Gilded Serpent presents...

Tradition, Passion, and Fusion

“Ro-He, Classical Egyptian Dance” 2003
and “Egyptian Rai” 2006 by Hossam Ramzy


CD Review by Sadira
posted June 27, 2013

In this review I am critiquing two CD’s by Hossam Ramzy.  I write in detail about each CD, it’s interesting parts, or special interests as well as critique.  I then compare the two at the conclusion of this article.  Enjoy…the incredible talents of Hossam Ramzy!

Ro-He by RamzyRo-He and Classical Egyptian Dance 2003

This review is going to start out quite differently from most reviews of CD material for dancing.  To me, the starring and important element of this whole CD, comes from its inner booklet, describing the CD completely.  The booklet contains an in-depth interview with Hossam Ramzy, his feelings about classical Egyptian dance and dancers, as well as an excellent background, explaining what comprises classical Egyptian music and dance.   I  recommend that all teachers and students who want to work with Egyptian or Arabic music seriously , read these liner notes.  He addresses the types of rhythms used extensively, as well as the importance for understanding the different rhythms used in Arabic music.  He describes the difference between melody and rhythm.  He goes into great depth about musical phrasing within a composition and how it is constructed in Arabic music.  You will have a greater understanding of what you should know to be a quality dancer in this arena after reading the interview that contains his own tips of what makes one dancer stand out from other dancers.  The key is about knowing your music intimately. 

A dance becomes an intimate part of the orchestration rather than separate from it.

What do the instruments generate in your feelings, and therefore, your body movements?  One must express the emotional dimension of the music being performed.  It is emphasized that dancers must know the music!

The three main components to know are: 

  1. The rhythm- where it originates from, and the stylization. 
  2. The main melody- which is separate from the rhythm.
  3. Listen to and practice to the particular orchestral arrangements; so you are one with that piece.
  4. All Arabic music is played in a “call and response” format. (Solo Instruments = the call,   the orchestra = the response or vice versa.)  Note that you may assume it is a pattern based on 4 of these or 8 of those count, but that is not the style or pattern.  Listen!

His quote: “Musicians pay attention to your dance if you are paying attention to the music of which you are a part.  The purpose of dancing is to create a 3 dimensional, holographic, visual of the sonnet, and make it visible”.

I, also, have found too many dancers (even some who are considered “top dancers”) specialize in the complexities of Egyptian dance; yet they have not found the main tenants of being part of the whole experience and rely only on (sometimes irrelevant) choreography.  This defeats the dance, proper interaction with the music, as well as allowing the emotion to be portrayed in an intimate tableau of personal interpretation.
Trust me when I tell you that he gives valuable information for you to know!  You may want to purchase this particular CD to (at least) understand the true elements of the dance you are performing.

Now, let us consider the CD performance itself:

  • The first piece is designed for a complete classical Egyptian 4-part dance.  It is smooth, with lots of changing patterns that are great to use as a dance classic for performing in restaurants, or environments that truly specialize in classical Egyptian style of music and dance.  If your dance style is purely classical Egyptian, this is the CD for you! However I have to warn, you must be a professional, classically trained Egyptian dancer to fully embrace the nuances and style of this orchestration!  The music is orchestrated with many special instrumentations and is conducted at a relatively medium fast pace for the entrance dance.  If this is not your style, it would be difficult to interpret and do yourself justice throughout your dance.  One must have a clear and clean Egyptian rhythm and musical interpretation to take on this piece.  The entrance clearly has the chorus that repeats phrasing; dancers must pay attention because it is complex.  It has interludes of taqsim and breaks throughout the entrance.  The style is reminiscent of the 1940s classical orchestration. 
  • Next, it moves into its slow taqsim section, which predominates with the nai and kanoun makkams and soloing.  Here, you can hear the classic “call and response” style between the oud and the nai.  The effect is fluid and graceful, but be careful not to overdance segments, using undulations with no other movements, or worse, using constricted movements.
  • From the taqsim, we are taken to a middle section that I think of as “techno-pixy”.  Personally, I don’t care for it; to me, it seems like a recording mix and strange use of instrumentation made in the studio.  It has high energy!  Dancers need to focus on the melody, and not the drum, or it will throw your dance off.  There are moments during which one could change pace as well as one’s interpretation.  Classical stylizing prevails, with the exception of the addition of techno-instrumentation.
  • Lastly, it ends with the typical drum solo, starting with a heavy, upbeat Beledi rhythm  into a running 4/4.  It has a solid heavy beat and convenient repeating pattern, utilizing the 4/4 rhythm.  Please note: during the middle of this section, finger cymbals play a galloping 4/4/rhythm while the def plays a heavy, upbeat Beledi rhythm at the start, emphasizing the rhythm as the drummer improvises over the top.  It is exceptionally complex, and earthy.  (I would recommend that the dancer not play finger cymbals along with any CD that already incorporates them as a part of its instrumentation; as you could very well be adding a wrong rhythm to it and making it sound chaotic.)  The dancer must be prepared to go from the drum solo into a moving transition and back to a melody line immediately. Reminiscent of the complex orchestration of the 1940s and ‘50s, it is not an easy piece that gives room for everyone’s ability to shine–unless you are well versed.
  • After the 15-minute dance routine, there are the brief solos or taqsims with oud. Though showcasing the virtuosity of the oud players and the mawwal, it does not lend itself well for a dance taqsim solo, because it is a steady, even-paced arrangement.
  • Again, we have another piece called “Elkol”.  While starting with a beautiful opening taqsim, I was put off once again by the addition of some techno-music instrumentations that sounded somewhat like wind chimes but seemed oddly out of place and awkward within this framework.
  • Next, there is a Saudi beat song, called “Bosara”, and while Saudi and Khaleeji dance and music are my loves, this is too highly orchestrated to give you that traditional hair tossing, rhythm driven Saudi traditional style.  The over instrumentation takes away from its roots; but if you like to add the Saudi rhythm as part of your repertoire you may find it a nice change.  Be warned: this is not your traditional, folkloric version of Saudi or Khaleegy music, just an adjunct of the particular rhythm mixed with classical Egyptian orchestration.

