Dancing in Germany –Living the dream:

My life as a professional dancer and dance teacher

By Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan


Living the dream…what I enjoyed, learned, and understood from the experience. An invitation to enjoy an immersive experience teaching and dancing in Germany – came 41 years ago. Now all these many years later, it all seems like a dream come true – and it was. I fondly look back at the life experience with wonder and can now share it. My mentor, Bert Balladine, who was German and returned annually to teach in Germany, asked me then not to share my story – "or the market for working overseas – will be flooded with others." I write to share the challenges and lessons learned from living and working abroad as a dancer and teacher – the experience residing for an extended time in-country.


A private dance student from Germany on a work visa working in California as a translator invited me to come to teach and dance in Koln, Germany. As it happened, I was just completing my second graduate degree in business and working in the world of nonprofit health care. I thought about the reality "that I wouldn't automatically receive a salary boost just because I now have an MBA." Thus, I quit my management job and decided to take a career sabbatical and enjoy being a professional belly dancer.


When a professional dancer has a contract to fly to an international destination – they usually have a sponsor who speaks English, and they have accommodations and a planned schedule for teaching, performing, and they even take you sightseeing. By contrast, when you travel to an international destination to live and work as a teacher and dancer – you are faced with the challenges of daily living and surviving by your wits. I want to share the many challenges of working abroad: the language barrier, understanding cultural differences, knowledge of local goods and services, health maintenance, and teaching exercise and dance.  


Daily Life Challenges Living Abroad


Living the life of a professional belly dancer abroad is quite different from being a professional dancer hired to teach a weekend workshop or perform with a professional show performing abroad. What is most challenging is just living life in a foreign country when you don't speak the language. Yes, I was informed that everyone in Germany studies English through high school. Not everyone – not the Turkish musicians and singers – who were the immigrant "guest workers" in Germany. Conversing with the musicians was a choice of Turkish or German, which was impossible for me, so I communicated by humming tunes and rhythms. (Image here: M & Turkish band)


Feeling Illiterate, Not Understanding – Then Learning


Surviving on your tips and teaching income can be challenging (because I brought the wrong US-based credit cards with me, and short on cash when the German banks wouldn't honor the wire transfer of funds from the U.S.). And facing the challenges of shopping when you can't understand label information can be daunting.


I recall shopping at the grocery, pointing to different cheeses, and asking for three pieces of cheese – and I would then ask for three more slices of cheese. You see, the only numbers I knew in German was from the Lawrence Welk TV show where he would say, "Eine, Zwei, Drei" – and a "1, 2, 3" to start conducting the orchestra. I wondered what the labels indicated in terms of the type of products, product content. Even medicine type and dosage are confusing in a foreign language. Although funny now, it took a while to realize I was attempting to wash my hair with conditioner and not shampoo.


At that time, phone directories in Germany (before the Internet and Google) – only contained a listing of names, addresses and telephone numbers. It became next to impossible to do something simple – like finding a shoe repair cobbler to repair my luggage (and later without Goggle maps) finding that cobbler's shop again to retrieve my luggage.


3 Life lessons from a Scary Situation


One life-changing experience happened one night that taught me valuable lessons at the end of a long evening. At 5:30 a.m. I caught a cab for a ride home. Although quite tired after a six-show night at three restaurants, I became quite awake when I realized the cab driver was driving me into a deserted industrial area of town. My thoughts were – "oh my – this is how my life ends, and no one knows where I am." The driver stops and turns around, saying: "Riehler Strasser, Rheiler Strasser? A moment of panic then realized he was giving the universal body language signals with his shoulder shrug with arms out and palms up – so which street is it? In my limited amount of German that I had learned in a matter of days, I responded – No, not here. The other Riehler Strasser – which was on the other side of town. (Remember this was way before the Internet and Google translator).  To this day, whenever I see an abandoned industrial scene in a movie – I get chills recalling that incident.


First lesson: learn the correct pronunciation of the street on which I lived. Second lesson: When you pay a cab driver in foreign currency – start with small denomination bills, when the driver begins to smile enthusiastically, take a few bills away, when he begins to scowl – add a few more bills a generous tip. Third lesson: This man was trustworthy, and I managed to convey to him that he should be there at 5:30 a.m. every morning to pick me up at my restaurant gig. Additionally, I had the band leaders coordinate with my taxi driver, so I could hop between restaurants to do the six long shows nightly at the three restaurants. Thus, in the end, a trusting relationship resulted, and that taxi driver became my nightly chauffer, which allowed me to work at the three restaurants. What I learned about paying in a foreign currency works anywhere in the world – to keep the driver happy and learn the correct amount for a cab ride (pre-Uber and Internet reservation and pricing). 


Working with Turkish Bands


Dancers who travel the world and have the opportunity to work with live bands to create ongoing cabaret shows appreciate the challenge created by the reality of not speaking the local language. They say music is a universal language; yes, it is – but you must have some foundational knowledge. 


Fortunately, I had worked with Suleyman Feldthouse of the Sirocco band in Santa Cruz, CA (USA), who learned Turkish music as a teenager. Suleyman's father was a staff member at the U.S. Embassy in Istanbul, and Suleyman learned Turkish music and even toured Europe with a Turkish band. Thus, it was fortuitous that I knew Turkish songs, rhythms, and musical styling. I found I could communicate best with the several different bands I worked with by "humming tunes of favorite Turkish songs and agreeing upon tempo and rhythms by playing finger cymbals." Thank goodness for my knowledge of Turkish songs and memory of rhythms (of course today dancers would just play a sample from their iPod or cell phone music directories.) (Insert Image: Faruk band)


A favorite aspect of my shows was the uniquely different fast-paced Turkish drum solos with lots of syncopation. There are no structured drum riffs like the Hagalla pattern in Arabic percussion. Each Turkish percussionist takes great pride in creating their own personalized, detailed riff patterns with syncopation and speedy drum rolls for extremely exciting and challenging drum sets.


The drummers playing "drum kits" and other drummers playing doumbeq would feature our "drum duets." I would start a rhythmic pattern with my zils, and the drummers would respond – in the "Call and Answer" pattern typical of Middle Eastern music – then we would switch, and I would react and dance to the drumming riff patterns and rhythms of the doumbeq and drum kit. This is why I teach drum solos as really drum duets. Dancers need to respond to the rhythmic patterns as they dance – drummers love it when you do. List to this music sample of a percussionist and dancer playing finger cymbals using the "call and answer" structure. Listen to his music and note how the dancer and percussionist interact in a drum duet aka drum solo. (Note to editor, put in a URL or MP3 here).


Surviving Cold Dressing Rooms in the Basement


Logistics of where to dress, when to perform, staying warm, and getting ready to perform are simple when you know and speak the language. In Germany, the dressing space for dancers and singers was always in cold basements. To stay warm and flexible, I solved the severe temperature problem by keeping my legs and feet warm with my hairdryer blowing under my skirts. I would also blow dry my long hair between shows. 


