“Pangia, Classic & Original Music
Arranged with the Dancer in Mind

CD Reviewed by Najia El-Mouzayen
May 15, 2002

Like taking a time travel machine to 1955 Brazil by a lost dancer from the Middle East, this well recorded music gives the “Belly Dance” a decidedly fusion flavor.  The blending of the lower American continent with a mixture of dance classical tunes from various parts of the Middle East and the Mediterranean is charming, if a bit too slow in part.  I believe that this recording is destined to be a favorite among dancing students who are just beginning to perform. New dancers usually need music that is stable within each selection rather than music with shifting themes containing a variety of rhythmical and tempo changes. However, it is those complexities that make most Arabic music interesting and challenging to experienced performers whose preferences and abilities are formidable.

 Here we have Pat Olsen warbling something akin to a Flamenco styled, yet plaintive mawaal titled “Black Is My Heart” which is presented as a copyrighted original composition, while there, we have the Greek and ever-present “Miserlou” presented as Greek and Egyptian fusion. The opening title, Como?” certainly transported me somewhere Mediterranean to a “trattoria” for a little Sangria! 

I have taught beginning dancers for many years and the selection titled, “Nile the Crocodile” by Pat Olson is exactly the sort of slow, fantasy Oriental music (complete with bird sounds and trickling water) that will capture their fetal-like tarab (the spirit of the dancer that is moved by music).  Perhaps a performer may choose it for Raks Snake Razzmatazz. The following selection is an unusual “6/8 Drum Solo”, which seems like a good bet for a zaar styled interpretive Oriental dance.

Surprisingly, the thin quality of the arrangements, featuring creditable musicianship, puts one in mind of many nostalgic memories of student nights at Middle Eastern dance Nightclubs in America.  Many of the selections sound old fashioned and much of the music is a combination of Oud, and dumbek (dumbeck, doumbek, or tabla) with a touch of delicate bass by Mike Rader underlying the arrangement--like the title “Ka’an Az-zaman” and others.  It is also reminiscent of some of the live groups on the stage of many festivals such as the Rakkasah Festival.

Surely, many student presentations in the future will have ladies with veils draped over their heads and faces, back to the audience, interpreting the slow keyboard, oud, and dumbeck composition “Denise’s Bolero”!  I can see it all now…  Uh, I have seen it, and seen it, and seen it…

The “Drum Solos” are masterpieces of predictability and will undoubtedly become favorites of dance instructors, worldwide, who have beginner students.  These drum solos are better than most and are of a beginning nature because the sound is so good and clear and the drum is accompanied by the zils of the tambourine.

Pat Olson’s voice, though not like that of a Middle Eastern singer is more Mediterranean with its tremolo and sweetness.  It is very pleasant and will certainly appeal to many a sensitive female heart, especially in his rendition of “Seni Sevdi” (a Turkish Love Song).

The recording is arranged into two complete American-styled dance presentations: one titled “For Your Gypsy Soul”, which has little to do with Gypsy-hood, and another, “Crossing Continents” that seems to hop around the globe from musical continent to continent without prejudice. Each group sports a drum solo and the typical fast-slow-fast format favored by Western dancers. 

If I had a passel of beginners, I would definitely order “Pangia” for their practice sessions and their first dances for student night presentations.

For more information on obtaining this CD- email mannion@siskiyous.edu

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