If you decide to use this CD for your dance piece, I would strongly recommend that you have a professional, practiced and exact understanding of classical Egyptian music and interpretive dance; otherwise, you will become overwhelmed or lose an ability to  interpret this outstanding piece of work with clarity.

Most importantly, do not accompany this CD with finger cymbals.  Finger cymbals are used periodically throughout the CD recording as a part of its percussion section, and you would only be destroying the continuity of what is included there.  I don’t think much of the cymbal playing herein however, as it is only a regular, galloping 4/4 constant rhythm in the background to keep pace and can be annoying.

The piece I loved on this CD, and would recommend for dance performance, is titled Elshebbak”.  It is a modernized, classical stylization of a well-known piece of musical arrangements used during the 1970s and 80s with its own twist.  You will recognizeLeilat Hob portions as well as Touta”!  Yet, they have redone it with a much more orchestrated feeling that calls for dedicated studying of this piece before you attempt to dance with it.  It is the most danceable piece for those doing classical Egyptian but who may not be technically proficient, and it is lovely to hear the interplay of old classics, presented with the new style .  You will enjoy this piece the most and it could be used for a short dance performance.

Purchase this CD for the incredible lessons it offers about Arabic and Egyptian music to enhance your own dance abilities from the informational interview with Hossam Ramzy; you will not be disappointed!

Rating:  3 zils
3 zil rating

Cd- Egyptain Rai by RamzyEgyptian Rai, Hossam Ramzy, 2006

“Rai came out of Algeria, but nevertheless, the concept holds true throughout the Middle East.  The idea behind “Egyptian Rai”, is to use different types of sounds, rhythms, songs, and feel, all from the Arab world.
It is my wish that anyone who listens to this album may get an eagle’s eye view over the Arab world.  Looking down on it from great heights, one realizes that it is a world in its own right.  It is at its best when it communicates with its own people’s as well as with other members of our Earth”
–Hozzam Ramzy (liner notation on the Egyptian Rai CD)

I love, love this CD from Hossam Ramzy!  Hossam Ramzy, apart from his incredible and remarkable skills as a drummer and musician, is far more than only that.  He cares about the culture and understanding of the music he has played and experienced over his many years of drumming since 3 yrs of age.  He has played with those who are (and were) among the recent “greats” of Egyptian, Arabic, North African, Bedouin music; also he studied the roots and sounds from the indigenous traditional peoples of these regions.  His soul radiates throughout everything he mixes to share his understanding of its world music’s versatility and uniqueness.  He has performed in the genre of World Music with Robert Plant, and most known for work with Peter Gabriel on the “Passion” CD, and many others as well.  Ramzy considers himself an ambassador for cultural integration and education about Arabic music and its different styles.

I call the music recorded on this CD “feel good music”!  Every song on this CD has you wanting to get up and move, express your inner-core connection with its rhythms and songs and have a good time. 

This is not a CD meant for a performance, but it is the kind of CD you could play at any kind of gathering, and guests will not be able to stay still.

There are gems and brilliant pieces on this CD that would work well with creative solo or troupe dances, and other group pieces.  Here, you can feel traditions that are 100s of years old, mixed with the recent genres of jazz, latin, or fusion, all combining into a tapestry that is unparalleled in its brilliance!  It moves you; it touches you. It brings the true meaning of “Saidi equals joy” into experiencing music for its dynamic soul, instead of dissecting it for creating a specific dance routine.

