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Arabic Rhythms used in Belly Dancing

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Arabic rhythms used in belly dancing, have helped me a lot as a belly dancer. You do not need to be able to play drums or be an expert on Arabic or Egyptian rhythms, but understanding the rhythms will help you a lot in creating belly dance choreographies, improvising and also enjoying more dancing in general. The Arabic rhythms used in belly dance are many, I highlight here only some of them, most of which Egyptian, the ones I have come across more often during my years of studying Arabic dance.

Arabic rhythms are a succession of ‘doms’ and ‘taks’. Dom is a bass beat, whereas tak is the treble, a sharper sound; in tablah (a goblet drum also called darbuka or dumbelek in Turkish), for example, the dom is obtained by striking the middle of the skin and the tak by striking the rim of the drum.

Doms are usually more suited for grounded downwards movements, such as hip drops, while taks are better accompanied by hip lifts.

Usually Egyptian rhythms start with a dom, also they have more doms in them than for example Turkish rhythms and require more grounded movements, such as hip drops. Turkish rhythms consist of fewer doms and more taks than Egyptian rhythms and therefore Turkish belly dance has more hip lifts.

Every rhythm, which is a pattern of beats and accent, can then be played at different speeds or tempo, such as, for example, 4/4, 2/4 or 8/4.

Baladi

There are many baladi rhythms, but the most common is the following:

  • Dom-dom tak-a-tak.
  • Dom tak-a-tak.

Maqsoum

  • Dom-dom tak dom tak

Saidi

The Saidi rhythm comes from upper Egypt and is used to perform a martial art dance called Tahteeb and
also for the Arab stallions dance. It is very grounded and its particular sequence of doms and taks make
the dancer’s weight shift quite rapidly. Women belly dancers use this rhythm especially when dancing
with a stick, almost to imitate the martial stance of male dancers. The rhythm goes: Dom-tak, dom-dom tak

Malfuf

This is a fast rhythm, with a gliding feeling, often used by belly dancers to make an entry and it goes:
Dom, tak-tak, dom, tak-tak

Zaar

This rhytm is used to perform trance dances and it goes: Dom, a-tak-a, dom, a-tak-a

Masmoudi

  • Dom-dom tak-dom tak-tak

This group of doms and taks can be repeated two or three times and there are also other ways of playing this rhythm, but this is one of the most common.

Fallahi

The farmers of Egypt created Fallahi, which is a fast and repetitive rhythm. It can be played in various ways, but the basic structure is: Dom-tak-tak, dom-tak

Chiftitelli or Chiftetelli

This rhythm is used in Turkish and Greek belly dance; it is slow and sensual and it suggests grounded and
circular moves. It goes:

  • Dom-tak-tak, tak-tak
  • Dom-dom tak

As a reference for studying and understanding a bit more about Arabic Rhythms I recommend Hossam Ramzy’s
CD ‘Rhythms of the Nile’. This is an instructional double CD, where Hossam Ramzy explains the most common Egyptian rhythms that a belly dancer can come across. All the rhythms are clearly explained and played.

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