Sahar Hamdi does a drum solo
Magic Sounds Studio of Cairo
3 Albums reviewed and Compared
Album #1: Talisman
#2: Nesma:Del Nilo al Guadalquivir (From the Nile to the Guadalquivir)
Album #3 :Nesma, Memories
Table comparing Musicians and Orchestration
Magic Studios is the magic name for mixing and producing high quality CDs in
Cairo these days. So many great musicians seem to eat, live, breathe and
play music there.
Twenty five years
ago I went to Egypt to see non-stop dancing at all the major
5 star hotels and Pyramids Road Clubs; and, yes, I saw all
the dancers of my dreams - from the major stars such Nagwa
Fouad, Soheir Zaki and Fifi Abdo to
the lesser known but equally remarkable dancers such as Aza
Sharif, Nelli Fouad, Shu
Shu Amin, Nadia Hamdi and even the infamous Sahar
Hamdi. What I experienced was nothing short of wonderful,
memorable and "life changing".
Hamdi and her musicians in 1991
Although I had gone
to see, feel, live and breathe the dancing and the dancers,
I found that my eyes and ears kept gravitating towards their
musicians. Never in my life had I imagined the richness of
the music and musicians such as I saw and heard…musicians
of incredible energy, vitality and passion and ability. And
there were many of them – so many on stage that at times
it was difficult to even count how many.
a world where Egyptian dancers dance in the "less
is more" tradition, the world of musicians seemed
to be - more is better and lots more is best.
I had come from the
worlds of The
Bagdad and the
Casbah in San Francisco's North
Beach where we had the best music in the West or so I thought.
This meant that we had live music with 3 musicians, and on
weekends we even had 4 musicians. For sure we had a drummer
and a singing oud player, plus a violinist,
a nay or kanun player. Some of our musicians had even worked
with many of the famous dancers in Egypt such as Soheir Zaki
and some of the others listed above. And, of course,
we dancers were also percussionists as we assisted the drummer
with our virtual non-stop cymbal playing. We, at the Bagdad,
had already had the privilege of working with tuxedo-attired
non-English speaking Egyptian musicians straight from
Egypt via London where they had worked with Mona
They were a drummer who stood on one leg with the other
leg balancing the tabla while supported by a chair; a sax
player; an org player and a riq player. Yes, I
truly believed that we had the best music.
what I saw in Egypt was something I had not even dreamed
With the concept of
more is better - if one violin sounds good, why not a symphony
orchestra of violins. One drummer? Hah! In Egypt it was a
full percussion orchestra (not a band). Once I think I even
counted 58 musicians on the stage and a third of them were
percussionists. Imagine - all these musicians supporting
one solo dancer. OK, it wasn’t just a mere solo dancer. It
was Nagwa Fouad. Yes, we may have, in my mind, had the best
dance music in the West, but it sure didn’t even slightly
compare to the dancers’ music in the East.
Well, outside of my
poorly made, for my ears only, bootlegged cassette
recorder in the purse recorded and distorted music, I
never could find that big powerful sound duplicated until
very recently. It came in the mail one day. It was Horacio and Beata’s Oriental
Fantasy Vol. 12, also known as Talisman. I
remember being in the middle of teaching a drum class when
the mail came with that all too familiar looking package
that cried out “open me, I’m a CD!” So, of course, I did,
thinking, “ok, good, another CD for class.”
surprise! This was a CD that made my adrenalin kick in
– actually go into overdrive. It had that sound: that
big sound that said, “Jump up and Dance! You are here
- in Egypt. The band is playing for You!”
Every instrument is
clear and distinct and is driving You to dance. This CD had
drums and duffs. Not just one, but multiples of one. This
CD excited me and I wanted to know more about the musicians
and the recording. This is when I discovered that the band
in this CD was actually quite large and that the percussion
section really was a large percussion section and not just
one or two musicians playing over their own tracks.
So, with musicians,
if more is better and lots more are even best, this CD certainly
rates in the best department.
at Magic Sound Studio in Cairo, Egypt in 2006 and was directed
by Ahmed Abdel Fatah, composer, arranger and musician who had
worked with dancers Nahed Sabry, Azza
Sherif, and Nagwa Fouad.
includes 10 violins, a cello, oud, kanun, nai, accordion,
duffs, riq, keyboard,
an additional drum group and singers - over 2 dozen musicians
and singers! It
is a CD that inspires dancing, dances and choreography.
with a typical Beata
and Horacio piece that is indeed an Oriental
Fantasy. I can just see a balletic scene with 2 strangers
(Beata and Horacio?) in paradise in an ethereal stage suffused
in blue and purple light dancing a loving pas de deux adagio.
