Monday, January 16, 2012

Music exploration

This has been a disturbing trend that I've noticed (at least I find it disturbing) where some new dancers wait to be spoon fed music instead of doing their own research.

Finding out new (to you) music is a big part of belly dance. I think that it's crucial that you dig around for all kinds of music. Beats Antique is awesome and totally danceable and has good roots in Middle Eastern tones but it's not the end all be all of belly dance music.

Digging around for music is going to help you pinpoint a bit better what you personally like in terms of style and music tone. There are so many options out there, don't stop at just what you see the big names do.

Speaking of big names, I think that there's a little known fact that most of them know classical Middle Eastern music and modern music from the Middle East as well. I was lucky that my first instructor, who was teaching Raqs Sharqi back in Quebec, was a big fan of the likes of Hossam Ramzi and George Abdo so she was using those classics in all classes.

I've seen tribal fusion dancers dismiss the good old classics and even generally Middle Eastern music altogether because they do fusion. While, yes, when I do my fusion work, I do use modern Western music, I think that going back to using more downright Middle Eastern music every once in a while (at least in your practice) is a great idea that will help you deepen your understanding of belly dance. Why? Quite simply, the moves fit the music... and, well, vice versa. If you're doing some of your even most basic moves to Middle Eastern music, you'll find that it's a natural fit and you'll feel the moves differently.

So, how do you find new music? It's really everywhere.

Using iTunes
You can definitely use your iTunes to help you. You can follow threads of "people who bought this album you're seeing also bought XX." And keep following those threads. You'll discover interesting things that way. Also, you'll be able to find podcasts and users' playlists as well as "essential" lists. It's quite useful. If you like a song excerpt and want to hear more, head over to Youtube and do a search for that song title. You'll be surprised at how many songs/pieces are in full on youtube. Sometimes, though, you gotta use a little faith and take a plunge. If it's just a song, then it's a risk of 1$ only.

Using Youtube
As weird as it sounds, you can follow "threads" on youtube as well. So you do a search for a song/artist. On the right, you'll have a list of other videos probably by said artist or other artists who have done other versions of the same song... or just something entirely different. That's actually how I discovered Infected Mushroom, an Israeli electronica band and I fell madly in love with their piece Becoming Insane, which I danced at Tribal Revolution a few years ago. And I have other examples of finding amazing music that way.

Using Pandora
Pretty much everyone knows about Pandora but, in case you don't, it's a very interesting thing where they have categorized music based on characteristics instead of just styles. So if you like an artist, you can type in the name and it will create a radio station for you based on other music that has similar characteristics. I've discovered a lot of good music that way too. Their link is

Using internet searches/Wikipedia
This should be obvious but people forget about it. You can simply do a search for an artist or a song or a genre and should find other artists/songs in the same style. Why? People will often list their inspiration or what they sound like so searches will pick up on that. Wikipedia has a lot of information on there and, especially if you look up a style, you'll find other artists in the same style. Don't know the style of the artist that you like? Search for said artist on Wikipedia and they'll tell you... and then you can click that link... and follow links after links after links.

Take the time
We all have busy lives and, in this electronic age, it seems like everything is going super fast... but you can actually use this era to your advantage: finding music is easier than ever! I remember the days pre-internet when you had to take a chance on a cassette (yes, cassettes back then) that was a compilation with Arabic writings and (most likely) a camel on the cover. And those were expensive... and so hard to find! Now, we can find music from the Middle East without even leaving your house! And you'll even find reviews, translation of lyrics, etc. That being said, it does take time to follow threads and search for music and listen to it and all. But that is an extension of your belly dance practice. That is part of what being a belly dancer is. You can dance without music (Onca proved it magnificently) but, you know, generally speaking, you'll need to dance to music... do your homework and figure out music on your own.

Note: You'll notice that I didn't mention very many music artists. The reason for it is that it would be the equivalent of spoon feeding you the music. ;)

1 comment:

Gnomebody said...

Excellent info! When I have a spare few minutes, I'm always roaming iTunes looking for new music.

May I suggest the Radio Bastet podcast for vintage bellydance music. The host also has a blog which identifies the music for each episode. It's really fun to listen to. It's also a radio station on iTunes as well.