Dances of Port Said by Mohammed El-Bakkar and His Oriental Ensemble is a fantastic CD (the 2003 edition) with a dozen songs. The contents represent an introduction to the music of the Middle East; the audience is treated to varied orchestral sounds including drums, flutes, clashing cymbals, castanets, clarinets, oboes, strings and unusual percussion sounds. An earlier vinyl version of the record was released in 1960.
It begins with “Dari E. Yeounik” (“See and Admire”). The orchestral music has a background of sounds including flutes, cymbals, drums, loud clapping and hurling screams, as in a fast paced caravan celebrating romantic night adventures. In person, the audience would likely experience the swaying of tassels, hip scarves and exotic belly dance movements.
Next, the listener is treated to “Ish Allamak” (“Who Taught You”). The music proceeds with singing against a backdrop of percussion, cymbals and occasional wailing. Typically, the belly dancing associated with this music would include intricate hip drops, vertical hip rocks, hip lifts, twists and suggestive shoulder accents.
“El Hora El Hawara” (“The Circle Dance”) follows with flutes, castanets, cymbals and drums against a backdrop of group-singing around a fire with belly dancers. Occasionally, the women in the group chime in with high-pitched screams and partying body language.
“Ya Natir” (“The One Who Waits”) follows sequentially. The music opens with a flute and soloist. The surrounding group participants whisper the words of the soloist. There is significant percussion with clapping and cymbals clashing throughout. This rendition would be played logically in a place like Djema’a el Fna, which is a city square in Port Said. There are huge crowds day and night with an array of belly dancers, tumblers, sword swallowers, fortune tellers, card tricksters, screeching peddlers and shouting cabbies.
To a foreigner from the West, this scene might be entirely unfamiliar. In fact, the local people might look upon travelers with a wry humor or even distrust depending upon the body language communicated by the tourists.
Dances of Port Said is an important introduction to the music of the Middle East with a particular emphasis on the area’s open air markets, which operate literally night and day, and to the travelers coming from all over the globe to trade there. The music is also valuable to people studying the culture for the first time, as well as experts in the local culture.Powered by Sidelines