Oud, Darbuka, doumbek: I must. Have. More.
April 29, 2021 3:59 AM   Subscribe

Based on an experience of seeing belly dancers*, I was working on a fiction piece, so I had to look up the music and really listen and found I loved it. Pretty sure it's not called 'belly dancing music' (although if you want to find what I'm talking about, that is the search term that works) and also that I won't be able to find it on Pandora.

Here and here are examples but there are many more. How can I correctly search for and name this? I know there is a long history, different traditions among nations, and that I'm probably being ignorant by Googling for 'belly dancing music' but don't know what to look for. So far I've had luck searching on the instruments found on the 'belly dancing' wikipedia entry and finding people playing on video, but that isn't the kind of full-on way I'd like to experience it. I would just like to have it on.

We have Sonos + Pandora + other services scotch taped together.

Is there an internet channel I can look for? A radio show? A classical group of artists? Or should I be looking for the instruments themselves. Is there an oud/darbuka channel? Better search terms?

*I don't mean to be insensitive by making 'belly dancing' carry the weight of a hundred meanings, histories, and cultural conditions -- it's the only term I have for it and just on a practical level, it works for internet searches.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Whenever you have a question like this, about a culture, find out where in the world the practice exists, and look up the music of that country. I bet you'd get more targeted results that way.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:03 AM on April 29, 2021

I used to be a hobby dancer and I found this website useful while I was taking classes.


I recall dancing to Arabic pop songs in class besides more traditional music like drum solos so maybe search for Arabic songs. As someone outside the culture who doesn't understand the language, I can't really tell you much about them though.
posted by whitelotus at 5:05 AM on April 29, 2021

You might enjoy the music of the late Alan Shavarsh (Gardner) Bardezbanian Ensemble.
posted by theora55 at 6:52 AM on April 29, 2021

Best answer: Man. I love Middle Eastern and North African music (and I have made very poor attempts at incorporating it into my own sound). I'm trying to work out where to start.

Okay. First off the rhythms in "belly dance music" - Saidi, Baladi, Fallahi etc. form the basis of all middle eastern music. They are staples. Every pop song you hear will have them. So basically, almost all music can be 'belly dance music'. Different rhythms belong to different regions and some belong to North Africa also. If you want to learn the specific rhythms, have a look here and here but especially here (this is an insanely good resource, once of the first on the internet).

If you just want to enjoy listening to very pared down music where the darbuka is prominent (based on your links) then I would go *back in time* and look at Mohammed El-Bakkar. He has a ton of albums. You might also enjoy John Berberian.

I personally love Dabke. That's traditional folk music (line dancing too really) from Lebanon, Syria and Palestine (i'm sure i've missed someone out - sorry) but people do belly dance to it because of the rhythm - unless it's too fast (see Omar Souleyman below). I think Bjork even dabbled with it on one of her albums.

So taking all of that into account - if you are okay with just pop music - I recommend:

Fares Karam
Najwa Karam
Melhem Barakat

George Wassouf
Ali el Deek
Omar Souleyman (I think everyone knows him as he has an audience in the US/UK)

Farid El Atrache

Amr Diab

I need to start listening to more female artists...

In any case, if you like the pop music or classical or whatever then I can add way more examples especially something more modern. Let me know here or drop me a private message.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 9:46 AM on April 29, 2021 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Jordan!!!!! I missed out Jordan!!! They have bagpipes too!

Omar Al-Abdallet. I have no idea what is going on in this clip but he is the only Jordanian singer I know!

Last one:

Saudi Arabia
Mohamed Abdu. Again, an odd clip. This time in terms of camera angles... but he has one of my favourite voices.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 10:03 AM on April 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

One of my best friends was a professional belly dancer, and although not Middle Eastern, she studied the classical forms with those who were. She was a stunningly beautiful and talented, passionate dancer. RIP Krisha. You dance on in the sky.

Based on some of the musicians who played for her, I would add Armenian and Greek to the countries mentioned already that have that kind of music. It is truly stirring and lovely.
posted by mermayd at 10:59 AM on April 29, 2021

Searching for "Belly Dance Drum Solo" in Spotify yields lots of good drum-only and drum-focused albums and playlists.

