunya",
Samy Farag’s "Classic Egyptian Belly Dancing Music",
Hamoudi Ali’s "A Gift from Cairo",

reviewed by Taaj
posted December 12, 2009

Classical Egyptian music and dance style have been around for decades. This is both positive and negative for dancers looking for music in this style. On one hand, there is a lot to choose from. On the other hand, it’s so easy to locate the best known pieces by the best known artists that it is hard to find something new and inspiring. Here is a look at three very different CDs that may narrow down your choices a bit.

Leila's Om Al DunyaLeila Presents Om Al Dunya Egyptian Belly Dance Music Volume 3

I love Classical Egyptian belly dance music. I think it gives the dancer the most soulful opportunity for expression. It reminds me of Egypt. It can be an emotional journey for the audience. So why wasn’t I blown away by this truly classical collection of music? I really wanted to be.

The opening overture was a great way to begin, but it leads up to something and then stops. I don’t think that it’s versatile enough to just tack on to your own music and keep going. It has it’s own sound and begs to be followed up with something with the same feel.

Most of the music is fine, but when you are looking for something to dance to, you don’t just want “fine.” You want something that is going to move you. Most of the songs sound like you are at a wedding and the band is tired after doing its second gig of the day. There is not much inspiring here.

The CD has some stand out cuts that make it a worthwhile buy for me.

Track 5 is a medley of Al Eine Moonayity and Dari ya Dar. Al Eine Moonayity is an old song that has been redone here of course, but this is a lively version that fades into a cute drum solo and then into the second song that is a complete let down. I’d use the three minute version of Al Eine Moonayity and cut it where the short drum solo fades.

The other piece that makes this CD a keeper is the 3 minute drum solo.

It sounds as if it was created for dancers.

It is fun with none of the strange little hiccups that some drum solos contain that can jam a dancer up. It’s got good variety and gives the dancer ample opportunity to show her stuff.

All in all Om Al Dunya is a decent CD. There is nothing bad about it. You just probably already have at least 10 other CDs that sound just like it. I rarely find anything that has more than a song or two that I really like however,

so for me, it is a winner.

Rating-2 zils
Rating- 2 zils

 

Dr Farag CdClassic Egyptian Belly Dancing Music by Dr Samy Farag

When I get a new CD by an artist that I am already familiar with and like, I hope that the new one will be a blend of the old things I love and new things that inspire me to keep me interested. This CD wildly exceeds my dreams in both those departments.

I tend to dislike techno-y versions of Classical music, but Dr. Samy expertly weaves elements of modern electronics into classical pieces in ways that actually work well! The electronics enhance the music instead of overwhelming it. The musicality and emotion are intact, so you can be driven by an upbeat rhythm and be expressive at the same time. I think this is a wonderful blend for new dancers coming into the dance as well as established old timers like me who enjoy the classics.

My absolute favorite is Hungarian Dance, which is a remake of Brahm’s Hungarian Dance No. 5. Oh, my God does Dr. Samy show off his depth of passion and creativity in this one!

If you are a ballerina looking for a good fusion piece, this is it!

It opens with a haunting ney overlayed on top of a funky bass beat that doesn’t hint at the romantic familiar tune that follows. The blend of piano, voice, electronics, and Middle Eastern touches are sheer genius. Dr. Samy has taken fusion to a new height that I can’t imagine will be soon eclipsed.

Danza Mora (Malguena) is another example of incredible fusion. This piece sounds like nothing I have ever heard before. It is dreamy, passionate and filled with tension of longing. Dr. Samy squeezes every ounce of emotion out of every note, choosing each accent and instrument for maximum effectiveness. The end result is pure pleasure. What an awesome reproduction of this song.

Track ten is a waltz! Can you imagine a belly dance waltz?! I never would have thought it possible, but Dr. Samy pulls it off.

Ballroom dancers looking for a new twist to add to their repertoire now have a song that is made just for them. To top it all off Dr. Samy gives us a drum solo. It’s not a new one. It’s recycled from another CD,

but after everything else he’s delivered, who cares? You probably already have it anyway. If you don’t, you should because it’s a good one.

I have to tell you that I am enraptured with this CD.

There is probably nothing on it that I would ever dance to,

but I could listen to it over and over and continue to marvel at the inventive interplay of old and new, eastern and western. If you are prone to experimentation, you must have this! It is brilliant.

Rating-4 zils
Rating- 4 zils

A Gift from CairoBelly Dance- A Gift from Cairo arranged and prepared by Hamouda Ali

Hollywood Music Center puts out a TON of music. Belly dancers around the world are lucky to have them; however, this one is not one of their shining stars. There is nothing “bad” about it, but is sounds formulaic and familiar. I think some of these songs are on their other CDs. Nothing jumps out as sounding fresh. Nothing inspires me to get up and dance NOW. However, “formulaic’ for Hollywood Music is still a cut above an untried stab in the dark.

They put out a quality product. As far as song selection goes, it has a lot of songs on it that every dancer should know.

It just doesn’t compare favorably to their other products or other CDs out there.

Rating 2 zils
Rating 2 zils.

John Keats once said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” So it is with Classical belly dance music. There are pieces that have always and will always move you, no matter how you change or times change. Those are the timeless benchmarks that other artists have to measure up to.  The bar is high which makes buying a new, impressive CD in this genre difficult. There are treasures here and there, so I wouldn’t give up looking. The two above are fine if you haven’t yet found those treasures. Dr. Samy’s is great is you are looking for something with classical foundations yet is outside of the box.

 

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  1. Yasmin HenkeshNo Gravatar

    Mar 17, 2010 - 12:03:22

    As a distributor for Leila’s Om al-Dunya I would like to reply to this review. It seems to me this reviewer is not familiar with Classical Egyptian music. Otherwise she would have seen the merit and heard the beauty of the 2 CDs she did not like and understood that the techno synthesized nature of Braham’s Hungarian ballet is not worthy of comparison to Abdel Halim Hafez, Warda, Sabah, Ahmed Adaweya, Sami Ali or Wadiya Safi.

    The reviewer also did not understand that the intro to the mergenci is just that, an intro. No one is on stage at the moment. The music is only to whet the audience’s appetite. This mergenci, by the way, belongs to Aizza Sharif. I saw her perform to it in the 1980s. I have video of her doing it. The Sami Ali song was Sahar Hamdi’s signature piece. How can a purist NOT like these songs?

    The older, third album reviewed, A Gift from Cairo, is a release by Hollywood Music – that is considered a classic for Egyptian dancers. It was recorded over 28 years ago in Cairo with a 20+ piece band. It is organized in set format, as is Om al-Dunya, not in random tracks. Samy Farag has produced some very good albums out of his Los Angeles studio, but this one – in my opinion – is NOT his best.

    In the end it is up to the listener to make up their own minds. I am glad there was a link to a YouTube clip of Leila dancing to the music, so readers can hear it and decide for themselves.

  2. NepentheNo Gravatar

    Mar 26, 2010 - 10:03:19

    Yasmin, I wish I had read your response earlier. I  actually bought the Samy Farag CD  because it was described so beautifully, and I was very disappointed.  In fact, it was probably one of the worst bellydance music purchases I have ever made – all synthesized and very strange indeed – very Western sounding, even with English vocals.  I like some of his other releases so I have no idea what was going on here.

 

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