Scheduling my 45-minute shows was made possible by having a beautiful ring watch with an analog face – I could check the time as I danced and signal the band. Timing is everything in German-Turkish restaurants, and with my schedule working three restaurants nightly, it was great to have a watch handy during a performance. However, even though I had scheduled performance times - for some reason very often, I found myself locked in the dressing room and would be late for my show. Quite often, the lever handle style popular in Europe would often fall off in my hand, and the door could only be opened from the outside. A funny story now, but anxiety creating a problematic situation at the time. When I didn't show up on stage, a waiter was sent to rescue me and find me for my next show. Logistics were crucial for being able to perform at three different restaurants each night – carefully timing my shows and having my taxi driver ready to chauffeur me to the next restaurant.


Cultural differences in German versus Turkish audiences


There was a quite contrast in audience response and participation due to cultural differences between German and Turkish audiences. The German audiences were polite and would listen, watch, and quietly enjoy my shows – as we do here when we attend the ballet quietly, enjoying the elegance and majesty of a ballet performance. It would be rude to stand up and call out and voice praise amid ballet or opera performances. (Insert images: German audience #1 and #2)


By contrast, the Turkish audiences were an interactive and responsive audience following the Middle Eastern tradition of making exclamations during the show to participate in and share in the performance. Turkish audiences show their appreciation for musicians' and singers' expertise by clapping and singing along to praise the band, singer, and dancer during the show. Thus, I found dancing for Turkish audiences inspiring and uplifting. And, very often – if they liked you – they would clear the table and invite you up to perform atop their table (I had this same experience in Athens too). It is fascinating that my bands told me that audiences assumed I was Turkish because of my dance styling and musicality. Yes, the Turkish audiences' interactive nature inspired more passionate performance and joy created and shared by all – the dancer, the band, and the audience. (Insert images: Turkish audience #1 and #2)


Teaching Challenge and What I Learned


In Koln, I taught a combination class of aerobic exercise and Raqs Sharqi. The concept of aerobic exercise was new to the Germans, and they would complain that they were "sweating/spitza" from the workout as it wasn't lady-like to sweat. As I was leaving Germany, my dance exercise students proudly told me that I was the first aerobic teacher in the country – and the next month, the famous American actress Jane Fonda was coming to train German exercise teachers. They were feeling fortunate and proud to have already experienced aerobic exercise.


My style of teaching aerobics then was a forerunner of "Jazzercise" – and I taught to favorite American and German songs and popular music. It was the year of Bruce Springsteen and "Born in the USA," and some German pop songs, e.g., "Neunundneunzigsig Rote Balloon" (99 Red Balloons). But, teaching aerobic exercise doesn't require a command of the language – as I found out when I wanted to show rhythms and musicality for Raqs Sharqi – or as they called it "Bauchtanz" = "stomach dance" in German. I had to find a way to bridge the language gap to teach dancers.


Transcending Language with Shared Music


One eye-opening experience taught me a method of transcending language and teaching dancers to understand the connection between musicality and dance movement. On the radio, I kept hearing the piece "Ode to Joy" – a Christian hymn and music often played at Christmas. I decided to use this song in the dance class to illustrate the concept of connecting musicality, rhythms, finger cymbals, and dance movement. A funny thing happened when I began humming this tune and playing my finger cymbals. Recognizing the tune, all the dancers stood up and put their hands over their hearts. Then asked me, "How do you know our anthem?" The parallels in music and cultural crossover now stood out very clearly. 


Now I understood how I could use "shared musical knowledge – the songs and music people know" to develop a structural approach for teaching and learning. Dancers could learn and bridge the cultural divide by understanding the similarity of shared musical patterns. When different composers using the same musical patterns create songs and music for different musical genres using the same musical pattern of notes – people can recognize familiar tunes. For example, you can hear the same musical structure and notation in: the final movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony, a Christian hymn, the Christmas piece "Ode to Joy," and also the music for the European Union national anthem.


See this concept of shared music demonstrated in the YouTube video https://www.darkmoon.me/2018/beethovens-ode-to-joy-flashmob-nuremberg-2014/ of a plaza in Nuremberg, Germany that begins with a little girl playing the tune on her recorder, and a musician then plays the melody on string bass. Next, you see the plaza very gradually fill with more musicians playing every instrument in the orchestra (including tympani – my favorite instrument in junior high school). Then, the entire plaza audience joins in singing the song in their various homeland languages. Since they are all singing the same piece – the voices are harmonious and blend into a truly joyous musical expression and joyful experience. Thus, you hear the musical pattern and song, but you don't understand the different languages being sung. Lesson learned: even though we may speak different languages – we can perform to music and conform to the musicality via our movement styling, which corresponds to the music.


The Ma*Shuqa Method


That long-ago lesson of connecting movement with musicality became the instructional format for my Ma*Shuqa Method. My Ma*Shuqa Method teaches dancers how to connect with the music and coordinate dance movement and zils musically. I had been frustrated in teaching zils as just specific rhythms to play while dancing. Just playing a steady rhythmic pattern with finger cymbals/zils can obscure musicality in a piece. It can also make it difficult to move and perform with nuance to catch the musical elements in a piece.


If you just play zils with a repetitive pattern – then you limit your dancing to just marching to the rhythm. I found it was frustrating to verbalize in German the usual zil patterns of Right, Left, Right (Rechts, Links, Rechts – yes, try it – it's next to impossible to say these German words at a fast tempo!). Thus, I developed a method of illustrating how one can easily dance and play rhythms by "playing to the rhythmic patterns in poetry." Using nursery rhymes that most people grew up with – I taught dancers then and now how to connect with rhythmic passages they already know – just play and move to the familiar rhythmic patterns in poetry and songs.


Using nursery rhymes to teach musicality could work; however, teaching in Germany, I found the German dancers were not familiar with English, French, or American nursery rhymes I usually referenced as a structural rubric. Try it; it is impossible to say the poetry of one nursery rhyme while playing the poetry's rhythmic pattern in another nursery rhyme. This difference between rhythmic patterns and performing a standard rhythm illustrates the learning obstacle a dancer finds when attempting to dance while playing the usual Right, Left, Right rhythmic pattern. It becomes even more problematic when you perform to 5/8 or 7/8 rhythms that often appear in Turkish music.


By humming a well-known tune for German dancers, I accidentally found the use of the same tune in different musical pieces, the basis of which comes from Beethoven's 9th symphony as a rubric and structure for teaching. And thus, teaching dancers to coordinate dance and finger cymbal playing using nursery rhymes and popular songs as a rubric has become my signature instructional approach and part of my Ma*Shuqa Method.


Another one of my Ma*Shuqa Method signature teaching approaches is to teach what I believe to be the essence of belly dance movement as dancing from the core. This teaching focus and instructional method came to me as a result of an unusual dance venue. At one restaurant venue – I found a restaurant similar to a typical American diner with banquette seating and an L-shaped counter with seating. Well, I thought to myself – I can dance in the aisle. Then, I watched as they took cakes and pies from the top of a one-meter square area at the end of the counter and probably two meters off the floor. "Here is where you will dance, they proudly said." And then helped me up to the top of this pedestal.


