Friday, June 19, 2009


I leave for Cairo this Monday, and aside from teaching, performing and partying at Ahlan Wa Sahlan, I am so happy that I will be seeing a lot of my belly dance friends, both those travelling from the US and other countries, as well as my dancer gal-pals currently living in Cairo. One of the people I'm really looking forward to seeing is Aleya, who sort of came up in the Los Angeles belly dance world at the same time I did.
Aleya and I totally tore it up in Cairo last May, and we're planning on doing the same this year, but on an even larger scale...last year, when I went home, she stayed on, in hopes of fulfilling her dream of working as a belly dancer in Egypt!

But before she left the US for Egypt, she left a "calling card"- a great CD called "Bellylicious Raks"

This fabulous CD was a labor of love, conceived produced by Aleya. Angelenos may know her because she has been working in the LA area for years, both as a soloist and with her popular Negma Dance Company. Having spent quite a lot of time in both Egypt and Lebanon, and experiencing Arabic music played live, Aleya had gotten tired of much of the Western-influenced, over-synthesized, soul-free music on the market today, and so she brainstormed this project, with professional Oriental Dance performers in mind. As a result, this CD is textured with dynamic live percussion and beautiful, intricate kanoun and accordion playing. There’s a really gorgeous version of Om Kalthoum’s Oriental classic “Ya Msaharne” and great versions of “Zay El Hawa” and “Ganal Hawa”, which are timed perfectly for restaurant work, private parties or even competitions. One of my personal favorite tracks is the driving opening song, “Hassan”. Now for a shameless plug… Aleya allowed me to “Hassan” in my performance on the up-coming “By Dancers, For Dancers #5 “ performance DVD, which will be released by Michelle Joyce’s Cheeky Girls Productions this summer. Also, I have used one of the drum solos from this CD on my “Abs-Olutely Fabulous” DVD.

But back to the CD: all the musical arrangements are fabulous, done by acclaimed Lebanese percussionist Ziad Islambouli and keyboardist/ accordion player Fayez Deryan, and the whole thing is a great mix of traditional Middle Eastern favorites and new modern pieces.

Islambouli is somewhat of a legend in Los Angeles, having played at the upscale Byblos Nightclub for almost two decades. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in LA and haven’t had the privilege having seen him live, you maybe familiar with his recorded work on Suhaila Salimpour’s musical selections. He is a world-class percussionist, talented and powerful. This CD provides FOUR separate, innovative tabla solos, ranging in length from a minute to just over three minutes, so there is definitely something here for everybody! The drum solos and orchestrated tracks could be put together in a number of ways to make quite a few high-energy routines.

I highly recommend “Bellylicious Raks”- it’s a must for any working dancer and would be a wonderful addition to any performer’s collection….in fact, I can’t stop dancing to it, it’s one of my favorite CD’s!

Bellylicious Raks is available from:

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