“Must-Know” Songs for Belly Dancers: The List You Asked For

July 27, 2014 25 Comments

On my recent DBQ Road Trip tour, I was teaching my “In the Ears, Out the Hips: Improvisation Concepts and Strategies” workshop in Denver. One of the tips I start out with is to know your classics and more modern standards of belly dance music. Why? There are two reasons at least. The first is  if you are dancing to live music, you increase the odds that you’ll recognize what they may play for you (which may well be different that what you asked for!).  The second is that if you are very familiar with the classics, you are also very familiar with the structure of the music and the subtle cues that tip you off to when it’s about to change.  These structural patterns are of course different in different parts of the Middle East. Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish and Greek music are not all the same, so it’s good to cast a wide cultural net in your music listening. Your general familiarity with these patterns and transitions is what can help you navigate more comfortably while dancing to a song you are hearing for the first time.

Mahin and Scott Jeffers

Improvisational performance with violinist, Scott Jeffers.

An example I like to use, and most western-born dancers can relate to, goes like this. If I played a typical western pop song for you, you most likely could identify the pattern of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, then the bridge and probably predict another verse and chorus before the end.  You could also probably predict about where they will change from one to the next. This is only because you’ve observed and experienced it thousands of times from deliberate listening of your favorites to the background muzak in the shopping mall. The more you listen to Middle Eastern music, the more natural these patterns will feel as well.

After I shared this information and example with them, one of the dancers asked how do they know what classics they should know? Is there a list? It’s not the first time I, or most other bellydance teachers, have heard that.  It’s one of the reasons that “Must-Know” Songs is a frequent topic on the “Daily Bellydance Quickies.” Just the same, I thought I’d share a list here. It’s about time.

I’m going with 25 selections because it gives me room to cross cultures a little yet is still approachable. It could easily be 50 or 100 … but this is a good starting point for someone first approaching the bellydance repertoire. It is also wise to note that the versions of classic songs we get on CDs produced for bellydance are often only sections of the original- this is particularly true with classic Egyptian pieces by Oum Kalthoum. Use these titles as a jumping off point for your own musical exploration.

In no particular order….

  1. Alf Leyla wa Leyla – Learn more about this song
  2. Enta Omri – Learn more about this song
  3. Lylet Hob – Learn more about this song
  4. Lessa Fakir – Learn more about this song
  5. We Daret Al Ayam – Learn more about this song
  6. Fakarouni – Learn more about this song
  7. Ya Msafer  Wahdek – Learn more about this song
  8. Habeena – Learn more about this song
  9. Tamr Henna – Learn more about this song
  10. Taht Il Shibbak – Learn more about this song
  11. Sawah – Learn more about this song
  12. Misirlou – Learn more about this song
  13. Ayazein
  14. Aziza
  15. Shik Shak Shok
  16. Set El Hosen
  17. Harremt Ahhibak
  18. Nassam Alayna al Hawa
  19. Habibi Ya Einy
  20. Princess of Cairo
  21. Rompi Rompi
  22. Mastika
  23. Bir Demet Yasemin
  24. Istemem Babacim
  25. Ta Mavra Matia Sou

I know, dear readers, you are thinking, “How could she not include <insert your personal favorite here>!”  Like I said, this could easily be 50 or a 100. So add your candidates for the “must-know” bellydance song list in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Mahin (115 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. Heather Wayman
    July 28, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Mahin, Thank you for sharing your list. I would add Ana Fi Intizarak and Al Aih Biysalouni.
    FYI, the second numbers on your selections are only showing up not the full number, e.g for #12, only the “2” is visible. Website width issue?

    Thanks again and keep up the great work!
    Heather

    Reply
    1. Mahin
      July 28, 2014 at 9:05 am

      Ana Fi Intizarak – absolutely a classic, yes! I don’t recognize the second one by name – must go investigate! My ears are excited already 🙂

      Reply
  2. anna vemillion
    July 28, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Hi I would like to subscribe to your blog.

    Reply
    1. Mahin
      August 4, 2014 at 5:53 am

      Anna, you can subscribe through any RSS feed manager or you can subscribe to the “Daily Bellydance Quickies” – all blog posts will also appear there in addition to tons of other bellydance content. Follow the link in the post above. Thanks!

      Reply
  3. Kat Lebo
    July 29, 2014 at 6:18 am

    Fi Yom Wa Leyla

    Reply
  4. Sasha
    July 31, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Let me say, as a musician, that this is an EXCELLENT list.

