Middle Eastern music has definite rhythmic patterns: the rhythms are uncomplicated and the belly dance is improvised - a visual expression and interpretation of the rhythms. The musicians improvise too, their moods and speed changing dramatically from lively tempto to slow, dramatic and intense ones.
All drum rhythms can be interpreted differently by different drummers, but a basic structure defines each one. The rhythm we are working with is usually called “beledi” in the United States, but you may also see it referred to as “Maqsoum” by Egyptian drummers. To further complicate matters, there is a slightly different rhythm that is sometimes referred to as Beledi as well. The word Beledi means “country,” with the idea of “hick” attached. (There is also a style of costume and a style of dance which can be referred to as Beledi or Baladi, but these are connected to the word “country,” not to the rhythm used. Incidentally, some people theorize that the term “belly dance” actually came from the word Beledi as well). This is the most common rhythm among music used for belly dance, including Arabic pop and traditional Egyptian dance music.
The basic structure of the Beledi rhythm, that sets it apart from others, is this:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
The drummer has freedom to “fill” in between these stressed beats as he/she sees fit to interpret the music, but here is one of the most common “fills,” and the one we are working with in class:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
(Capitals represent stressed beats)
The music is divided into two sections: The Ciftetelli and the Taksim. The Ciftetelli is sometimes referred to as the belida. an Arabic word referring to the lively part of the dance. The musicians play happy, lively music with a combination of instruments, varying in tempo from slow to medium to fast. The predominant beat is basically four count 1-2-3-4 which is played slower (slowed down) or much faster, doubling the beat of four counts to 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, the accent being on the first and third heat. 9/8 rythm is three beats of two counts and one beat of three counts, the accent being on the 1-3-5-7 beats, as follows:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Other rhythms, such as 7/8, 6/8 and 5/4 are more complicated.
As the Ciftetelli speeds up, the dance movements become more abandoned and exhilarating. During these fast combinations of dance steps vary with the use of the 'zil'. In complete contrast to the Ciftetelli rhythm is the taksim section. Here the musicians play an improvised solo, invariably making use of the ud or clarinet, both of which produce a soulful wailing sound. This section is played much more slowly and is more dramatic and intense. As the taksim begins, the dancer descends gracefully to the floor, sensually performing as she moves into the dance area, until the music changes to a livelier tempo.
Probably the best known khaleegy rhythm is also called the Saudi rhythm. It is a synchopated medium
speed 4/4 rhythm with heavy accents (Dums)on beats 1, "2.5", 4, with the ".5" being the rest between the major
beats in the measure.