What to See at Folklife #362: Vintage Arab Song & Dance

Maurice Rouman; photo courtesy Su Nelson.

Across the Arab nations, some of the most captivating and frequently shared songs and stories are those of unfulfilled love.  You can hear the rich and yearning chords calling out from the stringed oud or the woodwind nay, or coming from the vocals of the adored and recently departed singer, Warda. Here in the Northwest, bands such as House of Tarab play many of the same beautiful classic pieces that were featured in the golden era of Egyptian film.

This year the Arab show at Folklife will feature music that captures this sentiment and many other iconic sounds and aesthetics from North Africa to the Gulf. Along with House of Tarab’s Egyptian classics, you will also get a taste of French- Arab compositions as played by Fathia and Les Troubadours. A duo featuring the master musician, Maurice Rouman, will showcase the exquisite artistry of Arab music and maqam when in the hands of a virtuoso.

Fathia Atallah; photo courtesy Su Nelson

Finally, it’s not an Arab show without a selection of exciting folk dances! Shahrazad will perform Khaliji, a dance that is rich in both swinging and subtle gestures. In Khaliji, women dance in large, decorated jeweled thobes that, amongst other things, allow them to show off a little bling.

The show will feature two different countries’ versions of a massively popular line dance, known as the Dabke. Dabke is danced by people of all ages and genders, and is the national dance of many Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan and Syria. There are about infinity versions of the Dabke, but some of the unifying traits include stomping footwork, people joined closely in a semi-circular line, and a leader who guides the group, sometimes jumping away to perform an impressive extra step or two. This year the young men of the Jafra Dabke team will present an energetic Palestinian version of the dance. A young group of girls will also perform a Lebanese version, highlighting a light and rhythmic variation.

Catch Dabke, Khaliji, and the sounds of Egyptian and Franco-Arabic compositions at the Arab show on Saturday, May 25th in the Exhibition Hall, 3-6pm.

Shahrazad; photo courtesy of Su Nelson.

Photo courtesy of Su Nelson