This is piece inspired by Alexander Borodin’s
(1833-1887) Polovetsian Dances and is called:
- Overtoure to Talisman 2:13
- Talisman 5:35
created in collaboration between Beata and Horacio Cifuentes
and Mr. Ahmed Abdel Fattah and is a wonderfully upbeat Classical
Oriental Dance piece. If a dancer had a 6-minute or less
time constraint, this definitely would be the piece to use. It
has an extremely strong, attention-grabbing entrance and
finale. The various sections within the piece can be playful,
pensive, soulful, fun, moody and exciting depending on which
instrument is taking the lead. All this and a drum solo too
is included in this dance piece. There is quite a lot of
dance action packed into this 5 1/2 minute piece.
must admit that as soon as I heard this piece I immediately
choreographed a dance for my class and then for my dance
besalsh aleya 5:05 She never thinks about
song uses 2 tracks on the CD. The first is with vocals and
the second is instrumental only. Although I personally enjoy
the vocal version best, I believe that Beata and Horacio
understand the need to have a choice of dance music with
and without singing. It is also nice to use the instrumental
version as a karaoke version. This medium tempo song,
originally sung by Mohammad Abdul Muttaleb,
is very lyrical and sentimental. Horacio and Beata’s Oriental
Fantasy 12 version
has a more danceable tempo with many natural rhythm and instrumental
changes such as maqsum, malfoof and wahedeh and the violin,
the accordion and kanun become the reason for mood changes.
There are nice drum pops just waiting for hip accents. In
the vocal version there is a nice exchange between the solo
singer and the chorus.
This is a very heartfelt romantic love song. She never asks about me,
my eyes never see her. I cannot bear being away from her…never!
- Saidi 4:43
in a Saidi song? and with the nay answering the violin?
The dufs and drum have very clear pops and include a tabla baladi sound,
but it is still a mellow song. I can’t quite picture it as a folkloric Saidi
dance, but it is good for teaching Saidi dance with a clear Saidi rhythm.
The melody does not stray, the rhythm is steady, but there are no high points
to the song.
- Mahbobty 3:48
light song features the kanun, violins and keyboard.
nai and violin have a nice question and answer interlude
and the violins do talk and also have a conversation with
the keyboard, drums and kanun. I can see a group dance
performed that floats across the stage emphasizing graceful
arm movements with arabesque and grapevine steps and circular
flowing formations. There are also nice drum sections and
a short “simple to dance to” drum solo.
is also a two-track song. The first is with vocals and the
second is karaoke. It is a very familiar version. It is just
like Om Kalsoum’s
original version, except it has a great and powerful duf
section. It is Driving! It has that Egypt sound.
The singer, of course is not Om, but has a nice voice.
I left sleep and it’s dreams. I forgot it’s nights and days.
Far from you my life is hard. Don’t let me be far from you! I
absolutely love the dufs and the drum accents. This makes
it different from the original. This makes it VERY danceable.
- Hagallah 4:55
Hagallah song is like the Reda
Troupe version, but it has
better sound and is very upbeat. It would be great for a
group dance. This folkloric dance is from Western Egypt.
It too has great drumming. It also has a tag for finale.
is a grand Oriental solo in the classic style of the 1970’s.
This majestic score reflects the Golden Period in which a
large orchestra, which performs long Oriental overtures featuring
a variety of rhythms, moods and levels, supports the soloist.
It was one of Soheir Zaki’s favorite dances. It has a great
Big Sound duff back-up section. There are typical short taqsims
between the sections featuring solo instrumentation. There
is the kanun, accordion and of course the multiples of violins.
In the Chifte section there is a nice nai taqsim, which is
followed by ayoub and the kanun. There is the question and
answer between the instruments and the musical phrases. There
is also a great accordion solo and cymbal exchange. Towards
the end, the chorus enters and it is a great place for back-up
dancers to come in and frame the solo dancer and perhaps
build the excitement for a grand finale. There are many drum
breaks during the ending.
song plays like the dances we saw in the old Trytel video
series. It is not as exciting or up-tempo as the Talisman
piece as it seems to be deliberately mixed down to make it
sound like a period piece.
with this CD is that the CD doesn’t have a dedicated drum
solo with the big drum and duf sound it is capable of having.