It was here that I learned as my "steps became weight changes," as I danced in one spot, it changed my dancing as it also influenced how my body moved. With each weight change – I could smoothly move my core in undulations, figure 8 movements, and torso circles. Now, I teach dancers to create more torso power and undulations by putting those latex energy bands used as tools for exercise – around their knees as they dance. It is incredible how much more torso movement and hip details happen as a result of using this teaching device and pedagogy, to limit the size of dance steps and transfer movement into the core.


Daily Living and Physical Challenges


Immersed in and living a dream life and enjoying the dance, the music, and teaching had its challenges. My everyday life consisted of waking at noon each day to venture out to enjoy my Frühstück – the first meal of my day at a favorite Turkish restaurant. As a regular customer, they would greet me and have my cup of Middle Eastern expresso made in the traditional copper Ibrix pot ready for me. Then, they would serve me the favorite family dishes. It is comforting to enjoy meals every day and be treated like a member of a family and community.


After my meal, I would enjoy window shopping and shopping at the bakery and cheese store for my end of day early morning meal of schinken, Kasse/cheese, Turkish or German bread, and tea at about 6 a.m. when I returned after working all night. What a rigorous schedule: in the early evening, I taught daily classes of both Raqs Sharqi and aerobics. My restaurant shows started at 11 p.m. and ended at 5 a.m. Those who teach and perform know that it is next to impossible to eat very much with this demanding work schedule.


Maintaining physical health and wellness was a daily challenge. Good news, bad news of staying well: Eat anything and everything to try and maintain weight. Given the extreme schedule of aerobic exercise and dance classes, and my six shows each night, it was difficult to sustain my weight. Good news – my figure was excellent, and my body was healthy at 30 years of age – but I needed to eat as many pastries, bread, and cheeses I could just to survive. Bad news – my costumes needed constant adjustment due to my weight loss. Before, I changed my diet to include more calories my body needed – I caught a glimpse of my back, and I could see every vertebra because I was expending an extreme amount of calories dancing and exercising. Here’s a special image showing how lithe I had become – with a photo poster of me in the background. (Insert image: Lithe & lean).


Staying hydrated in the world of industrial chemically contaminated water was another challenge. It meant that I shopped daily for bottled water by the liter and carried my water everywhere. Chemical pollution of the water around Koln resulted in nerve damage for those who drank water from the tap – you could see the shaking limbs of this nerve disease in people – even the young teenagers. 


Yet another physical challenge was foot pain. Dancing in heels, teaching, and walking everywhere – my bunions became a 24/7 painful physical issue. When I returned to the U.S., the first thing I did was schedule bunionectomy surgery. I learned that bunions are the result of genetic bone structure and experienced by most of those with my Asian ancestry. Foot issues due to genetics are not something one usually considers and isn't a problem until your work exacerbates a condition and results in foot pain.


Free Time and Navigating the City


As I mentioned earlier – I walked everywhere, enjoying what free time I had before I began my daily routine of exercise and dance classes and nightly performance into the wee hours of the morning. I would carefully venture out for window shopping, exploring the city, and even visiting the zoo. Of course, in the pre-Internet era, without the assistance of having a handy cell phone with a map feature or apps with suggested city tours, I was on my own to cautiously explore in ever-expanding circles and regions beyond my local neighborhood. It's quite tiring but was necessary always to keep notes on which tram stop you started from and exited, and which streets you have traversed – so that you can retrace your steps and return home. Thus, I found myself visiting the Koln Zoo – which was an endpoint tram stop. There, I spent time at the open area that housed a wolf pack, which helped temper my homesickness for our Siberian Huskies pack at home with my husband, Carl.


Comedia Colognia Show Memories and Inspiration


One of the highlights of my stay in Koln was a 2-woman show I planned and performed in with Sigrid Shutte, my German sponsor. Together we produced and performed in a show – with costume changes and performances with different dance styling to a variety of Middle Eastern musical pieces. One of the haunting pieces of music which I have not been able to find again is "Caravan" on a record from the movie of the same title. 


Fun fact, we danced to music in the show from a 33-1/3 record and several cassette tapes I brought with me from America. Yes, cassette recordings were the new recording technology at the time. I was from the era of carrying a record player and long-playing records to dance gigs. Small cassette music tapes and boomboxes were at the time novel technology.


Whereas, today, it would be so easy to compile digital music for a show accessing digital files from cloud-based resources, with technology that hadn't been invented yet. Remember, no Internet, no laptops or tablets, no cell phones – only records and cassette tapes. I'm the dancer that today will bring along a DVD for a hafla or show – and most dancers will hand the D.J. their iPod, tablet, or cell phone.


I have several prominent memories from that Comedia Colognia "Thousand and One Nights" show. I was alone in my apartment in the afternoon the week before the show. I heard my name mentioned on the radio with the announcement of the "Comedia Colognia show mit Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan from America." It is surreal to listen to a radio station playing classical music and hear your name and show mentioned – and for a moment I thought I was back in America because I could understand the commercial for the show.


Another memory my mind recalls is when I stepped out of the train station at the Koln Dom (the ancient Gothic cathedral). Turning a corner, I found myself staring at an entire wall – probably 100'-long plastered with my image on the Comedia Colognia show poster – 3 posters high. It was one of those "oh, I wish I had a camera and someone to take my picture in front of this massive wall of my posters." All I have is one show poster hung in my dance studio as a memory of that particular show and the memory of that moment standing in front of the wall of show posters. (Insert image: Comedia poster)


Revisiting Koln 38 years later with my husband Carl and a German photographer friend Andre Ebling – we visited the Koln Dom (cathedral) – then visited a photography store off the cathedral plaza. Inquiring how long this store had been in business – I learned that they were open for business when I stood in front of my wall of show posters. If only I had noticed the photography shop – I would have an image of me with my wall of show posters. Now in the cell phone camera era, I would have had many Europeans taking a picture of me posing in front of my show poster – and the image capturing the moment would have been shared on social media. I do have a framed copy of that show poster hanging in the studio, which is a reminder of living the dream. (Insert image: Bosporus & Ma*Shuqa)


Life continues, and you just never know how you have connected with someone and influenced a life. Some years later, in 2011 – my first visit to teach a workshop and perform in Berlin, a famous European belly dancer from Belgium, taking my class approached me. She shared that she had attended that Comedia Colognia show and was inspired to study belly dance. Before this contact, I had only seen her picture on the cover of "Habibi magazine" and read articles of this famous dancers teaching and performances in Europe.