    Reply
  5. Asenat Neferet
    August 3, 2014 at 4:49 am

    Thank You very much, you are helping me a lot on my oriental dance learning. Asenat.

    Reply
  6. Sue Baker
    August 11, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Fantastic and comprehensive list – I would add a couple of Baligh Hamdi songs ‘Maw’ood’ & ‘Gana el Hawa’ & Mohamed Abdel Wahab’s ‘Zeina’ to my personal must know songs.

    Thanks for all your sharing

    Sue

    Reply
  7. Jo
    August 25, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    What a fantastic list!!!! I was going to say Tatt Shibbak- but I just orignially missed it on my first glance over!!!

    Also super pumped to see Habibi Ya Eini on the list- it’s kind of my jam and it seems not quiet as popular as the others. 😀

    Washitini and Bint El Sultan are two others that spring to mind- but that may just be because they are favorites of mine LOL

    Reply
  8. Kim
    August 25, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    I know there are a lot of lists, but no one’s ever gone through them to explain why they’re on the list, except for anything Oum Kalthoum. I’d also appreciate knowing when it’s a snippet of something MUCH longer (as with Oum’s songs) or else it’s a song on it’s own. When I first started I didn’t realize some of what I heard could be just a very small part of a much longer composition. Thanks Mahin, we’re looking forward to having you at the Las Vegas Intensive!

    Reply
    1. Mahin
      August 27, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      Thanks, Kim! In case you didn’t see, I’m going song by song through this list over the next few months so stay tuned!

      Reply
  9. Rasha Bellydance
    August 27, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Another vote for Ana Fintizarek! Also seconding ‘Bint el Sultan’ 🙂

    Reply
  10. Rasha Bellydance
    August 27, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Oh, and Batwannes Beek! I’d actually choose that over Harramt Ahebbak as a must-know Warda song, though I’m also very fond of ‘Esmaooni’.

    Reply
    1. Mahin
      August 27, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      So many wonderful songs – this list could easily be 100! That would scare off the newbies though 😉

      Reply
  11. Sahira
    August 29, 2014 at 3:35 am

    Hi!

    What a lovely idea. I’m happy to add two of my favourites:

    “Eshta Ya Amar” (from Jalilah’s Raqs Sharqi) and the famous tabla-solo (the one with the clapping) by Kamis Henkesh from the Delta Festival-CD.

    Best regards from Germany,
    Sahira.

    Reply
  12. Shems
    September 2, 2014 at 5:16 am

    My nominations are:
    Zay el Hawa – One of my favorite sing along Abdel Halim Hafez Songs, that is also one of his most loved.

    Ya Ain Moulayiten aka Shashkin – The universally loved cane dance favorite (the Lebanese song everyone likes to do Saidi to that shows up on Turkish band’s albums is worth knowing!)

    Lama Bada Yatathana – The most popular tune with a Samaii rhythm and older than Methuselah, I think you should have at least one Samaii on the list, and if you were to pick one, it has to be this one.

    I really want to suggest at least one more Turkish classic, like Sulukule or Rumeli Karsilamasi or Bahriye Ciftetellisi, and some part of me really thinks you should have at least one “Havasi”, but it is hard picking just one! Maybe: Nihavent Oyun Havasi or Hicazkar Oyun Havasi — I can see how this is a very difficult list to put together…

    Reply
  13. Tracy
    September 22, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Mahin, you might be amused to compare to this list: http://madisonbellydance.org/articlesongstoknow.html . It’s a list I compiled from a thread on bhuz.com where dancers were nominating their “songs to know”!

    Reply
    1. Mahin
      September 25, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      So many good songs!! Yes, interesting to see the similarities and differences – thanks for sharing 🙂

      Reply
  14. Janine
    September 23, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Zeina!

    Reply
  15. ljubinka
    March 23, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Nebtedi mnein el hekaya. But it isn`t my only favourite. There`s a lot, just this one came first to my thoughts. 🙂 🙂

    Reply
    1. Mahin
      April 2, 2015 at 11:48 am

      Oh yes – I love that song too! 🙂

      Reply
  16. Tennille
    October 10, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Luxor Baladna might be a nice addition.

    This is a fabulous list and thank you so much for compiling it.

    Reply
    1. Mahin
      October 10, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      Glad you like the list 🙂

      Reply
  17. Sarah al Nour
    February 25, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Wonderful list!!!!

    Reply
  18. Boriana Dimitrova
    September 7, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Wonderful list! Thanks you! I would like to see in it ala remsh 3younha 🙂

    Reply

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