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Q: Famous Arabic Musical Origins ( No Answer,   1 Comment )
Subject: Famous Arabic Musical Origins
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Performing Arts
Asked by: trishacm-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 12 Jun 2006 20:20 PDT
Expires: 12 Jul 2006 20:20 PDT
Question ID: 737655
Where exactly is Mohammad Ali Street -  also some history about
musicians and dancers from there would be awesome.  I'm interested in
it in terms of the history of Belly Dance
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Famous Arabic Musical Origins
From: thursdaylast23-ga on 22 Jun 2006 11:17 PDT
The short answer is that Mohammad Ali Street (also spelled Mohammed
Ali Street) is in the are of Cairo, Egypt, referred to as ?Old Cairo?
or ?Islamic Cairo.? Here are some excerpts and links with information
on Mohammad Ali Street, ?belly dancing? that has its roots/history
there, and other activities/life of the famous street, as well as
links to a few images (at the bottom).

According to Wikepedia, ?the term ?belly dancing? (believed by some to
be a mis-transliteration of the term for the dance style Beledi or
Baladi) is generally credited to Sol Bloom, entertainment director of
the 1893 World's Fair, the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It
was in the Egyptian Theater, where the USA first saw Raqs dancers,
that Bloom presented "The Algerian dancers of Morocco". The dancer who
stole the show, and who continued to popularize this form of dancing,
was "Fatima", also known as Little Egypt. Her real name was Farida
Mazar Spyropoulos and oddly enough she was neither Egyptian nor
Algerian, but Syrian.?

Wikipedia goes on to outline the general history of Raqs Sharqi, which
is the Arabic term for what has been Americanized as ?belly dancing,?
along with mentioning several key Egyptian dancers influential in the
popularization of the form:

Raqs Sharqi is performed by both women and men, usually performing
solo, to entertain spectators in public or private settings. Despite
being called a "belly dance", Raqs Sharqi dancing uses movements in
every muscle group of the body. It is fundamentally an improvisational
dance with its own dance movement vocabulary, fluidly integrated with
the rhythm of the music.
In Raqs Sharqi, the dancer internalizes and expresses the emotions
evoked by the music. Therefore the music is integral to the vocabulary
of the dance movements. The most admired Raqs Sharqi dancers are those
who can best project their emotions through dance, even if their
movement vocabulary is very simple. The dancer visually communicates
to the audience the emotion and rhythm of the music.

Many see Raqs Sharqi as a woman's dance, celebrating the sensuality
and power of being a mature woman. Sohair Zaki, Fifi Abdou, Lucy, and
Dina, who are all popular dancers in Egypt, are all above the age of
forty. This school of thought holds that a dancer has limited life
experiences to use as a catalyst for dance until she reaches "a
certain age".

Egyptian-style belly dance is based on the work of belly dance legends
Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioka, Naima Akef, and other dancers who rose to
fame during the golden years of the Egyptian film industry. Later
dancers who based their styles partially on the dances of these
artists?and who have risen to nearly the same level of stardom and
influence on the style?are Sohair Zaki, Fifi Abdou, and Nagwa Fouad.
All rose to fame between 1960 and 1980, and are still popular today.

In Egypt, three main forms of the traditional dance are associated
with belly dance: Baladi, Sha'abi and Sharqi. The most important
non-Egyptian forms of belly dance are the Syrian/Lebanese and the

Egyptian belly dance was among the first styles to be witnessed by
Westerners. During Napoleon's invasion of Egypt (the campaign which
yielded the Rosetta stone, leading to the translation of Egyptian
hieroglyphics), Napoleon's troops encountered the Ghwazee tribe. The
Ghwazee made their living as professional entertainers and musicians,
with the women engaging in prostitution on the side. They often had a
street dedicated to their trade in the towns where they resided, but
some were quasi-nomadic. At first the French were repelled by their
appearance, heavy jewelry and hair, and found their dancing
"barbaric", but were soon lured by the hypnotic nature of their

Here is an excerpt from an informal history presented on a UK site of
a dance group. The writer notes the cultural importance of Mohammad
Ali Street in the third paragraph below. The first two paragraphs give
the context and terms, so I have included them below.