At my 2013 workshop in Duisberg, Germany – a woman approached me to introduce me to her students attending my workshop. She told me that she had been in the audience of the Comedia Colognia show. I also inspired her to study belly dance, become a dance teacher opening a dance studio in Duisberg, Germany and she enjoyed a long career training many belly dancers. Even years later, it's so gratifying to know that I helped inspire so many dancers in Germany, Belgium, and beyond. When I worked in Germany, there were only three working belly dancers – it was a new dance phenomenon in Germany at the time.


Lifelong Memories and Cultural Understanding


Amazing to think that I decided to pursue professional teaching and dancing in Germany without giving a thought to the realities of daily living and working without speaking or understanding German. I've shared my experiences, lessons learned, and how to survive to live and working abroad. One of the most amazing disparities was – having terrific performance and teaching opportunities, enjoying everything about the food and cultures of Germany and the Turkish community in Koln, yet experience profound isolation and inability to hold an intelligent discussion and conversation with people around me. Remember, before cell phones – telephone calls overseas were costly – so the opportunity to conveniently converse in English was minimal.


Living and working there, I found myself beginning to better understand my husband's German heritage and culture. I heard enough Turkish to start to understand the gist of conversations, although I could not respond in Turkish or German. I also found culture and customs in parallel with being raised Japanese-American in terms of respectful essential human conduct and social mores of supportive collaboration as fundamental to social expectations shared by Turkish people. To this day, to my wonderment, when I read the subtitles of Turkish, German, or Japanese movies and listen to these languages - I find myself commenting and saying: "That is not an accurate translation. There is a nuanced difference in the conversation and situation that is culturally different from what can be conveyed in an English translation." When I do this today, I get a rush of warm feelings of comfort – much as I did when I was embraced and accepted by the Turkish people in Germany. Just as I felt I was embraced by Japanese dancers in my Tokyo workshops as we shared heritage and cultural perspective.


Enjoy the Flash Mob in the Nuremberg plaza sharing and collaborating to create music and song. This momentous event shows life in better times when we could share music and song shoulder-to-shoulder – before the age of COVID-19 virus restrictions of social distancing. It will bring a smile to your face and is heartwarming to think of so many people sharing a joyous time on one sunny day in Nuremberg, Germany. This feeling summarizes the joyful feeling I had when I danced in Germany – so many years ago. Music and dance shared with others, indeed, transcends language and culture. Thus, my motto: "Do what you love and share your passion with others." I'm glad I did, and I hold dearly many beautiful memories – some I've shared with you now.

 (Insert image: Return to Bosporus restaurant). 


Raqs Sharqi Improvisational Taqasim:

Part I The Musical Intersection of Raqs Sharqi and Tarab
By Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan and Yosifah Rose Craver

In an era before readily available recorded Arabic music and the eminence of choreography-based instruction, Oriental dance (often referred to as “Raqs Sharqi”) was an improvisational art performed almost exclusively to live music. As an improvisational artist, the Oriental dancer performed in collaboration with live musicians, and the shared goal of both dancer and musicians was to create authentic shared emotional experiences for themselves and the audience known as tarab.
Najia Marlyz (onsite link), a veteran Middle Eastern dancer and writer who performed to live music at the Casbah Cabaret (onsite link), O Aitos, and many other public and private venues in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area (1970s until the early 1990s) recalls in her article “The Taxim from a Dancer’s Perspective: Tarab or Tyranny?” (onsite link) (2006, The Gilded Serpent): “The true collaboration between the dancer and the musician playing the taqasim creates a superior performance. Similar to the dance that emerges along with the drum solo, the dancer expresses what she hears and the feeling (tarab) it produces.”
The important traditional concept of tarab as an authentic emotion-based response to Arabic music is being lost within western-based belly dance communities because the focus of most instruction today is on choreography and drilled techniques. Therefore, our intention in this article is to reintroduce dancers to the nearly-lost art of musical collaboration and improvisational dancing with taqasim. (1)

What is a “Taqasim”?
According to Dr. Scott Marcus, ethnomusicologist, University of California Santa Barbara (onsite link-musical tour) in his book “Music in Egypt: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture”(amazon book widget), http://www.amazon.com/Music-Egypt-Experiencing-Expressing-Includes/dp/019514645X

Taqasim is melodic improvisation by a solo instrumentalist or a solo vocalist. This melodic improvisation may serve as a musical introduction for a new maqam (modal tonal scale) before a song begins, or it may serve as a musical “break” during the middle of a song. Furthermore, a unique improvisational solo performance that is played without any rhythmic accompaniment and is a separate musical performance from any particular song is also a taqasim. Traditionally, it is played in a slow and contemplative manner without a fixed rhythmic meter; however, due to the influence of other musical traditions, a contemporary taqasim may be played with a greater variety of tempos and may include rhythmic accompaniment.

Some dancers may feel intimidated by the free-flowing nature of a taqasim when there is no beat to follow, no backup music, or singing. Other dancers may feel completely liberated by the taqasim’s absence of structure and feel inspired to dance in a similarly unstructured way. While the taqasim is not actually an invitation for a Grateful Dead style free-dance, it is an ideal place in the music for a dancer to focus on personal emotional expression. Each dancer may hear and respond to a taqasim differently; and thus there are many equally valid ways to approach dancing to a particular taqasim.

What is Tarab?
The root of “tarab” is an Arabic verb that means: to be moved with joy or grief; to be delighted; to be overjoyed; to be transported with joy; to be enraptured. The plural noun tarab means: pleasure, delight, touched, affected; enraptured, transported, pleased, and charmed. (2) In his book Dr. Marcus describes tarab as “an ecstatic state.” (3) Tarab, as it relates to live Middle Eastern Music, is a heart-felt emotional reaction to the music that ideally affects everyone involved in the music: the musicians, the listeners/audience members, and the dancer(s).

Although some musicians may also find this article informative, the primary purpose of this article is to introduce dancers to the underlying musical concepts of taqasim and to help them to strive towards dancing to taqasim with a genuine heart-felt expression of “tarab.” Therefore, the first part of this article is a review the key elements of Arabic music, including the concept of heterophony in the instrumentation, rhythms, and musicality of the taqasim. In Part II, this article will offer dancers specific ideas of how to incorporate musicality into their dancing to empower them to dance in collaboration with a taqasim targeting the goal of creating an “Ahh” moment of authentic, emotional tarab.

Musicality and Dance Movement
Five key elements of Arabic Music
There are five elements that set Arabic music apart from Western music:
1. monophonic versus harmonic,
2. melodic modal maqamat versus Western scales,
3. embellishment or melodic ornamentation versus fixed melody,
4. complex rhythmic modes in Arabic iqa'at (singular iqa') and diversity of time signatures;
5. maqamat based melodic improvisation.

