Raqs Sharqi Improvisational Taqasim:

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

Introduction
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).
http://www.amazon.com/Music-Egypt-Experiencing-Expressing-Includes/dp/019514645X

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
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eXUo_7grjE

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.
http://www.amazon.com/Music-Egypt-Experiencing-Expressing-Includes/dp/019514645X

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

Bibliography
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