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Stief grew up in a multicultural village,Schoten, just north of Antwerp, Belgium. Schoten is considered multi-cultural because of its yearly "International World Festival of Folkloric Dances". During the dance festival, the village immersed itself for 7 days in dances from all over the world (and Eastern Europe in particular). The best folkloric ensembles of Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Jordan, Bulgaria, etc. accompanied by their live orchestras made an enduring impression and opened his mind to other cultures. Each day ended with a night of dancing together with professional dancers to the live music of their respective orchestras.

When Stief moved to Antwerp in 1974, while finishing his chemistry studies, he studied violin and taught himself to play guitar. Through a mutual friend, he met some Moroccan musicians, among them the oud player, Abdel Kader Zahnoun, and the two of them began to play together in a mix of what we might call “fusion” music.

Some years later, Stief married; however, music and dance remained in his life. He played the derebki or derbukka with the North-African tribal band "Al Kholoud" of Abdel Kader Zahnoun. Playing in various formations of Middle Eastern music, Stief learned to play the Shaabi, Gnawa, Raï, Karsilamas, and other Oriental rhythms during the time when Raï music was played only in the Oriental cabarets of Brussels.

After traveling half a year through Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda, he produced his first recording. Sometime later, his wife took up the Bellydance, becoming the first Belgian dancer and teacher of Bellydancing. Soon, the two of them earned a living from their shows and Oriental dance classes. Stief became manager, arranging shows in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Spain, Greece, Senegal, and Egypt. He also accompanied the dance classes and the shows on the derbukka. Meanwhile, Stief played in shows with Tania Mograbi, Hadia of Canada, Rana Miras of Turkey, and even Natasha Atlas, who danced at that time in the Brussels restaurant circuit. In fact, it was he who suggested that Natasha Atlas, (her real name) was a far better name for her career than the dance name she had opted to use at that time.

An Arabic friend and musician, Mohamed Zahnoun, asked Stief to produce some of his music.Mohamed was in fact the brother of Abdelkader Zahnoun, who was busy doing theatre productions. No much later a Lebanese percussionist and singer who performed in an arabic nightclub in Greece, persuaded Stief to do the production of some of his songs. These songs were released in Lebanon and some of the percussion sessions later appeared on the CD "Hatshepsut and other dances" of Abdel Hazim and Abed Halabi where Abed had played the percussion tracks.

Not much later a Lebanese percussionist and singer, Abed Halabi, who performed in an Arabic nightclub in Greece, persuaded Stief to do the production of some of his songs. These songs were released in Lebanon. Some of these percussion sessions later appeared on the CD "Hatshepsut and other dances" of Abdel Hazim and Abed Halabi, where Abed (is this the Lebanese percussionist?) had played the percussion tracks.

Stief produced in 1988-1989 the female vocal band Harem with Aziza Gizeh, Ellen Rossi and Sabine Kabongo - in fact they were a fusion belly dance troupe that also sang. In the early 90's Denise and the Beasty Girls and Harem had some modest hits in Greece, Turkey and Finland with their maxi-vinyl "Waiting". A “maxi-vinyl is a 19 ' record, LP format that was, and in fact still is, popular in dance or club music. It only contains 1 or 2 songs ready for the dance floor. Harem - or rather ARS the record company - released the maxi "Waiting" in 1988. The music was a straight fusion between Western arrangements, Eastern melodies and instruments (ud by Mohamed Zahnoun), and Arabic music done by Abded Halabi or Krishna (from India of course) on Indian percussion, funky bass lines, guitar licks and rhythm & blues vocals.

Stief produced, wrote and arranged all songs and played the keyboards and guitar parts. After touring in Europe for about one year, and performing for the American and English troupes stationed in Germany, the group split and for a short period, Hadia did the dancing and the vocals.

Meanwhile, Stief wrote a book on the history of Oriental dance, which later became a lead for his multi-media exposition: "From Harem to Hollywood ". At the same time he also gave talks to youth associations on snakes around the country, emphasizing and demonstrating the usefulness of these animals and explaining the origins of the different myths in the world concerning snakes. These talks at the youth associations were later followed by an introduction course in Arabic percussion and rhythms.

After 12 years of activity in the business of professional Bellydance, personal problems arose between Stief and his wife, resulting in divorce, and leaving their Bellydance business behind. Shortly thereafter, Stief moved to Africa and started a restaurant.

After a few years, on his return to Belgium, he took up studies in web development and one of his fellow students, a painter who also had been to the Gambia, gave him the idea to start an online Bellydance Art Museum. The goal was sharing his knowlegde and his collection to everyone interested in the historical recordings of bellydance performances in the 18 th, 19 th and 20 th century.

Note: Deberki comes from the Arabic verb “derb”, which means to beat, and is related to the instrument called the "derbukka", also known alternatively as “tabla” or “dumbek”.

Articles on Gilded Serpent by or about Stief

  • The Bellydance Museum: An Accident of Fate?
    Soon, I found out my collection of Arabic instruments, ancient jewelry, and our shared bank account were all gone along with my ex-wife. The only thing I could find was a small part of my picture collection, which I now had to sell in order to stay alive.