Review of “Modern Bellydance from Lebanon, The Enchanted Dance
Produced and arranged by Emad Sayyah

Reviewed by Najia El-Mouzayen
March 7, 2002

You are going to have to strap on your dancin’ stiletto heels tightly, fellow terpsichoreans, to dance with this Lebanese version of “Stone Soup”. It is one of those typical Lebanese style recordings though it was produced in Austria: too fast, too evenly paced, too much quirky “question and answer form” within each tune arrangement, and definitely too much electronic keyboard for my taste. In short, if you expect to get anything really succulent and appetizing out of this musical soup, you had best supply your own ingredients, and let Sayyah provide the stone, the water and the pot.  This cauldron bubbles along without the exotic classical sounds that typically provide dancers the spice that draws one into sensual movement and transports the spirit into dance.

Though I am usually a great advocate for recordings that include vocals, I find that those songs that sport vocals on this particular recording are generally colorless and flat, due mainly to a lack of vocal artistry.  Seemingly, men who are like members of the local pub band, make a sorry attempt to “sing” the songs Lebanese party-style.  Not to be outdone, women also echo the effort without the mitigating dallah quality found in many Egyptian recordings.

The final track, Raksa Sahrawiyya is a collection of various rhythms from the Sahara and is interesting and played well by Abdo Manssour, though it is not done in the manner of a drum solo for dancers (series of repeated drum riffs that culminate in a musical climax meant to challenge the dancer and amuse the audience).

Add to all of this mixture a big dollop of rattling and whirring sounds, electronic clapping, and ring-a-ding-dangs to fatten up the thin contents of these musical offerings. You will either be charmed because the rhythms and tunes are spirited and each selection is zippy or you will be as annoyed as I was with the inclusion of these sounds that cheapen the musical content.  It is true that the music is “modern” but it is far from “enchanted”.

     I found this recording to be like a cold shower: invigorating and tense and a relief when it is over.

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