#2: Nesma:Del Nilo al Guadalquivir (From
the Nile to the Guadalquivir),
Recorded at Magic
Sound Studio in Cairo Egypt in 2001. It was recorded, mixed,
mastered and arranged by Ahmed Abdel Fatah and remastered
in Spain by Gabriel Gutierrez in 2005
el Nile (6:28)
This is an Eastern
Classical Dance. It has that Old Style sound and begins with
sounds like a clarinet. It
is a very old Eastern, almost Turkish sounding Old Style.
violins play the entrance in a medium tempo that would
be good for a walking
or arabesque entrance. The body of the dance is ‘Shades
of Farid’s” classic song "Leila" and even includes
section and the kanun question and answer part. There is
also another familiar sounding song with a nai and violin
question and answer and also cymbal and riq cymbal exchange.
After this is an accordion
“slow down” with drum answers. It is not exactly a baladi
taqsim, but is nice. It is actually kind of cute. All the
changes naturally change and the stops are also natural so
that a dancer can actually intuitively follow this song.
- Del Nilo al Guadalquivir (5:44)
Andalusian piece was written especially for Nesma’s dance
company. It starts with a 7/8 rhythm and goes back and
forth between that and a 10/8 rhythm. There is a drum section
also includes a 6/8 rhythm. Old sounding Andalusian song
starts with the nai then travels to the oud, back to
the nai, then the kanun and a chorus. It is a very beautiful,
song starts with the sound of bells. The violin and
nai play a romantic and flirtatious melaya lef song. Those
who are going to El Gourya. Take a gift for my love. Buy
a suitable necklace that is very nice and bears her name.
And a scarf, a shawl, a bracelet and an ankle. Find the most
beautiful. Help me to choose. This song is probably my
favorite in this album as it takes me on a very sentimental
journey through the back streets of love. It just makes me
want to dance!
- Sukari 4:53 By
the Nubian Band
By Ali Hassan Kuban.
eyelids are sweeter than honey, you are the queen of all
women. During my sleep I dream of you and when you are by
my side, my heart starts to fly. Sugar, sugar, sugar... Your
eyes makes all men go crazy. And your smile is melting me.
Sugar sugar sugar.”
is a happy love song. I was told that the Nubian music is
based on a pentatonic scale and although one may not be able
to read music or identify scales, it is easy to identify
this sound. It sounds very “Chinese” to me. The rhythm is
both upbeat and also very laid back. It reminds me of a time
when I was in Aswan with my daughter Susu and we were eating
in a little restaurant and spontaneously the help – the waiters,
the cook and the owner -- started clapping hands and drumming
on the tables and insisted we join them in a little dancing.
So we did - we just ambled lazily about in a “conga” line
strolling and swaying between tables humming, singing and
clapping. Different places bring different musical memories.
Alexandria is Abdul Halim Hafez singing on the taxi’s radio
and Aswan definitely is drumming, humming and polyrhythmic
Ligharou Menni 5:27
beautiful traditional Tunisian song is a true story of a
singer in love with his dark slave girl. You shouldn’t
blame, those who are jealous of me. You are completely ignorant
of my heart. You shouldn’t have. To those who rebuke me out
of jealousy, I reply “see her through my eyes.” I am charmed
just by a sidelong glance of hers. To her I am an Adam, as
she is my Eve. The rhumba rhythm, oud and violins
are typical of many Tunisian songs, white sands and warm
el Shamadan 4:43
Shamadan (candlelabrum) dance, with its roots in the Sebuaa
or the Egyptian celebration held seven days after a baby
is born, is now quite commonly done at wedding zeffas.