Modal and Monophonic Music
Beyond the five key elements of Arabic music, the first and most important is the concept of homophony or heterophony. The concept of Western harmony does not traditionally exist in Arabic music. In a traditional Arabic ensemble or taht, the musicians all play the melody, sometimes in different octaves or with individual ornamental flourishes, with the only exception being the occasional drone played under the melody.
Monophony means “one voice.” Much of the music of the Middle East is generally monophonic with “everyone playing the parts in parallel rhythm, pitch, and melody”. The majority of popular Western music today is melody-dominated homophony. Typically, a vocalist leads the melody, while instruments like piano, guitar and bass guitar normally play a harmonic accompany in support of the the vocal melody. Sometimes, during the performance of a song, a particular instrument such as the guitar may take a lead melodic, during an instrumental break while the other instruments provide chord-based harmonic support.

The Melodic Mode
In Western music, a musical scale is a sequence of musicial notes arranged according to pitch with fixed intervals between the pitches (Muallem, 36). Furthermore, the Western scale occurs beween a note and its octave; therefore, it can be said that the Western scale is built upon eight note with the most common being the minor or major scales such as the well-known C Major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, often sung as do, re, me, fa, so la, ti, do). In contrast, Arabic music is built upon musical modes known as maqam (singular) or maqamat (plural). While maqamat also are built between a note and its octave, the intervals between the sequental notes may vary depending upon whether the maqam is played accending or descending. A further contrasting feature is that Western musical theory traditionally views the musical scale as divided into 12 equi-distant musical notes, so that a Western scale may contain whole tones (i.e. “A” is a whole tone) or semitones (i.e. Ab = semitone; and A# = semitone). The quickest visual representation of the Western musical note system is to visualize the black and white keys of a piano, with the white keys representing whole tones and the black keys representing semitones. In contrast, in Arabic music the octave is divided into 24 quartertones which are in theory of equal distance (temperate); however, in actual performance by musicians, the intonation of quarter tones may vary from region to region within the Arabic world. Thus, a whole musical tone in Arabic music may be divided into four quarters. These quarter tones (such as B½ flat and E½ flat in the commonly used Maqamat Rast and Bayati) help to elicit emotional responses from those listening to the music. According to Dr. Scott Marcus, “Each maqam is felt to have its own unique, yet generally unarticulated, mood or character.”(4). Thus, each maqam is capable of creating an aural mood to which listeners may respond on an emotional-level.

Author Habib Hassan Touma in his book, “The Music of the Arabs” states that “the vocal or instrumental performance of a maqam is inherently linked to the realization of a mood or emotional situation” (43). He further states that for example, the maqam Sabah will evoke sadness, pain, and feelings of loss in Arab listeners. However, Western listeners and dancers who are unfamilar with the cultural knowledge of Arabic maqamat may not react to with as the same intense emotional reaction Sabah (Touma, 44).

According to Yosifah, “Because each of the maqams has inherent emotional qualities, as the musician plays the taqasim and modulates between maqams, the taqasim becomes a musical vehicle for unlimited emotional expression. Tarab, a maqamat-mediated and shared transcendental experience, is the ultimate goal for both a musician playing a taqasim and a vocalist singing a maawal (vocal improvisation). There is nothing quite like it in Western music.“ While there may be various vocal stylings and the tempo may vary in Western music, but the process of creating an emotional expression does not exist in Western music as it does in Middle Eastern music. She notes that truly gifted Arabic vocalists while improvising a mawaal can seamlessly modulate from maqam to maqam (i.e. from bayyati to other related maqamat within the D (“Duka”) family such as hijaz, sabah, and beyond and then back to bayyati). During a mawaal, a vocalist may repeat simple words and traditional poetic phrases (i.e. Ya Layali, Ya Lay, Ya Lay, Ya Layl – Oh, my night, Oh, night, Oh, night....) while modulating between maqamat to create a hypnotic effect and elicit a powerful emotional response from the audience. The Arabic audience traditionally verbalizes their tarab experience by responding with "Ahhhh! Ya Salaam" and appreciative "Ya ‘ayni!" comments through out the mawall performance. (“Ya ‘ayni -- Oh, my eye!” roughly translates to “Oh, beautiful one!” because when something is truly beautiful, it captures your eye!) In contrast, Western audiences traditionally observe a musical performance in polite silence and wait until it is finished before responding with applause or vocal approbation.

Yosifah suggests listening to example of performances by the Egyptian queen of tarab Om Kalthoum
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaUjXzzVPHg or mawaals by the famous Syrian vocalist Sahbah Fahkri

She also notes that tracks 9 – 19 of the CD which accompanies Dr. Marcus’ book, “Music in Egypt” contains exceptional example and analysis of mawaals.

Dancers should be aware of is that traditionally, Arabic music was taught and learned aurally (“by ear”). Additionally, each maqam belongs to specific related families of maqamat thus taqasims are usually built upon sequental movement between related maqamat. Furthermore, each specific maqam has associated traditional musical motifs or patterns which are traditionally used in particular sequences during a taqasim improvization. These three fundamental principles of Arabic music give a certain level of “predictability” to taqasim performance. Thus, dancers who dance to and listen to enough examples of masterful mawaal and taqasim performances can begin to anticipate signals of musical changes that usually occur during a taqasim performance. Furthermore, dancers who truly immerse themselves in Arabic music over time may unconsciously respond to taqasims with authentic tarab which will enable them to truly dance Raqs Sharqi with heart-felt emotional expression.

In closing, as a musician and a former dance professional, Yosifah offers this advice to dancers: “My advice to dancers in approaching taqasim is to forget choreography. Instead, they should immerse themselves in listening to Arabic music; furthermore, they should listen with their heart and soul instead of analyzing it with their brain or counting measures or beats! The dancer should feel the music and let it speak directly to her heart and soul and dance with coorsponding emotion. When the qanun trills, what does that tell their heart? When the oud plays those low, droning vibrating notes, what does that tell their soul? If a dancer opens her heart and soul and truly allows herself to feel the music, she may feel profound sadness, aching longing, emotional pain, as well as pure joy and happiness in the music. This willingness to open your heart to the music is the key to dancing authentically to taqasim. However, there shouldn’t be anything premeditated, calculated, or manipulative about it. If the dancer feels the music as she dances to it – then in essence she channels the music...she embodies the music. A dancer should not fake emotions to simulate tarab because then she will just will look like a poser. Audiences can tell when a dancer is just pretending or play acting a tarab experience. In contrast, when a dancer truly feels the emotions that she is expressing in her taqasim dancing -- then real tarab takes place and her movements flow as a part of the music. That is when the Arabic audience members will praise the dancer with ‘Ahhhhh! Ya Salaam!” or “Aywa!’ (The Egyptian colloquial word for Yes!)”

