Raqs Sharqi

At the meeting point of Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Egypt has absorbed and blended music from many cultures. Influences of all the peoples who have lived, occupied or controlled Egypt can be found in the varied dances traditions. Dance is termed Raqs Sharqi but this is only an umbrella term. Specific dance origins were never recorded clearly but were certainly inspired by the descendants of the Rajistani nomadic tribes such as the Ghawazee, Nawar and others as much as the inscriptions on ancient temples and tombs show. The dance today transcends the amazing history and continues as an important social tradition passed to the next generation by mothers to daughters, from aunts, sisters and grandmothers. No celebration passes without an opportunity for dance and the expression of Egyptians deep connection to their music. For both women men, Egyptian dance reveals our true selves, celebrates our sensuality, strength and self expression.

'Sha'abi' is the popular music tradition and includes all the folk traditions e.g. Ghawazee/Fellahin or farmers music with their simple songs, clapping and rythym. It's also the Saaidi or Upper Egypt music with more complex rhythms and the traditional music of the Ghawazee (gypsies). Sha'abi dance is big, earthy, exhuberant and joyous. Dancing Sha'abi always feels like a celebration.

Sharqi’ is the classical modern form and traces its origins back to the courts of the Ottoman period where patrons paid for composers, musicians and dancers. During the last century, classical music by the great Egyptian composers was infused with ancient dance traditions, ballet from the West so the dance can be more flexible, expansive and even contemporary.

‘Baladi’ is rooted in the café society of Cairo from the 1920s and 1930s. Meaning ‘of the country’, it was a fusion of country folk song and dance traditions brought by migrant workers and combined them with the new jazz musical instruments saxophone and accordian. The new music and dance developed appropriately for the confined spaces in the city. Traditional baladi is made of ten parts (ashra means ten in Arabic). This style of music has continued to develop through the electronic age to become a pop culture as diverse as ours! Baladi is usually performed by a solo female dancer who interacts and improvises with the musicians as well as the very noisy Egyptian audience.