In keeping with the theme of this CD, this playful song
the rhumba rhythm with maqsum to make a very playful and
sentimental song. The kanun and nai taqsim create another
romantic dimension to this song. This song is a favorite
among my students as its many moods and rhythms provide
easy keys to following the music in an interesting and appropriate
Bada Yatathanna is an Andalusian song known as Muwasha. Among
belly dancers it is probably the most known of the “10/8”
songs as it appears in so many different albums. When
she begins to sway. My beloved’s beauty drives me
to distraction. Surrender, surrender. My beloved’s beauty
drives me to distraction. The nai and kanun bring
a very spiritual and haunting dimension to the song and the
voice crying out aman, aman, aman, aman only adds to the
- Raidak 3:56
this Eastern Classical Dance piece, although there are the
familiar maqsoum and wahedeh rhythms, the rhumba beat is
again the dominant rhythm. The riq (tambourine) playing on
this piece is especially wonderful. The rhumba and solo instrumentation
also are in keeping with the romantic theme of this Andalusian
el Bannat 5:50
solo with cymbal and other percussion accompaniment. The
drum talks and it’s easy for the hips to listen and answer
Reda wel Noor 4:34
with the lilting strings of the kanun, this song - again
another rhumba, maqsoum and wahedeh rhythm combination intertwined
with the many strings of the violins - sings of love and
el Nile Finale 2:51
mostly violin upbeat malfoof finale is an exciting ending
song for this CD.
The CD, Del Nilo
al Guadalquivir is a wonderful mix of Andalusian muwashahat
and classic old style Oriental music. All the pieces, with
the exception of one, seem to naturally fall into place
in this CD. Even though I very much like the Nubian
song Sukari used in this CD, I question why it was used,
as it didn’t seem to fit into the general mood or geography
of the CD. Since this CD was made as a result of a show,
probably Sukari was used to change a mood in Nesma’s show.
#3 :Nesma, Memories
recorded at Magic Sound Studio in Cairo Egypt in 1998. It was
recorded, mixed, mastered and arranged by Ahmed Abdel
Fatah and remastered in Spain by Gabriel
is the piece that prepares the audience for a performance.
It doesn’t necessarily need to have a dancer. It might be
nice to use it for chorus dancers to introduce the audience
to the solo dancer who would then dance the second song.
Said el Artiste
- Nesma 9:58
with crash cymbals this dynamic upbeat modern entrance dance
allows the dancer to show off her many different dance styles
and techniques in a grand manner as the instruments, moods
and tempos change.
Drummer: Said el Artiste
is a drummer’s drum solo, starting out with familiar breaks
with the duffs and tabla doing a question and answer, then
transitioning smoothly and seamlessly with changes from one
rhythm to another. The difference in the sounds between the
dufs and the tabla are very enjoyable to listen to and, even
better, they are more exciting to dance to.
Drummer: Negm Hanafy
chorus dancers again appear as they sing and exclaim how
happy they were to get to know you.
Drummer: Said el Artiste
Ala Feyn 7:37
is your love? This peppy, popular song made famous by
the late great dancer Naima Akef and the singer Mohamed
Abdel Muttalib has a great special arrangement with the two solo
singers and the accordion and the drum that just inspires
the dancer’s personality to jump out and reach the audience.
The second part of the song – when the singer sings to the
night with his leiliyas calling for dancing, and with the
accordion answering the call – is truly delightful.
Drummer: Zahaar Hussein
- Haniin 9:28
song creates many different moods with the different rhythm
and instrument changes and is also another complete dance
routine that includes both Oriental and Baladi styles.
Drummer: Zahaar Hussein
solo the ard played by the duf(s) provide a solid
base for the tabla to lock into. The clapping and cymbals
provide an interesting other feature as the drumming segues
into an accordion baladi.
Drummer: Zahaar Hussein
Accordion Piece 4:33
This typical Cairo
baladi style accordion piece probably was originally played with traditional
Saidi folk instruments. In this piece a dancer could utilize her hips
and arms and also go through the motions of the dancing Arabian horse.
Drummer: Negm Hanafy
El Ayam I 4:34
El Ayam II 3:35
El Ayam III 5:08
can I say about these three pieces except that Daret el
Ayam is one of my favorite songs and this version is more
than wonderful. It is nice that it is broken up into
three sections to aid in editing if necessary, but the
stops between the tracks are a little too long. All the
instruments, the violin, the guitar, the accordion, the
nai, the kanun, the drums and more make this arrangement
the best piece in the CD. Nesma did indeed save the best
Drummer: Said el Artiste
As noted, Nesma used
different lead drummers for different pieces and in this
way she created many different moods as each drummer brought
his own particular personality and style to each piece he
played in. The melodic instruments and percussion section
are all mixed so that one is able to distinguish and enjoy
their individual sounds as they come together as one complete
It is evident
that Ahmed Abdel Fatah has the magic fingers, mind and
ears, as he was able to mix all three of the three above
CDs and give them three completely different personalities.
