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Gilded Serpent presents...
Leila Haddad Presents:
Traditional Vol. 2

SidiMansour. Songs and Beats from Tunisia.
A CD review by Sadira

Leila Haddad once again produces an excellent quality CD of traditional music from her homeland of Tunisia. The quality of the sound mixing is up to her usual high standard.
This recording goes beyond mere music for dancing and listening. Whether one is a dancer who is studying North African /Tunisian Dance, a world music enthusiast, or an ethno-musicologist who specializes in traditional regional songs and music at its most pure level..this CD encompasses all of that --and more!

When Aisha Ali first introduced the dances and music of North Africa to the Western world of Middle Eastern dancing, we westerners had very limited prior knowledge of these ancient, desert dances. Her albums were the first to bring the music straight from Tunisia and Algeria and to make it available for all to experience. Even at that time, few dancers actually knew the style of these dances and their particular rhythms, songs, patterning or regalia well enough to replicate them.

I am proud to have been able to learn North African dance from the teachers and dancers, who like Aisha Ali, learned it in its homeland, and from Leila Haddad, whose ancestry and lineage shines out to all who know her and study dance with her.

It is rare to find such a person and dancer as Leila, who is a representative of a culture and art form that might have been lost to obscurity otherwise in our societal rush towards more and more modernization. In that sense Leila's musical recording is more then a mere CD for dance, it is also part of the preservation of the style and music of ancient traditions.

In the 1970s when it was so difficult to find any kind of music from the Middle East to use for either dancing or for listening, there existed a company known as "Folkways Albums."  Their directive was to find and preserve as many vanishing old world and ancient world songs and tunes.  Only through their archival albums would anyone be able to find music from Morocco, or any area of the world, including traditional Aleut (Eskimo) songs.

In the producing of her CD's, Leila is also creating a legacy of preserving and authenticating the music from Tunisia. This makes this CD even more valuable in the study of ethnic music and enjoyment in seeing the traditions passed along and continued.  Due to Leila's teaching of North African Dance throughout America and Europe, we are able to be a part of that incredible lineage and authenticity.

This CD is an extension of new songs; rhythms, and beats used to dance with then have not been available before. Tunisian music and rhythmic stylizing is unique in its own particular format. If one did not know, or had not studied Tunisian dancing, one might find its patterns very different from the typical 4/4, 2/4 tempos used in contemporary Arabic music.

The linear notes provide us with the rhythm used in each piece, mostly in 6/8, and 2/4 counts; yet the variety and styling of these counts are what makes them unique and faceted in association with North African music. There are sublime complexities in the variety of music selections that all originate from one signature rhythm (6/8), that continually change in styling for each piece.

Listening to the selection of musical pieces on this CD exposes one to a wider range of rhythms than formerly heard music from Tunisia.  The complexities (not only in the music, but the dance styling required for each individual piece) are wonderful.  If you are a novice, you would not be able to dance Tunisian to this particular CD; only if you understood the nuances and all aspects of Tunisian/North African dance, would correct dance be possible.

The singing on this CD has a wide variety. The singers are preeminent as soloists, aside from the accompanying harmony.  The instruments of Bendir, Tabla, Zokra and Mezourad are mesmerizing -even somewhat cajoling. What I love best about this music is its embodiment of joy and the exuberance it evokes.

  • Selection #3 "NOUR " is reminiscent of the music associated with BAL ANAT, HAHBI
    RU, and that which is often heard in use for ethnic style dance. This selection has versatility beyond Tunisian. Its ending is fast paced and dramatic.
  • Selection #4 "LEILA", with an intricate 2/4 rhythm, would need to be accompanied in dancing by understanding the correct style of movements to use, and accuracy in count and step formulation, which is necessary to this piece. This is an energetic, exciting number that builds its momentum.
  • Selection #6: "Jani el marsoul" is done in 4/4 count, yet it is very different in emphasis on the counts and beats on the tabla that stand out as Tunisian signature versus Egyptian, or Beledi 4/4. The drumming is superb.
  • Selection #8 " Sidi Mansour" is one of my favorites. It is highly reminiscent of a Zar, or trance style mode in 2/4. It is very reminiscent of the Bedouin trance style with repetitive chants and beat that grows faster and faster, known as "Allah Hey" (God lives!).

Leila's CD is as exuberant and expansive in its modalities as she is in her dance and her apparent desire to share this traditional beautiful journey.

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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

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