Must-Know Bellydance Song: “Sawah”
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.