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CD Review
Efendi: The Mid-East Music of Scott Wilson
review by Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan

Scott Wilson, the son of the famous Mid-East Dancer "Serena" of New York City, grew up immersed in the best must of Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Armenia and Israel brought over the Mid-East to the New York club scene during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  He found inspiration in mentors George Mgrdichian, John Berberian and Bob Zakian.  In 1967 Scott chose the Oud as his instrument, and was fortunate enough to study with the famous "Chick" Ganimian.  Scott studied also with Joseph Kassab, and learned more on his multiple trips to the Mid-East.

Scott's numerous performances include:

  • Lincoln Center-Damarosch Park,
  • Ricky Lee Jones at Irving Plaza in New York City, ("Scott Wilson and the Arabian Nights" were the opening act)
  • The Paradise Club in Boston
  • Theatre for The Living Arts in Philadelphia 
Scott is pictured on "Efendi" with his unique Baglama Hydra, which is the unique triple necked instrument he invented that combines the Saz, Oud, and Bouzouki into one instrument - enabling him to play all three at the same time during his unique performances.

Scott's quest is to make Mid-East music more accessible to American audiences, through performances and concerts with his Baglama Hydra, playing the most exciting selections from Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Armenia, and Israel.

Musicians appearing on the CD include: 

  • George Stathos on Clarinet,
  • Raquy Danziger on Dumbek and percussion,
  • Mal Stein on Dumbek/percussion,
  • Souren Baronian on G Clarinet,
  • Jim Nordstrom on Bass,
  • Cheryl Prashker on Dumbek and percussion, and
  • Alan "Rip" Wilson on Dumbek and Piano

His famous mom, Serena, is a world class dancer, originator of the Serena technique of Belly dance, and founder of one of America's most prestigious schools of Belly dance. She is pictured on the cover of "Efendi."

This CD is also an interactive production containing movie and dance class clips for Mac or PC, featuring Scott playing the Baglama Hydra, Serena in a nightclub performance, and a performance by Sahara.  These movie clips are a priceless documentary providing a rare opportunity to see Serena in performance at a New York nightclub; her dance is reminiscent of the nightclub shows in Egypt, Turkey, and documentary black and white performances of famous Egyptian dancers in the 40s and 50s.

There are two Belly dance routines on this CD:
Belly Dance Routine #1 begins with

1. "Hedi Lou" is an Arabic 4/4/ beledi featuring George Stathos on Clarinet, Raquy Danziger on Dumbek, and  Scott Wilson doing vocals, oud, kanun, and bass.  "Hedi Lou" is a melodic beledi of moderate tempo that would be good for teaching dancers the art of performing with beledy rhythm, incorporating the flowing movement and accents that should accompany the clarinet solo.  Next is an oud taxim by Scott that transitions to full band with vocals.  This piece may provide teachers an excellent opportunity to teach performance elements that could end with  a nice spin and pose.

2. The next piece is "Bir Dimet" a Turkish 4/4 Bolero, featuring Souren Baronian's soulful clarinet.  Dancers often use this tune for a flowing veil dance.  The vocal duet in harmony adds rare beauty and its vocalists use their voices dynamically.  Souren's clarinet solo is perfect for taxim undulations.  Scott takes a turn playing the oud and the kanun for two more taxim sections that might challenge even an expert dancer to perform undulations with layered shimmies and movements with phrasing that lilts.

3. Beginning with the dumbek, "Shiseler" is a very popular, moderately fast, 4/4 Turkish tune with a melodic and sprightly clarinet by Souren Baronian.  Teachers could possibly use this piece to teach students to listen to musical phrasing and to explain how choreography should be made to  match the phrasing (you will hear the perfect musical phrase for turns).  Then Souren plays a jazz-similar clarinet taxim, which might be used for performing layered undulations with shimmies.

4."Chifti-Telli" is the name of this next Arabic taxim piece played with the rhythm "chifetelli" that displays the typical solo and duet taxims of oud and kanun.  Scott Wilson plays a thrilling kanun solo that is capable of driving a dancer to ecstasy as she matches the dynamics of the kanun trills with her own shimmies over undulations.

5. "Aynaya Baktim" is a Turkish 4/4 that features George Strathos on clarinet with Raquy Danziger and Scott Wilson singing and playing dumbek.  "Anaya Baktim" is a nice song for traveling steps, spins, and poses.  One can envision: undulating steps and spins that finish in poses overlaid with shimmies.  This song features a very dynamic and an emotional clarinet solo that moves into an oud solo with exciting syncopated accents.  The piece finishes with a duet of clarinet and oud along with a vocal accompaniment.

6. "Arabaya" is a Turkish 9/8 tomzara featuring Souren Baronian on clarinet.  I found this Tomzara to be quite danceable with its moderate tempo.  All of the dance steps that one would normally use for a 9/8 Karshilama are contained here but are not physically taxing with this moderate pace.  "Arabaya" is a clarinet solo that challenges the dancer with a 9/8 taxim becoming intense as it transitions to a driving oud section.  The piece finishes with all musicians joining the oud then drawing into a dramatic stop.

7.  "Havada Bulut", is a slow piece in Turkish 6/8 rhythm with Souren Baronian on clarinet. The tune is melodic and gently flows along.  This would be a beautiful selection to use for a distinctive veil dance because it gives the dancer an opportunity to dance with the veil while matching the halting nature of the piece.  The selection ends with the beautiful sound of an ocean wave that fades away.

8. Belly Dance Routine #2  begins with three pieces of music: "Gezloren", "Wheyek", and Hadouni."  The 10-minute routine is lively and features a dramatic oud and drum piece as well as  a fast beledi containing a syncopated sound.  The music moves seamlessly into the second piece, "Wheyek," that works so well as a veil dance with the bolero rhythm.  The oud solo could prompt a sensual veil dance consisting of poses and undulations with the veil framing the body.  A beautiful vocal zaghareet introduces the spirited third piece "Hadouni!"  Teachers will love this piece for teaching performance skills because it is lively and has both rhythmical changes and zaghareets.  The music transitions smoothly into a taxim of oud and dumbek.

9.  A drum solo begins the last section of this Belly dance routine.  The drum solo is of moderate tempo, yet is challenging because it contains all of the usual drum solo riffs including: hagala patterns, masmoudi, ayub, beledi, finger rolls and pops.  With a drum roll flourish, the ever-popular piece "Havanagila" starts immediately and ends by slowing for a gorgeous finish.

10. "Hey Yalla" is a Turkish piece played in a bluegrass style; it includes a 5-string banjo and autoharp in addition to the oud and bass.  "Hey Yalla" is a melodic 9/8 karsilamas that is fun and light-hearted. A dance with this selection could include traveling steps and small, shimmering movements and undulations (a rare elegant performance opportunity in a karsilamas rhythm).

11. "Erev Shel Shoshanim" is a captivating 4/4 Bolero piece.  I loved the harmonious vocal duet with singers breaking into harmony!  This piece is always an excellent tune for a spinning double-veil routine.  The piece contains an oud solo of reasonable length that would allow a dancer to dance with her veil, then pose with it as a backdrop or frame for back-bends and undulations. 

12. "Aliti Mipies" is a dramatic Greek 4/4 zambekiko - a haunting, halting rhythm that begins the piece.  Raquy Danziger and Scott Wilson's vocal duet is picturesque: I could envision two men dancing side-by-side in Greek fashion line dancing.  Danse Orientale performers might perform elegant traveling steps with shimmies transitioning into spins and stops timed to match the music.

13. "Voch Me Dzaleeg" is an Armenian 10/8 piece that dancers can either perform a taxim with undulations that match the 10/8 rhythm and/or perform traveling steps with undulations and hip movements that catch this rhythm.  You can hear the down, down, up, up element of this 10/8 that is perfectly matched to a hip drop with an upper torso undulation.

14. "Oglan" is a Turkish piece in a swing style and you may want to add a 1950s swing-style to your dance movements performed with it (for example:a quick step-together-step, into two undulation steps).  The music moves into an oud solo with background trap drums and piano - then into an ending with a dramatic stop.

15. "Ashk Doluydu" is a Turkish 4/4 disco style piece with trap drum sound and keyboard.  This piece is a spiced up version of melodic folk dance music that contains riffs of an electric oud sound.  If you are looking for a different sound for a student night, this is the piece to add to make your show sizzle!

16. "Oud Taxim" is a Persian piece of solo oud by Scott Wilson.  If the dancer is looking for an extremely short taxim for a performance, this piece is only 55 seconds in length and would work well in a festival performance that imposes a seven-minute time limit.

Teachers, students, and professional dancers who appreciate Turkish, Arabic, Armenian, and Greek musical selections in one show will thoroughly enjoy this delightful production.  It offers excellent music that will bring out the best in your performance.  Its producer, Scott Wilson, grew up knowing how exciting music can make all the difference to a show-stopping performance.  I think that all dancers who discover this CD will be grateful for the opportunity it provides to extend music and performance beyond New York City.

Thank you, Scott, for capturing the live performance sound on "Efendi!"
This album is available for purchase here-
Serena's website:

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