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Must-Know Songs for Belly Dancers: “Fakkarouni”

Who, what and when?

“Fakkarouni” is yet another Oum Kalthoum classic on our list. This one was originally released in 1966 with music by Mohamed Abdel-Wahab and lyrics by Abdel-Wahab Mohamed – yes, you read that right! These are two different artists! This period of collaboration is considered to be the final phase of Oum Kalthoum’s career, a time when she began to accept some of the western musical elements in Abdel-Wahab’s compositions.

What is this song about?

“Fakkarouni” means “They Reminded Me”. The singer is reminded of a great love in her past that she has almost gotten over.  Old wounds are reopened and she pines once again for her lover who is gone.

…They injured the injury that was close to remaining a memory
They kept me awake living for tomorrow. I live for tomorrow and the day after
Oh my life, I am confused, on fire and jealous
And my desire for you, I run fleeing from my self torment….

Find the full translated lyrics here

As you can see, this is not an appropriate song choice for a happy, romantic occasion like a wedding or anniversary.  Many dancers adore this song, but save it for the stage or other public performance rather than a private party gig.

I admit to having a complicated relationship with this song. Although I completely acknowledge its classic status, it has never had much personal draw for me musically – I know, some of you are shocked! Musical taste is a very personal thing. I have warmed up to it more recently however, and challenged myself to create a choreography for my class students to this important “Must-Know Song.”

A nice version for performance

The original performed by Oum Kalthoum


September 28, 2014 1 Comment

Must Know Songs for Belly Dancers: “We Daret Al Ayam”

Who, What and When?

“We Daret Al Ayam” continues the Oum Kalthoum portion of the Must Know Songs for Belly Dancers list! This beautiful song – one of my very favorites – was composed by Mohammed Abdel Wahab and lyrics by Maamoon El Shinawi. It’s a shame Oum Kalthoum and Mohammed Abdel Wahab didn’t give up being rivals and come together earlier in their careers – their collaborations were really some of their finest pieces! This song was released in 1970, just 4 years before Oum Kalthoum’s death.

What is this song about?

“We Daret Al Ayam” (sometimes written “We Maret Al Ayam”) means “The Days Gone By”.  This is a love song, but one of reconciliation. She and her lover had an argument and have estranged, but now he has come back and she’s forgotten what it was about and is ready to start over with him.

He met me with longing in his eyes
He said hi
He said hi and took my handFind
And whispered to me saying “I was wrong”
Why did I forget the time we were apart
Where are my tears that did not sleep at night
With a smile from his eyes he made me forget them
A state of agony, the sweetest agony….

… from my happiness, from my happiness I was lost
And I found myself with you, living with you in a new spring
There’s nothing like this, nothing like this
Nothing like an unending love
A love, a love, a love reborn

Find more translated lyrics here

Just as I always mention that the recorded versions of Oum Kalthoum’s songs arranged for dance are not complete, I have seen from the many online translations that not all of there are complete either, but are selected sections of the full work. Just the same, you can understand the mood and meaning of the song from them. Listen to many versions, and especially the full original recording so you are familiar with all the sections of the music in case you ever encounter them in a performance situation.

Musically, I think this song is just a delight to dance to. It really gives you the chance to express diverse emotions. The version I love to use drifts in delicately and develops a romantic waltz feel. (Remember that Abdel Wahab was fond of experimenting with Western musical elements.) This particular version has a female vocalist and I think that really adds to the song’s charm for me. The musical phrasing of her voice are set off nicely with musical accents that I find very inviting to pick up in improvisation.

The song drops into an earthier but joyful section that alternates between Saidi rhythm and Wahda Kabira that gives it an emotional gutsiness. The bright violin accents in this passage are a bright contrast and more opportunity to dig in dance-wise. The song (this version at least) winds up to a strong ending that feels like it has conviction to me.  Yes, I really do love it!

