ad 4 Fahtiem



Gilded Serpent presents...
Professional Presence: Stories and Advice from 30 Years Under the Hip Belt and Counting...
What is a Set List?

by Aszmara

If you have ever seen a guitarist in a live performance, you may have noticed a piece of paper taped to his guitar.  That paper contains the numbers he's planning on playing that evening.  Sometimes they are in playing order arranged for mixing up tempos and feelings and sometimes it's a list of songs that are possible to be played that evening.  A Set List can be a cheat sheet to prompt song memory or an arrangement of the evenings program.

Talking to musicians about the show you are about to perform together is the start of your collaboration as artists. 

Finding what makes everyone happy is a little like having a dinner party with a person on a diet, a vegan, and meat & potato type guy.  It takes planning, discussion and knowledge to put together a good show.

When making the set list for your show, know what you want but have alternatives in case they do not know the songs.  Sing a few bars or if you are uncomfortable humming, use your handy dandy Ipod, CD or tape player.  Please do not ask for "Track 3 on Belly Dance Superstars Volume 4."  Musicians work with music differently than we do by memorizing exact notes, the mode it's played in, the rhythm and sometimes the words.  Then they practice it for the skill to be in their fingers and for the heart of the piece so they can play taxims.  Although I still know what cut follows what from albums that I've taught to years ago, I would not expect a musician to remember the whole album and to get to that one song in his memory.

Some musicians hate to hear, "play whatever you want" - they need an idea of what you like.  It’s like an undecided couple ; "so, what do you want to do, I don't know, what do you want to do ...."  

Ask them what they like to play for dancers.  They will play well what they know well; therefore, you will all look good as long as you can dance to that music! 

If you cannot find songs that both of you know, decide on rhythms and tempos and be quick with your ears to hear what they are playing.

Photo by Jeffrey Mischke. Aszmara dances to the music of Faruk on nay and Haig on oud

Uhuru Fesitval in Switzerland in 1994, Photo by author

Haig and Souren

Omar Faruk Tekbilek was leading the band in Orlando, Florida for Baladi Boutique's "Festival of the Nile" event in 2000.  The set list of music choices was sent to the band organizer for the stage show and, as I like to perform aspects of what I teach at workshops, I requested a beautiful song which inspired the veiled images story choreography taught that day to the song "Istanbul" from Faruk's newly released CD, "One Truth".  All the musicians had been sent the set list in advance and, at rehearsal, we went over the list discussing length and transitions of each part of the show.  As "Istanbul" is a long song with many parts, we arranged and wrote in musician shorthand the order of sections to play with how many repetitions, so that it made musical sense and would fit nicely for the veil section of the show.  During the performance, the careful arrangement of the song got confused but it all worked out.  Communication between the musicians and myself saved us all from looking or sounding confused and finally finding our way to the end. 

DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  Know how the song goes so even if it gets mixed up you can dance with confidence and a smile!

Do Not Expect it to Sound like the Recording
You asked for "Amar 14" and, miracle of miracles, they know it!  But it doesn't sound anything like the CD because they don't have the same instruments.  A good musician can make a fully orchestrated piece sound fuller, but don't expect lush strings if there is no violin!

Old Show Formats were Maqsoum, Rhumba, Beledi, Chiftitelli, Maqsoum, Drum Solo, 2/4 or Kashlima.  The show is paced so that everything doesn't sound the same to the audience and different dance skills are highlighted to create drama on stage.  If the piece you have chosen has a taxim built into it, then you have the first three parts covered (such as Leylet Hob). Know your rhythms: is it a Caravan or Chiftitelli, Saidi or Beledi, Maqsoum or Hagalla.  In the last article, we discussed the Show Music Check lis for the Set List with song order, instrument taxim choices and so on.  If you are comfortable with the band members, do not be afraid to cue the band or change your choices in the middle of a show - make sure all the musicians know that you've changed the Beledi to a Saidi.

Don't know the name of a song? Don't worry - chances are the musicians don't either! 

The First Uhuru World Music Festival, Switzerland
Haig Manoukian, Souren Baronian & I were teaching a weeklong workshop at the First Uhuru World Music Festival on the Weisenstein Mountain in Solothurn, Switzerland.  Our escapades at this summer of ‘94 inaugural Uhuru Fest is a full chapter in my life story; put three non-camping New Yorkers on top of a Swiss mountain, have them live in a small teepee where they sleep head to foot in a circle, add some strange weather activity, stir in lots of bad macrobiotic food, djembes and diddgereedoos and what comes out are three artists' laughing testament to friendship and devotion to our art.  But for now, just a quick peek into the Festival.

It was held on a mountain top whose intense blue of the sky, flowing white clouds and fertile green of the meadows makes you first hold your breath in disbelief at such beauty and then a deep inhale to bring that beauty into your soul.  Upon arriving on top of the mountain, the magnificent landscape was dotted with teepee's and large canvas tents.  The largest tent housed the macrobiotic cafeteria, a huge round tent beautifully decorated with hangings from India and the Middle East for meetings and the evening performances, plus many teepees and pavilion tents of various sizes creating an inviting aura of creativity.

We taught in tents which were spread out across the festival site; I in a medium sized tent with dozens of welcome mat sized carpets spread over the grass for the dance classes,

Souren in a large tent with bales of hay for the drummers to sit upon, and Haig in a small tent with folding chairs for the ensemble musicians.  At the end of the festival, all of our students would perform together; Haig would teach a song to his ensemble to which my classes would dance and Souren's drummers would provide the rhythm.

After our first day with the students, we discussed possible songs for their upcoming performance.  Sitting around in one of the teepees, Haig played a song he felt would work well with his students.  We all agreed it was a good choice and nodding his head as he tried to remember where he heard the song before, Souren said, "Nice piece."  Haig replied, "It should be, you wrote it!"


