Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cairo belly dance music is 'hip' - in London

With thanks: Gil  
Guy Schalom (left) with his Baladi Blues Band

It's official.

 'Music to belly dance to' is no longer confined to sleazy, smoke-filled cabarets in Cairo. Known as Baladi -  Egyptian urban dance music -  it is becoming increasingly 'hip' - in Europe.

Listening to one of the main popularisers of Baladi - percussionist Guy Schalom - causes an irresistible urge to shake your hips, shimmy and girate your torso. The cookery writer Claudia Roden, a contemporary of Guy's grandparents, Jews exiled from Egypt in the 1950s, is a great Baladi fan.

Guy Schalom's Baladi Blues Band is a fusion of East and West. They play not just traditional Middle Eastern instruments such as darbuka, tabla and oud, but alto sax and piano accordion.

'Baladi' means 'country'. As Egyptians flocked to the cities from the countryside, they brought the music with them. But what has always been regarded as a strongly Egyptian music form was in fact exposed to many outside influences. In this radio podcast by the Jewish Music Institute, Guy explains that it is now forgotten that the Jewish influence on Baladi music was considerable. Jews performed it and composed it. "There are Jewish connections, and for me this is quite powerful," says the Israeli-born musician, who was brought up in the UK.

If you are in London you can hear Guy and his Baladi Blues Band perform at King's Place on Thursday 6 June.

Other JMI  podcasts  feature the Sephardi and Mizrahi musicians of El Gusto, the Jewish-Arab Algiers Band reunited after 50 years (full details of their 3 June concert at the Barbican here) ; you can also listen to interviews with Ladino singer Yasmin Levy and the Sephardi band Los Desterrados.

The Jewish divas of the Arabic music scene

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