My favorite recorded version for performance

The original performed by Oum Kalthoum

September 21, 2014 1 Comment

Must Know Songs for Belly Dancers: “Lessa Fakir”

Who, what and when?

“Lessa Fakir” is yet another Oum Kalthoum classic. (I promise, there are songs by other artists on this list -stick with us! ) The music for “Lessa Fakir” was written by Riad-Al-Sonbati, and the lyrics by Abdel Fattah Mustafa. It was first released in 1973, which was very late in her career.

What is the song about?

“Lessa Fakir” means “Do You Remember?”. Thematically, this song is very different from the others we have looked at so far in this series. This is not about the wonderment of being in love or longing for a lover. This is the song of a mature woman who has come through heartbreak and now sees her ex’s games clearly. I remember when I first read this passage of the translation years ago – it really hit home.

I have decided to inquire about the meaning of all of my doubts and fears
While you were enjoying yourself seeing me worried and confused
You referred to my dark, sorrowing nights thinking of you as a game

Tell me, now you know the end. What do you want from me?
Have you come longing for my love, or my tears and suffering?

You can find the full lyrics in both Arabic and English here.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty melody. If this is a “love song”, it’s a song of a woman who loved herself enough to get on with her life and not be dragged back into a bad relationship. This is wonderful and powerful emotional fuel to bring to a deep bellydance performance, but save it for the stage or other occasion – not your client’s anniversary party – especially if they are Middle Eastern!

As always, make sure you familiarize yourself with all parts of the original song. The versions arranged for bellydance compilation CDs are not complete. In a live music situation, you are bound to encounter other sections of these classics that aren’t on your CDs!

My favorite recorded version for performance

The original version sung by Oum Kalthoum

September 15, 2014 1 Comment

Must-Know Songs for Belly Dancers: “Lylet Hob”

Who What and When?

“Lylet Hob” means “Night of Love”. This beautiful song was released in 1973, sung by Oum Kalthoum (who really does dominate this list!), composed by Mohammed Abdel Wahab and has lyrics by Ahmad Shafiq Kamel. This is the same artistic team trio going for a repeat of the smashing success of “Enta Omri”.

What is this song about?

“Lylet Hob” is happy love song. The singer’s lover is late to meet her and she is anxious to spend the night together. The happy anticipation of romance makes this a perfect song for a wedding event, or even an anniversary. Even if your audience doesn’t know what it is about, you should and dancing with a solid emotional connection to your music brings a deeper level of engagement to your performance.

Musically, I feel this song, in the abbreviated form found on most bellydance CDs, is one of the most approachable for newer dancers. Don’t take this to mean it is too simplistic for the experienced dancer however. Its clear phrasing and repeating structure are nice features for those working on improvisational dance skills. The main melody that occurs at the beginning and is reprised as the end convey the feeling of happy excitement without being frantic.

As I have mentioned about other songs on this list, the original is quite long and has many parts. A recorded version or a band playing for you will most likely only include select sections. Smart dancers are prepared dancers – be familiar with the whole song. You never know when you’ll need it!

You can find the full translation of the song paired line by line with the transliteration here.   This will help you determine which is being said in each part of the song. (This is the best translation I found and the site requested it be linked rather than copied.)

My favorite recorded version of “Lylet Hob” for performance

A performance of the original “Lylet Hob” by Oum Kalthoum

This is part 1 of 5. Check the YouTube side bar for additional sections of this very long and beautiful song.

Do you think about what a song is about when you are dancing to it to make an emotional connection? If you do, how do you feel that affects your performance? Tell us in the comments below…

September 8, 2014 1 Comment

Must-Know Songs for Belly Dancers: “Enta Omri”

We’re moving along to the second song in the Must-Know Song List….

Who, What and When?

