Must-Know Bellydance Song: “Sawah”

March 8, 2015 2 Comments

Who, What and When?

The original version of “Sawah” was recorded by Abdel Halim Hafez, also known as “The dark-skinned nightingale”. The lyrics were written by Mohammed Hamza and the music composed by Baligh Hamdy. It was released somewhere between 1965 and 1969 as it is included in an anthology of those years – the exact year is surprisingly hard to find.


What is “Sawah” about?

“Sawah” means a wanderer or vagabond. This melancholy and romantic song is about a person on the road, longing for their lover far away.

Vagabond, what has happened to me
What has happened to me? Wandering.

And years, years and I´m melting in longiness and tenderness
And for years, For years I’ve fallen in love with him.*
I want to know just where is his (her) road
I just want to know which path leads to him

You can find the full translation here.

*The use of “him” rather than “her” in reference to romantic interests in song lyrics is often explained as a matter of politeness or propriety. When I called one of my friends, a musician Arab-born and raised “over there”,  out of curiosity to ask if female singers would do the same, I got a surprising explanation. He said that using “he/him” instead of “she/her” implies deep emotion, intimacy or familiarity with the other person in a way that only someone that close can get away with.  I have never heard this explanation before and I intend to investigate further.

About dancing to “Sawah”…

Musically, “Sawah” is what I’d call an “even-tempered” song. It does not have lots of tempo changes or robust accents, although some versions do have a bit more than others.  Still, I have never found it uninspiring to dance to – especially for an Arab audience! They LOVE this song and you can practically bet your tips that they will be singing along with the chorus and waving their napkins in the air to the music.

My favorite recorded version for performance is on this CD.

The original version…

Mahin (121 Posts)

Professional instructor and performer of Middle Eastern belly dance, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and author or the “Daily Bellydance Quickies”. Belly Dance Artrepreneur, Workshop instructor, performer, event producer, and bellydance writer.

  1. Beatrice Curtis
    March 13, 2015 at 5:20 am

    It doesn’t seem to be limited to song lyrics. My Egyptian friend (who’s lived in the UK for years) says she finds that whole calling the girl “he” or “him” thing VERY romantic and sexy, when her (Egyptian) boyfriend does it. I can’t see the appeal myself!

    1. Mahin
      March 13, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      YES! My friend mentioned this in reference to calling to a woman on the street too. (It seemed tangential to the topic so I didn’t mention it.) I think this is very strange too. Isn’t it curious how the explanation given on sites is always formality and politeness? I wonder if that was just an assumption on someone’s part that just got passed around. I’m so glad I picked up the phone and asked my friend!


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