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Gilded Serpent presents...
Bellylicious Raks
CD review by Andrea

Bellylicious Raks, released in 2007, is a CD with many of my own personal favorite songs that are enjoyable for performing, teaching, or just listening.  Recorded in a studio in Lebanon, the music on the CD was made with the dancer in mind.  The ensemble of instruments is comprised of qanun, bass, riq, accordion, and drums in addition to a keyboard.  The pieces are suitable for the dancer who performs regularly in restaurants and festivals and needs to put together a dynamic set in under seven minutes.  With this CD you can present a great performance with a variety of moods for any venue.   

What I look for in an inspiring opening piece is something upbeat thatíll make the audience clap. This first piece should deliver some accents and dynamic rhythms that I can play with.  The first track, Hasan, is it!  Itís a fun upbeat song with good rhythm dynamics.  At 4:07, the length is just right, plus I love how the ending is a reprise of the beginning.  It makes the piece feel like it comes full circle with a beginning, middle, and ending. 

So many other songs end abruptly and leave you hanging or just take too long to finish--not unlike an unsatisfying lover.  Hasan, however, is truly satisfying.  It will be my next new entrance piece for 2008!

Another great piece is Where Do We Begin 2 (2:54).  In a brilliant move by the musicians or producers, this part of the epic song Nebtidi Min Ayn Il Hikaya was recorded as a different track from the beginning music, Where Do We Begin (4:02).  You can use the pieces separately or together.  Where Do We Begin 2 is one of my all time favorite pieces of entrance music.  I just canít get enough of the piano introduction and the flowy feeling of the music.  Iíve performed to it hundreds of times and each time Iím inspired by the music.

There are some very worthy interpretations of other classics such as Ya Msaharne, Gana El Hawa, and Ma Aarwak.  Ya Msaharne is simply dreamy and will be loved by you Om Kalsoum fans out there.  Itís the type of music that makes me want to close my eyes and swoon, and the musicians do it justice on this CD.  Gana El Hawa is always a crowd pleaser and Ma Aarwak is stirring for those who like to be taken away by slow Arabic love songs.  Other noteworthy pieces are Where do We Begin, Madah Elkamar, and El Hawa Hawaya.

The drum solos in general on BellyliciousRaks are extremely dancer-friendly.  They were recorded live and each pattern is played 4 times before a new pattern is started.   I wish all live drum solos were like that!  

The CD provides 4 drum solos in a variety of lengths so you can squeeze one in to your performance no matter what the time limit is.  My two favorites are Aleya drum solo (2:56) and Belly Beats 3 (3:06).  The former gives you a little bit of ayub (or zar rhythm) which is always fun to play with.  The latter has lots of different drums giving it a heady and exciting feel!  The brief Belly Beats 1 (1:10) may come in handy for those shorter sets and also is good for students to practice to.

Zay El Hawa has to be one of my favorite all time songs--this one however is not my favorite version.  Personally I wish it had more punch for performing though when I play it in my dance class the students love it!  Additionally, I do wish the CD had vocals on it. That would make it perfect! Why is it so challenging to find tarab music CDs with vocals on them

If you are a fan of the great orchestrated classics, youíll really enjoy this CD.  Aleya had a lot of consideration for dancers in producing BellyliciousRaks and it shows!   For the professional it provides many dynamic numbers that you can add to your performance arsenal.  For the student it provides some of the most popular Arabic oriental songs that you need to know.  For anyone who likes Arabic music, the CD is very satisfying!

Contact Aleya regarding this CD

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