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Gilded Serpent presents...
2008 Drum, Dance, & Music Festival Raqs Taiwan
with Karim Nagi!
by Lisa Chen
All photos are courtesy of Christine Du

The first Drum, Dance & Music Festival (DDM) had grand finale on October 12, 2008 at Taipei, with an extraordinary hafla performance by both local bellydance/percussion community and special guest instructor Karim Nagi.

DDM Ė the Bridge and Platform for Arab Dancers and Musicians
DDM is organized by the leading Taiwanese female Middle East percussionists as well as bellydancer Christine Du. With her musician and dancer background, Du feels it is essential to present and promote Arab performance art not just merely as bellydance, but with a more profound and comprehensive vision from rhythms, percussion, and dance retrospective.

She wishes to find the bridge between dancers and musicians, performers and audiences while still keeping its cultural roots alive. DDM is the platform for dancers and musicians working together and exchanging their professional experiences.

With Egyptian cultural background and growing up at America, Karim Nagi possesses very versatile creative characters: he plays almost all major Arab instruments, he fuses traditional Arab music with modern techno and other musical styles, and he also dances Arab folk dance. Nagi is a great example as bridge between dance and music, east and west. He understands well about music and dance and is well renowned for his innovative, energetic and yet very inspiring teaching methods as well as his vivid stage presence. Du went to learn with Nagi in America and Egypt respectively for percussion and Arab folk dance and she invites him to be the guest instructor and special guest performer for the first DDM.††

Encountering with Live Arab Music and Dance for the First Time
DDM had tabla workshops and rhythm with movement workshops for dancers. Nagi explained the historical background of each rhythm he was going to teach first and had students sing first with the rhythm pattern. Then students learned to memorize rhythms by clapping, vocalization, and eventually with body movements Ė when rhythms connecting with body physically, rhythms naturally become part of body memory. This could also prevent students from speeding beats. Many workshop attendees experienced live drumming and Arab rhythms directly at first time. They were very excited and inspired by Nagiís creative and instructional teaching.

Drummer meets with drummer: Karim Nagi with young Taiwanese drummer Eason Lin of Al Maha Middle East Ensemble at Tabla Workshop, October 9, 2008, Taipei

Most of DDM event/workshops were held at Taipei, where major bellydance and Middle East performance art resources gathered, and Fongzi Bellydance at Taichung invited Nagi to give troupe members internal training on rhythm/movement and basic finger cymbal techniques. It is rapidly increasing demand from middle/southern Taiwan to have more Arab/MED art resources as bellydance grows more popular around Taiwan.

Great Finale! - DDM Hafla Night
The first DDM Hafla Night was held at the auditorium of Ming-sheng Community Center on the evening of October 12, 2008. Diplomatic envoys from several Arab cultural areas and Taipei parliament member Mr. Shih-cheng Wu came for the performance. Du invites several local major troupes and percussion/rhythmic groups to present a three-session hafla to the local audiences. The three sessions were named as Halla, Shadia and Hodia, Tunisian terms for entrance dance, joyful dance and enjoyment. This is how Du and her troupe Al Maha Middle East Ensemble vision DDM and this is the message that all participants for the hafla wish to deliver to the audience as well.

Al Maha performed several experimental pieces including ATS with Chi Drum and Japanese flute, Tabla dialoguing with tap dance, and an outstanding fan duet with live percussion performance. This is very few and exceptional to the local bellydance community as well as local audience since we donít have much resources and musicians available for live Arab percussion.

Other than Taipei-based troupes Arabesque Troupe and DanceDivas, Isis Bellydance Company from Taoyuan, Fongzi Bellydance Company from Taichung and Magic Wonderland Arabe Dance & Bellydance Company from Kaohsiung also participated to show their support for DDM.

As guest performer, Karim Nagi also presents three sessions of performance: percussion, Arab folk dance (Dabka & Tahteeb) and turbo tabla. The audience and dancers at back stage as well, were awed by his amazing stage performance and percussion techniques. Without much surprise, the audience was not very contented and they wanted more of Nagiís performance. Right after his third performance piece Turbo Tabla, the audience shouted for encore. Nagi thus had encore piece with several local bellydancers to demonstrate how percussion could work well with dancers.

Audience was very impressed with the organizer Duís well-preparation. Overall, they love the performance very much for the flawless program and rich contents. They are very impressive with Nagiís live percussion performance as well as his vivid Arab folk dances. Even though the audience may not know the context or meaning behind each movement of the Tahteeb (stick dance), they know it is story-telling and just simply enjoy it for the joy and vitality of dance. For dancers and percussionists who participated in this hafla night, they learned more from Nagiís live performance and gained more exposure to the public audience. This is a wonderful win-win finale and we definitely look forward to another DDM in 2010.

Al Maha Middle East Drum & Dance Ensemble performed American Tribal Style with Japanese fusion costume and live Chi drum

Christine Du (center), leading female drummers and organizer of DDM

Dancers learn Middle Eastern dance rhythms and movement with Karim Nagi
October 10, 2008, Taipei

Fongzi Bellydance Company from Taichung

Gina Chen, director of Magic Wonderland Arabe Dance & Bellydance Company, from Kaohsiung, South Taiwan

Jane Chung, director of DanceDivas performed cymbals and drum solo

Karim and Christine,
Grand Finale of DDM

Karim Nagi and Fongzi Bellydance Company, with troupe director Vanessa Wung (center with black top), October 11, 2008, Taichung

Tabla Workshop with Karim Nagi, October 7, 2008, Taipei


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