Go on! I dare you not to jump up to dance or find friends who know nothing about Egyptian, Moroccan, or Arabic music who start spinning and clapping, moving to their own connection of spirit! That’s the code word here: “Spirit”, and it is the basic foundation of dance; no matter its point of origin.  It comes from deep within, resonates within the heart, heralding forth from the spirit of sounds and the connection to the Divine and the human need for sound that reminds us that we should always be dancing in the cosmos. You can dance just for yourself or introduce others to music that stirs your heart.

The first song is entitled: “Gani Lasmar”.  It originates from Saudi-Arabian folklore and uses a traditional Yemeni rhythm.  If you love the Saudi influence, you will find this enjoyable.  The majority of it is based on the traditional Saudi rhythm but is mixed with Egyptian flavoring and an upbeat chorus that takes you to the traditional “call and response” style of Arabic musical construction.  It’s a piece that calls to mind, spinning, yearning, and joy.  It is worthy to use as a folkloric piece for a dance or a troupe routine. It is flavored with fusions of Latin spice and infectious pop!  It has the feeling of a Debke, the lively, communal line dances that incorporate the entire group.

Next is : “Othrak Ma-ak Othrak”,  another song from Kuwait.  It starts off melodiously with an oud taqsim and builds to a wild virtuosity of drumming–jazzy with flavors of Greek line dancing.

The third song is: “El-Hawazi”,  based on the traditional Moroccan 6/8 rhythm or Bedouin folk style.  This is true Shaabi music (the people’s music) for dancing in the coffee houses and out in the streets.  This is my favorite track!  I am familiar with the dances and rhythms from North Africa; so,  for me, it adds that fusion funk of instrumentation from Arabic countries.  Think of is as a Berber-Bedouin jam session out in the desert.  Images of the Ouled Nail and Shikhaat dancing are ever present; along with the trance standard of syncopated clapping that is special to North Africa.

Let’s talk about trumpets.  Yes, trumpets! They lay down some fantastic tracks throughout with the eminent trumpet player from Cairo, Sami El-Babil!  Imagine: New Orleans French Quarter and Louis Armstrong playing at Giza!  It is jazz, but still infused with the sounds of Arabic music with Hossam Ramzy’s amazing drum work.

I’m trying not to list every song here; but I have to say I was not disappointed by a single cut; each one is unique and each one a surprise when it came out of the speakers; evoking so many different feelings and memories!

For example: “El Ataba Gazaz”.  I was pleasantly surprised to recognize immediately that this was a popular tune used in the clubs during the  ‘70s and ‘80s.  It has become a standard favorite that has been revamped and Rai-ified on this CD!  It’s faster in pace than the original with lots of jazz overtones, but you can still hear the original piece in its melody. Soulful!

The next one I have to give credit to is the arrangement: “Eddalla Ya Aris”:  Here was my first Arabic song that I learned how to sing in Arabic!  It contains the “wedding beat” and is about the bridegroom  meeting his bride-to-be.  This is the wedding beat on fast play, but it works!  At the end of the album, there are two songs that are so melodic and beautiful, that I would consider using them for meditation or relaxation.  They transport you into a lyrical, mystical, mesmerizing journey.  The music reminds me of the moon shining in the black sky, with its soft beaming light shining over the silver Nile at night.  “The World Is My Oyster”; utilizing the same gulf rhythms that once signaled to the pearl divers who were diving at night that it was time to come up from the depths.  These last two pieces are made for dance and create a completely new creative interpretation to melodic rhythms that grab us; yet take us to the world stage.

As usual , I have to make mention of the fantastic insert accompaniment with the CD.  It explains each song, its origins and rhythms as well as the meaning of the original song. What a treasure!  Do yourself a favor and buy this for the tapestry of weaving traditional cultures with each other and fusing them into a whole experience from beginning to end that will captivate you.

Rating: 4 zils
Zil Rating- 4

Comparison of the 2 CDs 

To be honest, these are like night and day from each other.  If you want an excellent classically orchestrated Egyptian style CD to use for dancing at venues, then “Ro-He”; is what you will want. However, beware because this is for those at a high level of performing Egyptian style dancing. Personally, I did not find much of the music presented here of use for me or my aesthetics, accept to recognize a masterful work of classic Egyptian music with a few modernized glitches that didn’t seem to belong.  No finger cymbal playing alongside, and be well-versed in your style!  Don’t forget that everyone can learn something valuable from its liner notes written through an interview with Hossam Ramzy.  To each their own style!  I preferred “Egyptian Rai”; I could see dancing to it for audiences, but more importantly, it brought up a universal excitement to dance along with all its pieces.  Some of them are quite stellar in their development and would be a great adjunct to a less regimented style of dance and incorporating dance routines.   It also rocks as a piece of music all on its own that everyone will love and want to own; whether familiar with Arabic music or not.  It is brilliant in its combination of different styles.  Rai equals fusion with passion!


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