Gilded Serpent presents...

Three CDs: Movie Music!

Collage of 3 cds for review

"Doumtekastan" The Darbuki Kings
"Cairo Blue" Sands of Time
"Cinematic" Zikrayat

Reviews by Amina Goodyear
posted September 18, 2011

The best thing about writing a music review for GildedSerpent.com is receiving the products, listening and enjoying them, and then giving each one a practical application by using it in performance or class. I share it with with friends, colleagues, and dance students for the purpose of receiving and/or not hearing feedback in the form of opinions. Given today’s technology, I can quite honestly say that, with few exceptions, the technical aspects such as sound quality, and graphics are usually excellent, or at the very least, attractive and usable. These few exceptions could be blamed on "in the field" live performances with difficult circumstances beyond the producers’ control. Occasionally there is not enough written information for my liking.

In the case of the three CDs reviewed below, "Doumtekastan", "Cairo Blue" and "Cinematic", I would say that all three offer a range from quite good to great sound and mixing.

In the case of their inserts, however, all three leave a little something to be desired. It often occurs to me that I’d like to know more about the artists and also would like more information about the music and songs they are playing.

Thanks to the Internet and each group’s respective websites, I was able to extract more information about the artists and the recordings.

Someone once told me that people born before 1965 don’t like computers; in my case, that’s so true! Since I was born before 1965, I would have preferred to find this information on the inserts rather than having to do my own hunting and surfing.

Nevertheless, one thing that is common with these three CDs is that all of them were produced, performed, and played, with the utmost sincerity and passion for and love of the music to the best of their abilities.

Although each CD is quite different from the other two, and each may appeal to three different audiences, to me, they all have one thing in common: this is music that might be used to enhance a movie! What kind of movie? Well, I can imagine various tracks of Doumtekastan being background music for a National Geography-type documentary film, docudrama, travelogue or a world cooking show. It is the kind of music that can unobtrusively hint of a culture without being too specific, and therefore, can appeal to the general public. On the other hand, Cairo Blue, attempts to fuse two cultures but is specifically Egyptian. I envision a looped version of this music, fitting in nicely in either a Middle Eastern documentary, or perhaps, used in the sound track of an Arabic themed drama. Given the condition of world politics today, there are more and more opportunities for this type of movie in the theaters and on TV as short serial features. However, Cinematic is a little more formal in its composition. Typical of the style in which movies are made, and relating to movies or movie-making, "Cinematic" quite readily could lend itself to the movies and especially to historical movies and choreographies from the Golden Age of Egypt as the songs used in this CD are period-oriented.

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Domtekastan"Domtekastan" by The Darbuki Kings
In the world of Belly dance, my world of Belly dance, over the past 40-plus years, there have been many specialists, experts, and practitioners of the dance. In the beginning, it was just Belly dance! I use this term for want of a better, more universal word because Oriental dance could conjure up a dance from the Far East such as from China or Japan, or Raqs Shaabeyya or Beledy dance could encompass too many different categories or images, ranging from a solo dancer wearing bedlah to a dancer performing Raqs Assaya. Therefore, I will use the term Belly dance as the universal word to cover all the various categories from Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian, Cabaret, Oriental, Goddess, American style, ATS, Goth, Industrial, Roma, Gypsy, Fusion to Steam Punk. (Please forgive me if I left out your style.)

In the final analysis, it is best if the dance practitioner or artist is a specialist in only one field of his or her dance, this dance called Belly dance. It is hard, in fact, extremely difficult, to master more than one style and really make it "your own". Personally, I feel that it is best to know one style completely before going on to try to conquer the world with another style. I have seen it done (and done well by some) but usually, it is best to just master one style of dance or suffer the accusation of being a dilettante. Not being a native Egyptian, I am still working on my qualities of Egyptianess which is taking me a lifetime to accomplish. I honestly admit that I am only a master of dilettante-like superficiality in other dance fields.

By this admission, I hope that you can realize that I am a bit of a traditionalist or purest concerning Belly dance, but still, I appreciate certain aspects of cross-over dancing when done expertly, with a strong native base and within the correct context.

Just as I feel this way about my Belly dance, in my parallel music world, I also feel the same, regarding the music I use for listening and which I use in my dance.

When a student asks me to teach to a song by Shakira or Beyonce, I’ll admit that I get a puzzled expression on my face as I say, "Sorry, I can’t relate." However, I will ask for a copy of the music and will play it in class and even move with it for all in class to follow. In the end, will say: "Okay! We danced to it, now can we get on with the real stuff!"

When I was given "Domtekastan" to review, I wasn’t sure I could review it, as this style of music is just not part of my parallel music world. However, upon reading the CD insert, I realized, that I would be able to review it.

As I mentioned earlier given the correct context…

"The Darbuki Kings’ influences are as endless as the flakes of snow on the mountains they have scaled. The Sadus of Swing, the Bards of Boom, the Pashas of Pulse, Los Paiasos de Musica, the Sufis of Syncopation, the Sultans of Smoke and the Dervishes of Doum.

Antone & Adnan Darbuki’s recent tours have been going well except for a few incidents at airport customs. Antone in particular seems to be major concern to the officials. Adnan has avoided these difficulties because he has been traveling disguised as a rock and roll drummer. Repeated attempts to disguise Antone have ended in failure, and no matter what we do he still seems to fit the profile of ‘suspicious’."

Although this CD may not be my cup of tea for my dance class, many of the tracks may be heartfelt and profoundly moving in another context (as in the sound track of a movie). For the dancers who perform the other styles of Belly dance that I choose not to dance, there may be many tracks that could be considered favorites.

Following the Silk Road from the Asian continent, the Middle East, through Europe and into the African Sub-Sahara, one can nestle into a pile of brocade cushions, smoke the shisha, drink a glass of chai, close your eyes and take a trip to "Doumtekastan".