- Egyptian Drum Passion: Belly Dance Drum Solos
- Belly Dance Drum Solos!
- The Rhythm of Cairo: Drum Solos for Belly Dance
...and a bunch more.
posted by burntflowers at 12:39 PM on April 29, 2021

Response by poster: ihaveyourfoot, thank you so much for that terminology and all of that information and context.

I'm a shit dancer and have no musical skills or knowledge so I'm not too great at describing, but:

The examples in the videos I posted were what caught me initially...I got the sense they were improvising so I'm not sure there's a song there or a specific lineage. The shop that makes those videos and sells the instruments says they are 'located in the middle east'. There are videos where the oud is incorporated too, and a woodwind instrument.

The goblet drum (term I gleaned from wikipedia) is a big part of what I like.

I'm not interested in modern/pop/electronic (meaning prefer acoustic instrumentation) versions, and I'm not nuts about vocals - it kind of takes away from what I'm responding to which is the instruments and especially those drums, though I also like them interspersed with the oud or ney.

I looked at that awesome page you linked to and identified these as favorites:

Sama‘i Thaqil

If you just want to enjoy listening to very pared down music where the darbuka is prominent (based on your links) then I would go *back in time* and look at Mohammed El-Bakkar . He has a ton of albums. You might also enjoy John Berberian .

Wanting the darbuka prominent is exactly right. Mohammed El-Bakkar seems like what I like, though I just listened to brief snippets.

Is there any blanket search term that you think would be good? Is it Egyptian folk music? I don't want to oversimplify but also don't want to cast too wide a net and it is a super-overwhelming musical tradition.

To be clear at this point it has nothing to do with research on belly dancing -- I just found it, heard it, and really liked it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:50 PM on April 29, 2021

Best answer: Try takht. That’s one of the names for ensembles in Egypt.

Common instruments, other than the oud and the ney are:

violin (tuned differently than in the west, and often doubled with an octaver)
dumbek/darbukka/tabla + other names

There’s also a cool double flute in the region called a mijwiz.

Another search term is maqam, which is the mode the piece is in. It’s more structured than just a set of pitches, but less structured than a fully set composition.

I know that the OP mentioned no vocals or pop, but just in case anyone else is reading this and interested, I’ve been loooving Maryam Saleh’s voice, both in her solo work and with the Egyptian indie supergroup Lekhfa.
posted by umbú at 5:57 PM on April 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

On YouTube there are some 'electronic' music selections that may also appeal to you, such as this one from Sahalé (YouTube will then provide some recommendations next to it). Also 'desert blues' music by people like Majid Bekkas (one of my favorites here) often have those beats and may include the oud.

Maybe not as traditional, but still in the same vein to my inexpert ear.
posted by TimHare at 11:11 AM on April 30, 2021

Response by poster: You guys are awesome.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:30 PM on April 30, 2021

Best answer: Sorry, I made an error. This is the Majid Bekkas tune I meant to post as an example.
posted by TimHare at 8:52 PM on May 1, 2021

Response by poster: If anyone happens to find a traditional accoustic-centric baladi channel streaming from somewhere on this planet, please let me know! In the meantime I'll look for artists whose music I can buy/download.

We have music on all day on Sonos and go between our local friendly alt channel and Indian music and 70's hits and smooth jazz (help me) and others all day, so it goes through every room in the house via Sonos based on what the family mood is and I'm finding this music perfect for writing and working and want to get a stream added to one of our Favorites. And it doesn't annoy any other family members which is one of the key items to making it to 'Sonos favorites'.

We have Apple music, Pandora, and some radio streaming set ups. We can also set up to pull from our own iTunes libraries, though that requires a bit more curation and intervention than I necessarily want.

Kinda just enjoying passively experiencing it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:52 AM on May 2, 2021

ooooooooh I'm just now reading through this thread and I'm so excited to share some music/artists I grew up listening to/discovered later in life. I've been playing North African music with a small group online (with my clarinet) and it's been so refreshing. Favoriting this and will come back to it with some of my favorite Iranian/Turkish/Arabic reccs.
posted by travelingthyme at 9:59 AM on May 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

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