And ALL are mixed to perfection.
Participating Musicians and Orchestration
Fantasy Vol. 12-Talisman
Nilo al Guadalquivir
Memories of Cairo
Sound Studio, Cairo, Egypt 2006
***Ahmed Abdel Fatah,
composer, arranger and musician who had worked
with dancers Nahed Sabry, Azza Sherif, and Nagwa
10- including Hazem Kasbgy, Mustafa
Askn, Mostafa Abdel Khaliq,
Tabla: Ismail Gebi
Dohola: Nasser George
Duff 1 : Mohamed Hadida
Duff 2: Ramdan Mahmoud
Riq: Salah Asal
Singer: Ahmed Murad,
Drum Group: El Gebi
Recorded: Magic Sound Studio,
Cairo Egypt, 2001
mastering and arrangement:
Fatah (composer and arranger, musician,
Remastered in Spain
– Gabriel Gutierrez 2005
The Cairo Music Ensemble
8 including Mustafa Aziz (1st violin Hazem
Kasbgy) + Mohamed Mougy, Mohamed Eid, Mohamed Kotb
Motaz, Yasser Taha
Bass: Salah Ragab
Oboe: Tarek Omran
Serour, Maged Aragi
**Mundouh el Gebaly
Tabla, Dahola and
Duff: Khamis Henkish, Ahmed Bendir, Mohsen El Swaf,
Ismail el Gaby,
Riq: Hisham el Araby
Nubian Music: Nubian
Noor el Wasalaty, Hamdy Hashem + more
and sequences: Ahmed Abdel Fattah
Sound Studio, Cairo Egypt, 1998
mastering and arrangement:
Fatah (composer and arranger, musician)
Remastered in Spain
– Gabriel Gutierrez
Cairo Music Ensemble
Violins: 6+ Mohamed
Mougy, Mohamed Eid, Mohamed Kotb
and Kawala: *** Mohamded Fouda, Mohamed Ali
Tabla, Dahola and
duff: Said el Artiste, Hussein el Zahaar, Negm Hanafy
Riq: Mohamed Omar,
and Streams: ***Ahmed Abdel Fattah
Chorus: Amr, Abdel
Halim Abdel, Hamid, Saida Shagan,
Vocalists: Sami and
el Artiste is probably the most prolific of the Cairo studio
drummers and is well known for his crisp, fast “machine-gun”
appears in all 3 CDs
**= appears in 2 CDs
Beata & Horacio- http://www.oriental-fantasy.com/english/musik.html
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
North Beach Memories Chapter 6: Bert, by
On my first
Monday at the Casa Madrid, Bert came to support the place and
me. Well, what he saw was equivalent to a San Francisco earthquake.
Zar, Trance Music for Women, CD Review by Amina Goodyear
produced by Yasmin of Serpentine.org. “Once a spirit is called, it must
be appeased. Then it will always be there.”And it will have to be periodically
of Oriental Dance, Starring Nesma and Khamis Henkesh,
DVD Review by Leyla Lanty
Nesma and Khamis's
discussion of the complexity of Arabic music and dance is both
appealing and easy to grasp.
3-11-08 Serpentessa –Do
not try this at home…. DVD review of "Belly
Dance with Snakes: Embody Your Inner Serpent" Review
There are things in this video I can get behind and things
I can’t. A blessing and a curse of this video is that there
is so much information that it is difficult to navigate through
and Belly Dance, Two Books Review by Rebecca Firestone
Belly Dance: Orientalism, Transnationalism & Harem
Fantasy edited by Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young & Choreographic
Politics: State Folk Dance Companies, Representation, and Power
by Anthony Shay
Belly Will Travel by Tanya Lemani book review by Birute
The process of getting booked on these shows and her
relationships with other artists, both famous and unknown, who
help her on her way is the most interesting part of the book.
2-07-08 Aruna's "Dancer's
Body" Reviewed DVD review by Rebecca Firestone
One of Aruna's claims to fame is being 50 and being tougher than chicks half
her age. And it's true, at least with regard to the strength training - which
was her profession for many years. Considering that most belly dancers want
to be as youthful as possible, it's a nice change to have someone so athletic
who's still improving with time.