Purchase information:
http://www.robinanders.com/adnanm.html

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 Cairo Blue"Cairo Blue" (Egyptian Jazz) produced by Sands of Time
Ahmed Ramaah, Trumpet, with Hosein Al-Issawi, Sax
Recorded by Sayed Henkish

In Egypt in the ’70s there was (and still is) a very large cottage industry in the making and sale of cassette tapes. Because many Egyptians went to the Gulf states to work, they often came back with enough disposable income to purchase a soon-to-be necessity: a boom box! In fact, the boom box quickly became one of the requirements in the list of appliances necessary to fulfill the Egyptian marriage contract.

Cassette players were popular because, besides the portability of boom boxes (There was no need for electricity; they could also take batteries.) there were audio tape players in all the thousands of taxis and micro-buses in the country. The ease in recording, duplication, bootlegging and re-recording made personal entrepreneurship, sales, and distribution an easily accessible reality for the enterprising artist.

Some of the most popular cassettes were in the genre called "drum tapes". Many of these cassettes sounded like they were by-products of what we might call "garage band" rehearsals. The drummer would play a rhythm (usually beledy) and one of two melodic instruments would accompany and improvise. Sometimes the melodic instrument would start with or play a known tune, but more often than not, the instrument would simply play a taqasim. Sometimes, this would end up sounding like what we call beledy taqsim, sawal/gawab (question/answer) or the new popular term of the Beledy Progression Form.

During this time, there was a pioneer in the Cairo music scene known as Ali Hassan Kuban. After hearing a Jazz band with a horn section, Kuban decided to add horns to his already popular Nubian band. Besides selling millions of cassettes of his music with this new brass sound, he probably influenced another fellow wedding singer, Ahmed Adaweya. Adaweya, who was starting to make a name for himself as a pioneer shaabi singer, introduced the horns in his wedding bands as well. One of his musicians was sax player Samir Srour.

Unlike the drum tapes of the ’70s, oftentimes involving one entire side of an audio cassette evolving and developing one musical phrase and idea into another until the cassette clicked onto side B with a continuation of the musical idea, this CD consists of 18 tracks from a short 1 1/2 minutes to not-quite-6-minute tracks.

They are just long enough for a dancer to use as a stand-alone dance piece or short enough to be inserted within a separate dance routine. Furthermore, the best part is: this CD is not warped as were so many of the cassettes of our days past. Each track features a single drum rhythm with either a sax or a trumpet playing along.

Tracks 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 are the most interesting to me–with the haunting trumpet in track 5- Ariel Leyalha Afriqi being my favorite. Each track in the CD conjures up a different emotion or sensation. If a track were used as a loop, it could quite easily provide background music for a movie as this music goes nowhere and everywhere in the depths of your dreams, imaginations, and body.

Purchase information:
http://www.serpentine.org/SoT/SandsofTime.htm

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Cinematic"Cinematic" by Zikrayat

In the U.S. we had Busby Berkeley, (movie director and choreographer of Hollywood’s "Footlight Parade", "42nd Street", and "Gold Diggers of 1933") exploited, or at the very least, caused controversy with his female forms as seen through the "male gaze". Slightly before that time, in 1926, in Egypt we had Badia Masabny opening a club in the style of European cabarets, using dancers in a somewhat similar suggestive vein. Masabny was responsible for promoting a style of dance, costuming, and floor show that we know as "Raqs Sharqi". This floor show format, using singers, dancers and choreographies with intricate floor patterns was later to become the template for the Egyptian film industries’ musicals. In fact, it was more economical to actually film at her "Casino Badia" and "Casino Opera" using her talented singers and dancers. Many of these singers (Mohamed Abdel Wehab and Farid el Atrache) and dancers (Samia Gamal and Taheyya Carioca) continued on to become popular film stars.

Badia’s clubs were a preview and were on the forefront of Egypt’s Golden Age of Cinema (from the 1940s to the beginning of the 1960s) starring the very same players from her clubs. More than half a century later, this is still the same music and dance that sets today’s standard.

The CD title "Cinematic" by Zikrayat is a beautiful, nostalgic and honest representation of the music from those golden years in Cairo.

"Zikrayat’s ensemble is a hybrid of the traditional takht ensemble of early 20th century Arab urban areas combined with features of the larger orchestral ensembles of the mid-20th century, to suit the Egyptian dance styles of the 1950s onwards. Zikrayat includes two percussionists, one playing the riq (tambourine), the main percussion instrument in the classical music, and the other the tabla/derbakki (goblet drum), the main percussion instrument driving dance music. Zikrayat also includes contrabass in its ensemble as well as violin, nay (cane flute), and buzuq. Music director and violinist Sami Abu Shumays sings lead vocals along with vocalist Salah Rajab."

Inspired by the "golden age" of Egyptian musical cinema, Zikrayat has researched the films and music of that period in order to give us an accurate musical memory. I believe the producer succeeded as each song conjures up in my mind visions of the tuxedo-clad musicians playing for the singers and dancers of the silver-screen.

This CD is truly an impressive, hypnotic, and absorbing collection of music. The artists are excellent as well as emotional, and they have succeeded in creating that bit of magic that happened during Egypt’s Golden Age. This CD is a must buy!

Purchase information:
http://www.zikrayatmusic.com/

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Conclusion:

Each of the three CDs reviewed here were lovingly made and meant to be shared and enjoyed. Each may have a unique or specific audience or application. Should one use the recordings for listening, dancing or teaching? This I can’t answer for you. You, the reader, have your own agenda and preferences, and I have mine.
Being an "old-timer" and loving classic Egyptian music, I must choose "Cinematic"; this is my choice, but it may not be yours…

 

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