Gilded Serpent presents...
Veiled Visions:
A trip down memory lane.
CD review by Amina Goodyear

The CD titled "Veiled Visions" is a re-release of music that was formerly produced on vinyl.  It is definitely in the category of Arabic Tarab (a musical concept one might loosely define as full of feeling, emotion and soul). Listening to it again brought back so many memories of the time when I had the record album back in the 70s and played it occasionally for my classes.

Once again I recalled that it was a beautiful arrangement and well recorded album. However, it was not in my list of favorites to use for teaching or for any of my party gigs because it just didn't have that extra "oomph" of exciting dynamics that is necessary for exciting students or for breaking the ice at a party.

Times change! I imagined that when listening to the album with my "ears of today" as a re-released CD, and considering the advent of globalization affecting Middle Eastern Belly Dance music, this really beautifully made album would finally make the grade!

But ...
When I brought it to my class recently to use as an aide in teaching my lessons, I rediscovered the same dilemma as before. No, there just isn't that "kick" of energy that is necessary to cause my students to clamor for information on where they could buy it.

1. Oriental Floor Show (13:30) - What a beautifully arranged piece; everything is there for the lovers of classical Middle Eastern music.
Abdul Wahab's Habibi Lasmar, Om Kalsoum's Yeshak Kol Gameel, and many beautiful instrumental taqsims featuring the oud, kanun, nai, org, violin are included. All this content helps to lead, to guide and also challenge any dance student. Its instrumentals tell the dancer what to do; its melodies can inspire movements and dreams. All this took me back to other days and other dance experiences. However, would I have used it for performance now? Would I have chosen to use it back then in the 70s? No; I don't think so! Did my students of today like it? I conclude that perhaps they did not find it captivating because when I taught my lessons using it, they didn't comment as they most certainly would if they had liked it.

2. Al Asfouria (4:24) Oh my stars! This song transported me back to North Beach in the 60s when a certain petite dancer named Najma Saline always used this song for her opening number. She sang the song holding a microphone and danced at the same time! Najma also did a finger cymbal dance solo. What a multi-talented songbird/dancer she was. (The song "Asfouria" is about a bird.)

3. Samra ya Samra (6:16) George Dabai, a drummer we worked with at the Bagdad in North Beach taught us this song. (Its title means Samra, Oh, Dark One!) Listening to this made me realize how important it is for the dancer/student to try to find the lyrics of the songs before dancing to a re-arrangement. I realized that this song may only seem beautiful to me because I secretly remember and sing the lyrics in my head while dancing to it.

4. Ya Hweidalak (7:15) Perhaps this song would be good to use in class in lieu of a loop but is otherwise undistinguished.

5. Mustafa (4:14) The only Mustafa that came alive for me was arranged and played by the late George Abdo in the Abdo album, "The Joy of Belly Dance", In Veiled Visions the piece is acceptable, but George's had singing and was an exciting arrangement that was ready to take to parties! Nice is good, but nice is not good enough in this case.

6. Ya Salat el Zein (5:24) Again, here is another nice song, but this is a song that was popular with the dancers and musicians of another time, and it just isn't good enough without more "pizzazz" and better vocals. This was a song that used to be perceived as fun and lively; it encouraged audience participation and a few yelled "Heys!" here and there. In this version, however, it's just another loop.

7. Ah ya Melban (2:10) This is simply another song for practicing simple combinations. While there is nothing wildly stirring or passionate about it, it is good for basic transitions.

8. Habayna Baadina (3.50) Here again, we have a song that was terrifically popular long ago-especially for the Belly dancers of the era, but it seems not to be transformable into today's mode of entertainment.

9. Ya Sareeya (3:33) Oh Companion is a song that reminds me of the Yemeni people I once knew. Here in San Francisco we have several Yemenis who like to get up and dance to this song. It is quite fun to see them do the 3-step back and forth-in unison-weaving here, there, and everywhere! Sometimes, we get up from our chairs and join them, but no matter how hard we try, we just cannot do it like they do.

10. Takseem Nye (2:10) This is exactly what it says it is. It is appropriate for practicing arms, veils, and other slow fluid movements.

In conclusion I would like dancers to recognize that there are two types of dance routines:

  • the loud, crisp, peppy ones that grab you and pop out, or
  • the classic soft ones that are really all about your listening pleasure.

This CD version of Veiled Visions is definitely a "for your listening pleasure" production. It is quite musical, the musicians play each selection beautifully and the entire album brings back so many memories to me, but as they say in the movies, "You can't go home again."  Times have changed, and so must we all.

This DVD is available through (pg 8, under "bellydance")

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