1 (Authors’ Note: This term meaning “musical improvisation” has many English transliterations from Arabic including: taksim, taxsim, taqasim, takseem, and taqaseem. We have chosen to use the transliteration used by scholars of Arabic music such as Dr. Scott L. Marcus, Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara in his written works, including his most recent book Music in Egypt: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture, Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-19-514645-X.)
(2) These definitions are from the Hans Wehr, Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, Arabic-English.
(3) “Music of Egypt,” Dr Marcus
(4) (p. 18, Music in Egypt, 2007

Marcus, Scott L. Music in Egypt: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. London: Oxford UP, 2007. ISBN 0-19-514645-X
Muallem, David. The Maqam Book: A Doorway to Arab Scales and Modes. Kfar Sava: OR-TAB Music Putblications, 2010. ISBN 9655050553X
Touma, Habib Hassan. The Music of the Arabs. Portland: Amadeus Press, 2003. Print. ISBN 1-57467-081-6

Author Bios-
Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan is an educator and researches dance topics to bring valuable information to her “Ma*Shuqa Method” dance instruction. Her dance expertise is a result of years of study that includes dance, music, percussion, and rhythm. Ma*Shuqa is known for the Ma*Shuqa Method of developing unique dance styles and teaches in her Los Gatos, California, USA dance studio, where has been teaching classes and providing dance coaching for over 35 years. She is also a performance photographer and artistic director and with her husband, Carl Sermon, a performance photographer (www.CarlSermonPhotography.Zenfolio.com, www.ReelSoundandLight.com), offer studio sessions with make-up, performance coaching, and posing for professional performance images for dancers’ media packages. For more information on classes and workshops see www.MaShuqa.com for a calendar of workshops and events or contact her at MaShuqaDancer@gmail.com or (408) 356-9473

Yosifah Rose Craver is a unique and highly talented professional musician who performs qanun and sings with her Classical Arabic band Al ‘Azifoon. Yosifah’s lifelong passion has been music and language studies, and she has a deep love and appreciation for both Arabic and Western music. She has studied both Arabic music and the Arabic language in the San Francisco Bay area and in Cairo, Egypt. Additionally, she holds a Master’s degree and a teaching credential in Teaching English as a Second Language. She is committed to studying and sharing her love of the Arabic language, arts, and music to promote cross-cultural appreciation and world peace. Contact her at easternstrings@att.net and find more information at www.yosifah.com, www.alazifoon.com, and http://www.azifoon.com/arabic-learners/ 

Raqs Sharqi Improvisational Taqasim Dance
Part 2: The Performance Intersection of Music, Raqs Sharqi, and Tarab

According to Yosifah, “Because each of the maqams has inherent emotional qualities, as the musician plays the Taqasim and modulates between maqams -- the Taqasim becomes a musical vehicle for unlimited emotional expression. Tarab --- a music-mediated shared transcendental experience is the ultimate goal for both a musician playing a taqaseem and a vocalist singing a maawal. There is nothing quite like it in Western music.“

Yosifah suggests listening to example of mawaals by the Syrian vocalist Sahbah Fahkri. She notes that he often modulates (for example over E 1/2 flat or B flat to B 1/2 flat) in his vocal improvisational mawaals with seemingly effortlessly vocal mastery he moves from bayyati to saba to hijaz and beyond... It is not just the lyrics that he sings because these are often repetitive and fairly simple, instead it is his powerful control over the emotional qualities of the maqam that allow him to create a hypnotic and powerful emotional response in his audiences which becomes apparent as they respond to his maawal with "Ahhhh!" and appreciative "Ya ‘ayni!" comments. (“Ya ‘ayni -- Oh, my eye!” roughly translates to “Oh, beautiful one!” because when something is truly beautiful it captures your eye!)

While there are certain general patterns in the Maqam scale, within these patterns the musician freely varies their playing sliding into and out of the melody and scale by quarter tones and notes.

Taqasim Musical Embellishments and Improvisation
Embellishment is one key element of improvisation in Arabic music; the main form of improvisation is called Taqasim. It is used to outline and introduce the Maqam, and to showcase an individual player. It consists of short, simple melodic phrases, often traveling throughout the register of the instrument. A Taqasim usually contains at least one modulation from one maqam to another. Thorough presentation of the Maqam and skillful modulation make up the artistry of the Taqasim.

As a musician and a former dance professional, Yosifah offers this advice to dancers: “My advice to dancers in approaching taqaseem is to forget choreography. Instead, they should listen to the music with their hearts and their souls instead of analyzing it with their brain! Feel the music. When the qanun trills -- what is that doing to their heart? When the oud plays those low droning vibrating notes, what does that do to their soul? They should really allow themselves to feel -- to the depths of their soul and to the bottom of their heart -- the sadness, the longing, the pain, as well as the joy and happiness of the music. This is the key to dancing authentically to taqaseem. There is nothing calculated or manipulative about it. If the dancer feels the music as she dances to it, she becomes a vehicle for the audience to share that authentic experience of the music. It isn't acting -- because the dancer is really experiencing that pain or that joy. When a dancer "fakes" it --- it is obvious and she often just looks silly. However, when the dancer’s emotional expression is real and her movements flow with the music --- that is when the audience says "Ahhhhh!" "Aywa!" (The Egyptian colloquial word for “Yes!”)

Musical Embellishment
Unlike western music, where an embellishment is used to highlight a note or series of notes, embellishment in Arabic music is woven organically into the music. A melody is almost never played in its simple form. The difference between Western music and Arabic music is like the difference between simple and bold designs in a carpet designs of European cultures, and the intricate, complicated, and elaborate designs and embellishments in a Middle Eastern carpet.

Improvisation is musical embellishment that varies with the individual, the maqam, and the type of instrument. A player never repeats any melodic phrase the same way twice, using embellishment as an improvisory element in the music. A group of musicians each embellishing a melody slightly differently gives the music a heterophonic quality and a richness of timbre unlike monophonic music. The most common types of embellishment are trills, turns, and slides. Various combinations of these three embellishments are used along with Mordents and Grace Notes to decorate and embellish Arabic music as it is performed.

Mordents and grace notes are keys to improvisational playing in Arabic music. Mordents and grace notes are played above and below the main note, with very specific rhythmic placement. Mordents are an ornament made by a single rapid alternation of a principal tone with a subsidiary tone a half step or whole step below: in a double mordent there are two alternations: in an inverted mordent the subsidiary tone is a half step or whole step above the principal tone.

Grace notes are beautiful embellishments that decorate or improve by adding detail; ornamentation that adorns the music. Musically, grace notes may be syncopated accents, trills, etc. to (a melody) – often added to improve (an account or report) by adding details that touch up the original musical score. In performance, dancers may hold a sustaining note, or slow a movement then hit the accented grace note only without mirroring movement to the Mordent notes. On the other hand, performance style should sparingly mirror Mordent notes and Grace notes. Performing movements to all the Mordent note variations and also hitting every grace note is inappropriate, too much of a good thing and spoils the stylization.

Trills are fast, starting on, below, or above the note, involving light finger movement and very clear articulation. This trill sound is produced by the qanun player by movements similar to a harpist with strumming of the strings. An oud player would trill by playing a right hand with quick pick strumming. Trills made by the nai may be a fluttering sound made by quick finger pulses over a long sustained note.