Sammy Deb and author
Eddie The Sheik Kochak and The Darvish Belly-Thon for Muscular Dystrophy
In the first year of my dance life, the famous Darvish Night Club in Greenwich Village had a yearly Belly-Thon which raised money for Muscular Dystrophy.  It was not only an opportunity for dancers to do something good for the community at large but a chance to get on the stage at Darvish and dance to live music played by some of the best musicians in New York.  Emcee and Band Leader was the wonderful Eddie "The Sheik" Kochak.  His Amer-Arab sound combining traditional Arabic and Western instruments created music that was fun and exciting to dance to as well as ease of connecting with the music for we baby dancers.  Our teachers had recommended Eddie's albums and we had them all, memorizing every song and each note that was played.

For the Muscular Dystrophy Belly-Thon, I and two friends, Sammy & Caroline, volunteered our talents and prepared for months making the choreography and honing our skills to create a lovely veil trio to "The Sensuous Chifti," side one, track two from Eddie ‘The Sheik' Kochak's "Strictly Bellydancing Volume 2." 

We were very excited to be dancing with the legendary Eddie The Sheik; never before had we met anyone so famous, whose albums we purchased with joy of musical discovery and whose smiling face, surrounded by beautiful dance stars of New York, graced every album cover.

Eddie Kochak album #2We arrived at the club, went down the narrow stairway with our dance bags and were met by the beautiful sound of music and people having fun.  After signing in for our dance slot and depositing our bags in the dressing room, we stared with open mouths at the wonderful dancing and music.  There's Eddie The Shiek!  Big as Life!  He's singing his song "Shish-Ka-Bob" and the audience is roaring with laughter.  Trembling with nerves, we thought, soon we would be on that stage!

Eddie came off the stage and disappeared into the teeming crowd.  Finally, we spotted him.  Nervously, we three approached Eddie and with soft voices in the noisy nightclub requested, "Please, would you play from Strictly Belly Dance volume 2, side one, track two, ‘The Sensuous Chift'."  The club was filled with noisy patrons enjoying themselves, a dancer was performing on stage, music was blaring and our shy voices didn't make it to Eddie, so with a smile he cupped his hand around his ear and shouted, "What!?"  We again asked for our song,

Eddie looked at us very sincerely and still with his charming smile asked, "How does that go?"  Shocked that he didn't know his own composition, we pulled it together enough to sing it to him but the night was so confusing, that by the time we got to the stage, he had completely forgotten what we had sung. 

The song "Sensuous Chifti" is really a rhumba but because of its name we got a chiftitelli rhythm played with a melody that none of us had ever heard before.  Caroline, Sammy and I danced the best we could with music that sounded nothing at all like that which we had so long and so hard rehearsed, in a rhythm that accented differently than the choreography.  We kept eying one another throughout the dance to keep together, our minds and bodies working frantically to change the dance on stage to fit what was being played. I got so nervous, I wrapped a chair with my veil during the "sail" portion of the dance, dragged it with me for a while until I could disengage it and carry on.  Finally, dancing and laughing we just kept thinking, it is for charity after all, and there's Eddie the Sheik, large as life, smiling at us playing a song no one knows!

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
7-24-08 Professional Presence, Stories and Advice from 30 Years Under the Hip Belt and Counting... by Aszmara
The audiences’first glimpse of you is as you arrive and how they see you affects their opinion of your show. First impressions count!

12-11-08 Parveneh: Promoting Diversity Through Public Access TV, An Interview by Anniitra Ravenmoon
I had always wanted to do something with Public Access. So, the Belly dance and public access came together and “Hafla”was born! Although I have found some attitudes to be exclusive, I decided I wanted to be inclusive; so my show has featured diversity. I have presented larger, smaller, older and younger dancers (and, especially, women of color) who are often excluded here in our local area.

12-10-08 Leila Haddad & the Gypsy Musicians of Upper Egypt " In the Trail of the Ghawazee" March 2008 US Tour, by Amy Bonham
Sponsored by the World Music Institute. "These musicians come from a long tradition that could be as old as the pyramids"

12-8-08 Is Bellydance Good Exercise? by Venus (Marilee Nugent), BSc, Kinesiology, BA Art & Culture
While it is important to love and accept one’s body as it is today—and bellydance is a great way to get actively motivated as well as realize one can feel sexy and beautiful at any size—it is important to continue to move forward from that acceptance on the path of improved health and well-being.

12-3-08 My Dinner with Nadia Hamdi by Fatima Bassmah
We asked if they had any videos, photos, or costumes from Nadia's life as a dancer, but they had none. When Nadia took the hijab and gave up dancing, she destroyed all photos and videos of herself since that life was over.

12-1-08 Ask Yasmina: Evolution, Oum Kalthoum, & Cover ups by Yasmina Ramzy
A first column in a once-a-month series: GS is proud to present this passionate and knowledgeable expert in the field of Middle Eastern Dance; she is an artist, pioneer, and creator of the International Bellydance Conference of Canada.

11-26-08 Bellydancer of the Universe Competition 2008, photos by Carl Sermon
held in Long Beach, California, on February 18 & 19, 2008, produced by Tonya and Atlantis

11-20-08 Winning Bellydancer of the Universe by Mia
Puerto Rico is kind of a small island, not that we’re cut off from the world or anything, but we don’t have huge hafflas or competitions here. In fact, after about two years of classes and training we have to travel outside our country to keep up with the whirlwind of innovation that is bellydance.

11-17-08 So You Want to Dance in Cairo? by Leila
Foreign dancers who negotiate their own auditions with hotel managers usually find themselves seated at his private table in the nightclub month after month while he promises that next week he will make her an orchestra and give her an audition.


ad 4 Dhy & Karen

 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines