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Albert Rashid (right) with Farid Atrache
click for larger view
Gilded Serpent presents...
"Veiled Visions"
How Belly Dance Music
was First Brought to the United States

by Ray Rashid
intro by Amina

San Francisco’s musical Mecca is Samiramis Imports on Mission St. It is owned by Samir Khoury and is a little deli and music store. At one time and still for many of us, it was/is the only place to listen to and buy Middle Eastern music – be it traditional, classical or just in from the “homeland.” We soon discovered that Samir’s supplier was Rashid Sales in Brooklyn New York. If we wanted something we would ask Samir to order it from Rashid’s and usually within a week we would get a phone call that it had arrived.  Samir and Rashid were that fast and that good.

In the 90’s I was in New York and decided to make a pilgrimage to the one and only Rashid Sales. It was in Brooklyn near the famous Atlantic Ave where Eddie the Sheik had performed for the annual Atlantic Antic Street Festival. To me this was about the most exciting place to visit in New York. Yes, there was the Met(ropolitan Museum) with its recreation of the Temple of Dendera, but Rashid Sales! This is even more special. To my knowledge this is the birthplace of Middle Eastern music distribution in the U.S.! I went expecting what, I don’t know. A castle built of 45’s and 33’s and CD’s?

Well, Rashid Sales turned out to be in a little Middle Eastern neighborhood next to a Middle Eastern deli/bakery and was a very homey (just like Samiramis) little – yes, little store filled with records, cds and sheet music and it felt like home and very very special. Truly an experience to be in the store that supplied me with my addiction for so many decades. (They must do their mail order business from another larger location.) *

In the summer of 1970 my father, Albert Rashid, made his yearly trips to Egypt and Lebanon not only to visit friends and relatives but for the purpose of recording some good music for his store. First, he would land at Beirut Airport and be greeted by relatives and then he would check in at the graceful Inter-Contiental hotel. He would take a few days there and then travel to his main destination- Egypt.

When he arrived in Cairo he would be met by some of his musical contacts. Conductor Saleh Aahram would pick him up and drive him to his hotel. He favored the French owned Le Meridian. The very next day he would be at the Al Ahram recording studio where he would meet with the band and prepare his selections for the musicians to play. He liked the music of Farid al Atrache as well as folk music. Mostly his choices were for Atrache, as he was great at composing music for belly dancers. The band was composed of guys who performed with Abdel Halim Hafiz, and Om Kalsoum. It wasn't unusual for my father to collect some really hot musicians to record!

One time he told me about a blind accordion player who sat and made lots of jokes while they rehearsed, that musician turned out to be Ammar el Sharie. 

While he was there he had the musicians play about 12 different tunes that would equate into about 3 albums. He would also meet with Arabic film directors and distributors where he would bring the latest musical films (35mm) for theatrical use in America. At the time our family showed films at the Detroit Institute of Arts, in Michigan and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York. That was the year he purchased the film "Khally Balak min Zouzou" but then the film opened to wild acclaim and was not sent to us for over a year.

"Khally Balak min Zouzou" played to packed houses for over 50 weeks and finally the Egyptian Government stepped in and had the film removed from the Theaters citing the film was affecting new movies coming out. 

When we finally showed the film, we had to show it on two consecutive Sundays to a full house of perhaps 2000 persons each showing. It starred Suad Hosni as the daughter of famed retired dancer played none other than Tahia Cairoca. It had many wonderful songs and a great belly dance from Suad Hosni. 

Late in the 1970's a new media was introduced – videotapes – and we were on the cutting edge of this technology.

We hooked up with a TV producer from Hollywood who wanted to make Arabic videos (mostly for his elderly mother) and came to us, as he knew we owned many Arabic motion pictures.

We worked with this group and produced 12 VHS tapes – Farid al Atrache, Abdel Wahab, and others, mostly musical dramas. We hope to release this next month, in July 2007, three great musicals from the Classics of Arabic Films:

  • The first is the film from Mohammed Abdel Wahab called "Damour el Hob"(1938)
  • The second is from the famed Reda Dance Troupe "Gharam Fil Karnak" or love in the Karnak Temple (1965). This film stars Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy as well as the entire Reda dance troupe. 
  • The third and possibly the biggest is the Feature film " Saber el Tiyab. It stars Tahia Carioca and Choukookoo, a famous dancer and singer from the early 1940's. This film is over 2 hours and has at least 1 hour of songs and dances. it was made in 1947.

For the future we hope to produce more of those famous old Farid Al Atrache films with songs and dances of old.

* Ray's answer--yes at the time we had our mail order and wholesale business at our present location at 155 Court Street. We were at the Atlantic Ave location for over 50 years, and after we left there the store was vacant for almost 5 years, some people told me they went into the store and felt the spirts of a thousand people. Then 2 years ago a Ben and Jerry ice cream store opened and we thought OK that ends our famous old spot, well last week the store closed for good. and I wonder was it the sprits of Rashid Music at work again?

Ray Rashid in front of his bookstore in Brooklyn
Photo from another fine article on Mr Rashid in
Saudi Aramco World


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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
2-21-07 Veiled Visions: A Trip Down Memory Lane CD review by Amina Goodyear
The CD titled “Veiled Visions” is a re-release of music that was formerly produced on vinyl.

5-30-06 Fresh Old Sounds by Charmaine Ortega Getz
Seeking fresh sounds in belly dance music? Consider a trip back to the 1950s up to the groovy ‘70s when a new style of music was bringing the East to the West.

6-30-07 Chapter 5: Listen to the Music by Amina Goodyear
Yousef wanted us to look exotic, like we were from the Middle East, so he made us stay downstairs, look available and wear sexy, skimpy pantaloon outfits or diaphanous caftans when we were not dancing.

6-21-07 The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Weekend Two, photos by Susie Poulelis
Afro-Cuban, Chinese, Peru, Korean, Appalachian, Bolivian, Mexico, Tajikistan, Cambodian, South Indian, Tahitian

6-19-07 My DVD Shoot Adventure, A Bellyqueen & Peko Collaboration by Elisheva
I thought I had left my bad luck mantra at the airport, but I soon found that it followed me right through the studio door.

6-15-07 Seeking Sol Bloom by Kharmine
Unbeknownst to Bloom, the troupe had a hired Algerian guide, “a giant Kablye,” who had lived in London and was able to chide Bloom sternly in an accent “normally heard in an English drawing room."






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