Turns move as in western music from the note to the upper neighbor, but in Arabic music return back to the original note, to the lower neighbor, then back again. You can visualize turns as though writing a musical treble clef with a quill pen; or the lilting movement of wisps of smoke coming up from a campfire that moves and turns from the rising heat from a combination of the rising heat from a fire and the gentle breeze on the night wind.. Arabic music is played as though the notes are swept up and away, then around and down by currents in the wind – just as a feather drifts along with the wind. Dancers should focus on moving with fluidity of dance and with varying speed and energy to match musical turns.

Turns and trills are often combined in various ways. With all of these ornaments, the movement in the left hand is very efficient for oudists or violinists. If one were to look at an Arabic violinist’s left hand, one would see hardly any movement. The left hand has a tiny hammer-like motion, but at the same time remains light, with the focus being on the upward finger movement and the long sustained bowing of the violin – which may be captured by the dancer in a sustained movement and body undulation layered with shimmies or even some tiny stomach flutters or body vibrations.

The Slide is truly what separates Arabic string playing from all other types. The slide is short and fast, imitating a vocal sigh. Think of someone responding and communicating understanding without words but murmuring “Ah, ah” – but saying the Ah---ah with a sliding pitch that may drop down in pitch before turning up to end. For example, the beginning introductory accented notes in the song Habibi Ayni are an example of the use of the slide. The typical “Ta Dah – higher note to lower note sound ending Western music – is also used in Arabic music but usually as a slide.

Dancing with one’s eyes closed will help in hearing the slide and turns in music. This technique is especially useful when sliding into graceful half steps. Musicians will gradually work up to sliding greater distances, but keep in mind the slide is always fast and doesn’t encompass the whole interval (with an augmented second slide the length of a whole step). Slides can be made between any two notes; however most slides happen between the more expressive intervals in a Maqam -- for example, between Eb and F# in Hijaz. Slides can be made up to and down from notes, and combined with trills and turns, e.g. the slide accented notes in the song Habibi Ayni are up slide notes.

Unlike western music, where an embellishment is used to highlight a note or series of notes, embellishment in Arabic music is woven organically into the music. A melody is almost never played in its simple form. Embellishment varies with the individual, the maqam, and the type of instrument. A player never repeats any melodic phrase the same way twice, using embellishment as an improvisatory element in the music. A group of musicians each embellishing a melody slightly differently gives the music a heterophonic quality and a richness of timbre unlike monophonic music. The most common types of embellishment are trills, turns, and slides, and various combinations of the three embellishments.

As a dancer, once you become aware of mordents, grace notes, trills, turns, and slides as characteristic of Arabic music, you will become accustom to these musical devices and the improvisational music will sound more familiar. As a result, you will be frustrated less with these musical variations and will be able to capture the beauty of the soloist Taqasim vocalist and musicians in your dancing. When your dancing reflects the five key elements of Arabic music, your Arab audience will give you smiles of approval and you may hear vocalizations in the audience of “ayy-wah,ya habibi” (yes, oh, my loved one!) as they acknowledge your dance proficiency, excellence, and grace. Note to dancers, you may also hear the Arab audience vocalize “Ya Helwa” (Oh, Beautiful!).

Culturally and Context Appropriate Musical Interpretation
You know the difference of culturally appropriate interpretation – for example, when you hear someone speak a secondary language that is not their native tongue – you hear the variation in speed and presentation from normal conversation, and the differences in: expected pronunciation, linguistic fluidity, and limited vocabulary and inappropriate use of words and phrases. The same is true of Arabic music played by musicians of other cultures – sometimes the interpretations are noticeably different. Ma*Shuqa says, “my advice is to listen and learn, observe the characteristic patterns, pauses, and definitudes and the defluous flow of the music that must be matched by the dancer in layered movement, poses, and dance movement flow.

However, be aware neither the concept of Tarab or Taqasim give the dancer artistic license to share personal private moments or overtly erotic movements; but rather the opportunity to be one with the music, gently interpreting the musical constructs of Arabic music (mordents and grace notes: slides, trills, and turns, as well as the pauses and breaks in the music) require dance that has culturally appropriate movement and is audience appropriate. Listen and observe dancer movement and composition in performance with these guidelines for observation and you will begin to understand the difference between beautiful and culturally appropriate dance movement and performance that merely takes a pedestrian approach to movement that may be reliably on the beat and rhythm, but lacks true artistry and Tarab.

Dancer performance and movement improvisation in Taqasim becomes a thing of beauty as you mirror the sounds of the vocalization and music. Ma*Shuqa’s advice to dancers is to envision the potential for dance movement to Taqasim. She says, “Recall the movements of the white feather in the opening scenes of the movie Forest Gump. The feather floats and falls, is uplifted by the wind and swirls on the currents of the wind – all to the matched dynamics of the musical overture.” Informed, educated, and wise dancers use their movements to correspond to what they hear in the music. Be aware that there is no need for constant movement that corresponds to every beat or note in the music. It is also culturally acceptable for the dancer to pose or sustain and suspend a movement which also captures another level of performance expertise. “If performed correctly to capture and mirror these special aspects of Taqasim, then a dancer may perform with “Tarab – the soul of Arabic music that captures the cultural context and feeling.” says Ma*Shuqa.

In closing, the improvisational music in Arabic music known as Taqasim offers dancers a unique opportunity to rediscover and explore improvisational dance as they respond as dancers on both an authentically emotional and musical-level. This article has introduced the general structure of Arabic music (maqamat, mordents, grace notes, and other embellishments) so that dancers may explore using musically appropriate dance movements as they dance (e.g.: sweet movement, sustained movement, overlaying shimmies on undulations, restrained movement, call and answer, and stomach rolls and undulations.) With a general knowledge of the structure of Arabic music, a dancer is better equipped to listen for embellishments and mirror them in her movements – thus giving her tools to add polish and musicality to her performance. Finally, the dancer should keep in mind that “Tarab” -- an authentic transcendental emotional response to the music -- is a key ingredient performing a beautiful improvisation Taqasim dance. Arabic dance performed with Tarab – is superb and exciting because it is beautiful, both intense and delicate, and culturally tasteful; and wonderfully exacting as it matches the musicality and the exquisite emotional realm of Tarab.

Author Bios

Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan is an educator and researches dance topics to bring valuable information to her “Ma*Shuqa Method” dance instruction. Her dance expertise is a result of years of study that includes dance, music, percussion, and rhythm. Ma*Shuqa is known for the Ma*Shuqa Method of developing unique dance styles and teaches in her Los Gatos, California, USA dance studio, where has been teaching classes and providing dance coaching for over 35 years. She is also a performance photographer and artistic director and with her husband, Carl Sermon, a performance photographer (www.CarlSermonPhotography.Zenfolio.com, www.ReelSoundandLight.com), offer studio sessions with make-up, performance coaching, and posing for professional performance images for dancers’ media packages. For more information on classes and workshops see www.MaShuqa.com for a calendar of workshops and events or contact her at MaShuqaDancer@gmail.com or (408) 356-9473

Yosifah Rose Craver is a unique and highly talented professional Arabic musician (qanun and percussion), singer (Arabic vocals) and ESL educator. Yosifah’s lifelong passion has been music and language studies, and has a deep love and appreciation for both Arabic and Western music. She has studied Arabic language in the San Francisco Bay area and in Cairo, Egypt. She holds a Master’s degree and a teaching credential in Teaching English as a Second Language. She is committed to studying and sharing her love of the Arabic arts and music with her Arabic band Al ‘Azifoon to promote cross-cultural appreciation and world peace. Contact her at easternstrings@att.net and find more information at www.yosifah.com and www.alazifoon.com.