The Baladi Personae In Egyptian Dance And Music, by Suraya Hilal

The term ?Baladi? is an important word for every Egyptian whose life
and traditions identify him or her with the soil of Egypt, the
original country.  These men and women are generally known as
?children of the country?, ?Awlad el Balad?.  The term describes the
particular identity of the working class people, the people who have
migrated from rural villages and farming communities and settled in
the cities, creating their own type of community.  Awlad el Balad is
also a term which refers to the ?real Egyptian?, or ?Masri Asil?, as
opposed to the western occupiers and westernised Egyptians, known as
?Afrang?.  This is an important distinction for Egyptians, who have
been ruled by foreigners for long periods of their history.  In the
period preceding Nasser?s revolution of 1952, which brought Egypt back
into the hands of its own people for the first time in centuries, a
strong consciousness of national identity had been building up.  Awlad
el Balad, the ?children of the country?, were considered noble and
honourable, an idealised image which became increasingly stronger
among the population.  (The ruling classes, whose lives are for the
most part divorced from those of the lower or Baladi classes, may not
hold this view.)  Although not formally educated and sometimes
illiterate, Awlad el Balad are street-wise and shrewd and possess a
tremendous knowledge of the world.  They are usually of lower middle
class origin and hold non-government jobs working in a particular
trade or craft.  This also includes the trade and craft of the artist,
singer, dancer and entertainer in general.

?Ibn el Balad?, the ?son of the country?, is the true Egyptian who is
also known as a ?gada?a?, meaning good, honourable, courageous, and
responsible.  He has the same attributes as Awlad el Balad and he may
perhaps be the local butcher, baker, or the ?Ma?alim?, the boss man,
the local merchant, running an honest trade and known as a good and
fair leader in his community, or ?harah?.

Awlad el Balad live in the Sha?abi communities (here, the word Sha?abi
refers to the popular communities, which may also include the Baladi
communities) of the major cities and adhere to a strong code of ethics
and identity.  For decades, even before the turn of the 20th Century,
Mohammad Ali Street was the main Sha?abi quarter and the centre of the
Baladi ?asil? artist, the ?real? Baladi artist, and remained so until
the 1970s, when its artists saw its rapid decline.  (Sadat?s open door
policy, under which foreign money and big business flooded the
country, and there was rapid social and economic change, resulted in
the breakdown of the codes of conduct in the entertainer market which
had protected the Baladi artist and his trade for decades.)  However,
the identity and consciousness of Awlad el Balad has essentially been
established since the 1940s and still remains today.  From that time
onwards, male and female entertainers from Mohammad Ali Street were
considered to be typical Awlad el Balad.

Here is a review of a recent cd by musicians who grew up on Mahammed Ali Street

The Henkesh Brothers, ?Cry to the Moon/Taqasim lil Qamar? album

The Henkesh brothers were born and raised on Mohammad Ali Street in
Cairo, sons of ?Rayes? (Master) Henkesh, the famous wedding band
leader during Cairo's Golden Days. The eldest, Sayed, plays the
accordion like his father, and has helped produce this album. The
second son, Khamis, started his musical journey early, at age five,
like many little boys, by playing the bongos. But when his talent
became apparent he switched to the tabla. Soon after, he began playing
with his father's band. Rapidly well known artists of the time, such
as dancer Tahia Carioca, comedian Mahmoud Shekoukou and singer Shafiq
Galal, took notice of this unusual young man and began to showcase his

When Khamis joined the band of singer Ahmed Adawaya his musical career
took off. He was offered a contract with one of Egypt's largest music
production companies to record studio sessions. He can be heard
accompanying many of Egypt's most well known artists, such as Hany
Shaker - Ahmad A3daweya - Amr Fathy - Mohammad Mounir - Mohammad
Fou?ad ? Amr Diab ? Ali El Haggar ? Mohammad El Helw ? Nagaat El
Sagheer ? So3aad Mohammad ? Badara El Sayed ? Samira Sa3eed ? Fatma
Eid ? Layla Ghofran ? Nagah Salaam ? Sabaah ? Fahd Balan ? Shereen
Wagdy ? Kazem El Saher ? Nadia Mustafa.

Khamis has played on numerous scores for Egyptian television shows and
movies and has often been interviewed on Arabic satellite channels. He
has participated in many festivals around the region and regularly
performs solos for the opera with Dr. Gamal Salama, Mr. Yehia Khaleel
and Mr. Magdy El Husseini.

Khamis presently performs in Cairo with his orchestra The Hanekeesh
and runs the family musical instrument store on Mohammed Ali Street.

You can see related pictures and video clips on the Henkeesh family
page here, including some relating to belly dancing:

An anecdotal history of a belly dancer from Cairo, Nadia Hamdi, some
of whose female family members ?learned Shamadan from Zouba el
Klobatiyya and Shafiyya el Koptiyya who were celebrated in Mohammad
Ali Street as the originators of Shamadan.?

An account of someone?s experience of attending a large Middle Eastern
dance festival in Egypt, in which the writer briefly describes a visit
to this famous street in Cairo.

Here is a page of pictures taken in Old Cairo, the area in which
Mohammad Ali Street is located:

On this page, there is a picture of an oud maker in Mohammad Ali
Street (bottom right hand corner of page):

Picture of one of the musical instrument shops on Mohammad Ali Street,
for which it is famous:

Photo of a street entertainer in a café on the street:

Picture of Mohammad Ali Street:

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