“Must-Know” Songs for Belly Dancers: The List You Asked For
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.
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….
- Alf Leyla wa Leyla – Learn more about this song
- Enta Omri – Learn more about this song
- Lylet Hob – Learn more about this song
- Lessa Fakir – Learn more about this song
- We Daret Al Ayam – Learn more about this song
- Fakarouni – Learn more about this song
- Ya Msafer Wahdek – Learn more about this song
- Habeena – Learn more about this song
- Tamr Henna – Learn more about this song
- Taht Il Shibbak – Learn more about this song
- Sawah – Learn more about this song
- Misirlou – Learn more about this song
- Shik Shak Shok
- Set El Hosen
- Harremt Ahhibak
- Nassam Alayna al Hawa
- Habibi Ya Einy
- Princess of Cairo
- Rompi Rompi
- Bir Demet Yasemin
- Istemem Babacim
- 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!