Pangia Vol 7 “Mystic Blue Caravan
Music Review by Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan

Mystic Blue Caravan is a collaboration of dancers and musicians who share their talents and ideas. Pat Olson: oud, guitar, vocals, arranger, sound engineer, mixing wizard; Denise Mannion keyboard, zills, music arranger and artistic director. Percussionists on this album include Carmine T. Guida, Tim Bolling, and Reda Darwish.

1. Saba Samir: Everyone who enjoys Open Stages and parties at Rakkasah festivals will recognize this piece. A joyful piece with syncopated keyboard accents by Denise providing dancers with playful performance accents.

2. Keskin Biҫak: Bıçak (Sharp Knife)
This song is about how love can be so intense as to hear one’s heart, one’s life, and one’s soul. The song speaks of “living a life on hold, waiting for your lover” and “love is like a sharp knife in my heart.” Love the magical introduction with chimes into nai that introduces Pat’s soulful singing. With every new album, Pat’s singing has even more depth of feeling. The rhumba rhythm makes this piece perfect for double veil as it builds in momentum and contains lilting phrases and pauses.
Arranged by Pat Olson, this is a Turkish song originally recorded by Sezen Aksul.

3. Welcome to Cairo! A great percussion piece for an entrance. Zeffah rhythm entrance makes this a good piece for performing at a wedding reception. Three Doum Masmoodi rhythm and a variety of excellent Arabic drum riffs by Reda Darwish.

4. Nasam ‘Awaya El-Hawa: Composed by the Rahbani brothers. Maqam Kurd and Bayati. “Love Breathes Upon Us” This song is about the love for one’s country – “breath of love, take me to my country” and “I am afraid for my heart and of growing old in a strange land”. “What happened to us? We were together, but now we are separated. Take me, take me to my country.” Often requested this is a very popular Lebanese political song.

5. Mystic Blue Caravan. The title track is an original piece written and arranged by Pat Olson. It makes a great entrance for a dance troupe – complete with swirling veils or poi veils. Percussion by the very busy programmer-percussionist Carmine Guida.

6. O’na Sor: The translation of this song shines light on the aspect of trust in one love. The singer giving a promise of love. Ask the rain, the desert, the mountains if my promise of love is true. You say our love is your life, but has passed and is gone. If you don’t give love a chance, if you don’t trust, if you don’t forgive – just make it right, and end our love. A beautiful 6/8 waltz that features vocal and guitar by Pat. Nice song for delicate veil dancing and Persian styling with beautiful soft and flowing arms and hands and small travelling steps. You’ll love the drama of this song and Pat’s singing. Pat Olson arranged this is a Turkish song originally recorded by Tarkan.

7. Hot Buttered Drum: A drum solo by percussionist Tim Bolling gives dancers a light fun drum solo for plenty of precise shimmies, locks and pops with syncopated runs and riffs. A nice short drum solo to add to performance pieces for short festival shows.

8. Ah Ya Zein: Yes, a great piece that would work well with Tim’s drum solo to meet the requirements of those “5 minute show time” for competition and haflas. A popular Arabic piece.

9. Memoria de Sirocco: The track 'Memoria de Sirocco' is the song ‘Linda, Linda'; a small tribute to the much loved band Sirocco. “For so many years, we watched dancers and listened and enjoyed as Armando (uncle Mafufo) and Sol played this song. It has always been a favorite.” The composer is Samir Al-Tawil, a well respected and. Samira Al-Tawil is cousin to the comedic actor Danny Thomas whose an excellent Maawal singer featured on a compilation CD called 'The Arabic Americans'.

10. Mosafere Azizam: from Persia The lyrics are from the Persian poet Eraj Teymoor Tash. You are the flower in the Spring – leaving the garden – God keep you safe. The echo of your voice reaches me – my eyes fix on the road in hope of seeing you again. Keep me in your mind and heart as you travel – there is no other fantasy but your love. My beloved is more precious to me than my own life. This song is very special and brings tears to the eyes of many Persians who came here in 1979 or shortly after the revolution in Iran. From the translator: “Music is indeed oppressed and the direction of arts misleads artists manipulated to promote some dictated or outlined virtues or values or what is demanded as the behavior of 70 million people… But it is only in the dark days that one values the bright days that will definitely replace the dark ones, one day.” A beautiful Bolero rhythm that works for veil dance or fan veil.

11. Awesome Walk on the Moon: Drum solo by Reda Darwish. Looking for an exotic sounding drum solo that is exciting, different, yet traditional Egyptian Hagalla? This is the one for a spectacular show. Challenging and engaging with changing rhythms and riffs. Lots to work with for layering shimmies and accenting with pops and locks.

12. Maryam, Maryam Ti: A perfect finale piece for individual or troupe show. Reminiscent of Cirque du soleil styling with a melody, rhythm and dramatic buildup allows an opportunity to build up to the ending bow. Pieces from this album: Ay Ya Zein, Hot Buttered Drum (Solo), and Maryam, Maryam Ti – would make a fabulous show.

This is the seventh CD in a series all with excellent music recorded, engineered, arranged and produced by Pat Olson and Denise Mannion, the core of Pangia. If you love their work, you will love this new CD. Purchase your own copy of the CD at www.pangiaraks.com or www.cdbaby.com/pangia

For more information on Pangia: www.pangiaraks.com

Author Bio:
Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan has been performing, teaching, and coaching Oriental dance for over 40 years. Her Ma*Shuqa Method gives dancers a structure for developing improvised choreography while performing with individualized styling. Her workshop is perfect for teachers and dancers who want to enhance performance dynamics and styling. She has authored many articles on aspects of professionalism and performance in Middle Eastern dance. As a dance photographer – what she sees through the camera lens reflects a dancer’s professionalism. www.MaShuqa.com Her husband, Carl Sermon is well known for over 36 years of his festival and performance photography of Oriental dancers. Ma*Shuqa and her husband Carl work together to provide artistic direction and performance photography for photo sessions with Oriental dancers. See their work in The Belly Dance Chronicles magazine, The GildedSerpent.com e-zine, and at www.CarlSermonPhotography.Zenfolio.com Ma*Shuqa and Carl have been fortunate to perform with, photograph and sponsor Pangia. www.MaShuqa for their next workshop and House Concert in Los Gatos, CA, USA