“Enta Omri” is one of the most well-known and beloved songs of Oum Kalthoum’s repertoire for both Arab audiences and bellydancers alike. The title means “You Are My Life.” This gem of a song was composed in 1965 by Mohammed Abdel Wahab and has lyrics by Ahman Shafiq Kamel. What is really remarkable about this song – aside from it’s stunningly beautiful music – is that was a momentous artistic collaboration that happened largely at the urging of then president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Prior to this collaboration,  Kalthoum and Wahab were primarily competitors on the Arab music scene, and they did not see eye to eye stylistically. Kalthoum was a traditionalist in musical style and Wahab was interested in experimenting with Western musical concepts and instruments to bring fresh ideas to the traditional style. The result of this cooperation was clearly a success – both then and through the years since.

My favorite recorded version of “Enta Omri” for performance.

What is the song about?

“Enta Omri” is the poster child of Arabic  love songs. It is about the wonder of seeing life through new eyes when true love comes comes along. Musically, it starts out delicately and moves through several melodic sections and a lovely taqsim (read my personal story below)  before ending with a rapturously joyful  ending.

Because of it’s romantic theme and strong associations, this is a perfect choice for an Arab wedding or anniversary as part of a larger show. I find it lovely for veil work if you aren’t going with an Egyptian style entrance.

As with many Oum Kalthoum classics, be aware that the recorded versions you come across will most likely only be selected sections. I advise dancers to become familiar with the whole song so that you aren’t taken by surprise in a live music setting when you request this song.

The translated lyrics:

Your eyes took me back
To my days that are gone
They taught me to regret
the past and its wounds.

Whatever I saw
Before my eyes saw you was a wasted life.
How could they consider that part of my life?

You are my life that starts its dawn with your light.

How much of my life before you was lost
It is a wasted past, my love.

My heart never saw happiness before you
My heart never saw anything in life other
than the taste of pain and suffering.

I started only now to love my life
And started to worry that my life would run away from me.

Every happiness I was longing for before you
My dreams they found it in the light of your eyes.

Oh my heart’s life .. You are more precious than my life
Why I didn’t meet your love a long time ago?

Whatever I saw
Before my eyes saw you was a wasted life.
How could they consider that part of my life?

You are my life that starts its dawn with your light.

The beautiful nights
And the yearning and the great love
From a long time ago
The heart is holding for you.

Taste the love with me
Bit by bit
From the kindness of my heart
That is longing for the kindness of your heart.

Bring your eyes close so that my eyes can get lost
In the life of your eyes.
Bring your hands so that
my hands will rest in the touch of your hands.

My love, come
And enough.
What we missed is not little,
Oh love of my soul.

Whatever I saw
Before my eyes saw you was a wasted life.
How could they consider that part of my life?

You are my life that starts its dawn with your light.

You are more precious than my days.
You are more beautiful than my dreams,
Take me to your sweetness-
Take me away from the universe

Far away, far away.
I and you
Far away, far away.

With love, our days will awaken
We spend the nights longing for each other

I reconciled with days because of you
I forgave the time because of you

With you I forgot my pains
And I forgot with you my misery.

Your eyes took me back
To my days that are gone
They taught me to regret
the past and its wounds.

Whatever I saw
Before my eyes saw you was a wasted life.
How could they consider that part of my life?

You are my life that starts its dawn with your light.

These lyrics are from Golden Arabic Lyrics where you can also find the transliteration which will help you identify what is being said in each section of your music.

Sung by the Diva Herself…

A  little personal story about “Enta Omri”…

I first came across this song on a compilation CD I borrowed from the public library when I was a brand new student in 1996. I made myself a cassette copy (wow, that makes me feel old!). After taking classes for about a year, my instructor asked me to do a solo for our student night. After six months of badgering me, I finally did  – and this was the song I chose. I had no idea who Oum Kalthoum was or of this song’s classic status. I just loved it. As such a newbie dancer, the taqsim scared me to death so I did a crude tape-to-tape edit to remove most of it. I am now horrified at the thought as I should be!  But this dance is a long and never-ending learning journey, as it should be!

September 1, 2014 1 Comment