Musicians Speak out!
Dancers – Get What you Need...
editor of MID-BITS Magazine
The band: a dancer’s partner in performance. How do you see your dealings with these mysterious musician-types …a necessary evil? an uneasy alliance? a satisfying cooperation? Your answer will depend to a great extent on understanding what goes on in the minds of the band members, how they perceive the relationship between dancers and musicians. Dancers have many talents … but we’re not mind readers! So Mid-Bits decided to go straight to the source to try to discover what makes musicians tick. Hopefully this glimpse into the minds of musicians can provide some clues about how we can make the musician/dancer dynamic work to our advantage. Read on to meet the four (almost) fearless musicians who agreed to share thoughts, philosophies, insights with us …
Amer Matri – Born in Syria, Amer comes from a musical family and has been playing dumbek for 19 years. He studied classical Arabic music for four years and has been playing professionally since the age of 16 in banquet halls, theatres, night clubs and with renowned Middle Eastern singers. He has toured extensively throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North America.
Simone Abou Rahmoun – Simone has played the guitar and keyboards since 1982 in Qatar. In Canada for the past thirteen years, he is in demand as an entertainer at Arabic nightclubs and private parties across the country and in the U.S.
Dr. George Sawa – Egypt’s loss … our gain! Dr. Sawa is an internationally-recognized kanoon maestro and ethnomusicologist. He has a varied career as a soloist, music director, teacher and lecturer.
“X” – Preferring to respond anonymously, this oud player accompanies dancers in club and concert venues across the country.
--To you, what makes a great bellydancer?
George: Ideally, it is someone who has rehearsed and knows the piece very well. It is someone who can also dance beautifully – if called upon - without knowing either the band or the piece.
Amer: The most important thing for a dancer is knowing the beat. I like dancers who know the beat!
What makes you dislike or disrespect a bellydancer?
Simone: Bad attitude problems!
Amer: Acting… you know – she doesn’t know the music, but she acts like she does.
George: If a dancer makes faces on stage, if she shows that she is unhappy with the musicians …
--Do you like a dancer to tell you what music she wants for her entire show, one or two songs, or not at all?
“X”: Some bellydancers are used to certain pieces of music and that’s what they’ve practiced to… I play whatever they like.
Amer: The whole show… this means she knows what she’s doing.
Simone: I will play what she wants … but I want to play what I want too!
George: We play for the dancer, so the least we can do is make her happy.
--What do you think is the all-time best song/music for a bellydance show?
Amer: The music should be taqsim, old-fashioned Egyptian beledi, and a drum solo.
Simone: That’s a hard question… there are so many. Honestly, I’d play one of my own with all the best parts of different songs.
“X”: Egyptian music is the best… there are so many good ones though – it really depends on the dancer – whether she’s good at slow stuff, fast stuff, veil, folk, etc.
George: I am old-fashioned, so I prefer the turn-of-the-century music: slow, respectable, with lots of dignity. There’s not a lot of showy stuff, but I think way more subtlety. But this music is not accepted – people think I’m nuts.
--Should the dancer share any tips she makes with the band? What percentage?
Simone: It’s not worth it if it’s $20, $30, $40, but if she gets lots of tips, say $100 - then, $45 for the dancer, some for the band, and a bit for management. It’s up to her, but really the money isn’t only hers.
--How do you feel about the dancer dating a band member?
Simone: Yeah… What’s the matter with it?
“X”: Depends if she likes him, if he likes her, if they’re both available…
George: (laughing) I was married very young, alas, so this question never really applied to me! I understand that in the 80’s it was a very common practice. But I think – business-wise – there are always problems: the dancer feels free to make demands on the musician, the musician then must make demands on the other band members…
Amer: Nothing wrong with that!
--Who do you feel is the leader of the band? Who should the dancer be dealing with?
“X”: Sometimes the violin, sometimes the oud, likely the bellydancer and the drummer work together most …
Amer: Depends on the band… sometimes it’s the drummer, sometimes it’s the keyboard, sometimes it’s the oud… Usually in a four piece band that has keyboard, guitar, tambourine and drum the dancer would be speaking to the keyboard for all the songs and the drummer for the drum solo.
George: The drummer is the “time-keeper”, so he would be in charge.
--Do you ever try to screw up new dancers to test them out?
Amer: Nah! None of the professional musicians do this… doesn’t matter if she’s a new dancer or not… you have to have respect for everyone involved in putting on the show… the sound guy, the owner of the place, the other musicians, and the dancer.
“X”: (in an offended tone) NO!
George: I never, ever do it. I think this practice is nasty and unkind, and I was brought up to be kind. It is
totally uncalled for.
--If you saw a dancer’s costume was about to come undone and pop open, would you warn her?
Simone: Oh yes, of course, she is one of us.
Amer: Of course you have to, that would be embarrassing for all of us in the show.
George: What would I do? Stop playing and stare!!! (George is laughing again) Seriously, when I am playing for a dancer, I consider the dancer my sister, and I must defend her and do the best for her. Of course I would warn her.
--Do you enjoy playing for dancers?
Simone: Yes, but only if their dancing goes exactly with the music – matches it!
George: If they are good, and will agree to what the repertoire will be. Because if they don’t, all tensions show on stage.
--Any advice? Anything you would like dancers to know?
George: There are ten basic beats; dancers must know these, or they may give the wrong message to the musicians. Also, they should know the text of the song, what the song is all about. It is great if they understand some of the subtleties of the music, the hidden meaning of the melody itself, because the dancer should translate these with her body. Of course, this is the long-term goal.
Copyright Adam Burke
About the author: Mayada studied dance from an early age - various dance styles include Latin, Brazilian, Jazz, Tap, Modern, Indian (Kathak), Highland, and Hip-Hop. Since discovering Middle Eastern dance it has become her main pursuit. She appears in group performances with Arabesque Dance Company as well as being a busy solo performer. She has been featured on T.V. shows such as Arab T.V., Diverse City, Clip Trip, Mosaic Magazine, Hora H, Dance Me, Eye on Toronto, Breakfast Television, City Line, and Canadian Living as well as appearing regularly at various restaurants and Arabic functions across Canada. Dance festivals such as the Fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists (fFIDA) and multicultural events including Caravan/Toronto round out her resume.
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Thread: Musicians Speak out!
08-03-2011 09:44 AM #1
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