Every Bellydancer Should Know...The Masters of Classic Arab Music

Thanks for coming back or if this is your first time; Welcome! You have excellent timing! Today is the first of a (more or less) regular column on this blog. It's sort of your "Top 10" variety except that there won't always be 10 items. So I've decided to call it, "Every Bellydancer Should Know...". I truly believe that these little lists are good basics that will help understand bellydance, it's history, the music, and the culture just a bit better. It may even help us understand other dancers a bit better -- wouldn't that be nice?! So let's get started, we kick it off with a list of The Masters of Classic Arab Music. Please feel free to add to the topic by posting comments, questions or other thoughts.

One more thing; these videos are long so get comfy, get a cup of tea or a glass of lemonade and enjoy. If you don't have time then just do a few minutes of each. Sometimes just even a few minutes can give you a sense of where the artist is coming from. 

Just a little chart shows artist's ages, their overlap and how it is that one artist easily influenced the next.
(sorry it's blurry)

1. Oum Kalthoum (12/31/1898 - 2/3/75)
Undeniably the Grand Dame of Arab Music. She is Egypt's most well known and beloved singers. To this day her music is played on radio, a simple youtube search will result in thousands of videos. Her discography would be too lengthy to list here but I'm guessing that whether you know it or not you've probably already heard several of her songs. Maybe the originals or maybe the remakes. Here is one of each:
Enta Omri
A very different version here:
2. Mohamed Abdel Waheb (3/7/07 - 5/3/91) Singer, composer and actor. Born in Egypt. He composed for other artists on this very list, such as Oum Kalthoum and Abdel Halim Hafez. He is very much 1 of the 4 legends of Arab music.
A bellydance favorite, Leylet Hob:
3. Farid Al Atrache (10/19/17 - 12/26/74) Born to a Syrian father and Lebanese mother, when young moved to Egypt and eventually became a citizen. He was a singer, composer, actor and he played a mean oud! Again, this gentleman is one of the legendary four (first four on our list). Not to sound gossip-y but as a side note, for a few years he dated the beautiful dancer Samia Gamal (but more on her later). Here are just two sample songs of the (over) 300 songs he recorded. 
Noura Noura:
Habeena Habeena (you have to LOVE these grooo-veeee videos!)
4. Abdel Halim Hafez (6/21/29 - 3/30/77) One of the four greats is as widely known and loved as his peers. He was known as the Great Dark Skinned Nightingale. He and Mohamed Abdel Wahab (mentioned above) were close friends and worked together creating masterpieces. 
Zay el Hawa  - (such a beautiful song! yes long video but even if you watch a little you'll get a bit of the flavor)
5. Baligh Hamdi (10/7/32 - 9/17/93) - Prolific songwriter, composer worked with many of the industries greats. He was married to Warda (also on our list).
Sawah - performed by Abdel Halim Hafez. Adbel Halim and Baligh Hamdi worked together frequently creating beautiful music together.
Another version...sung by a guy in a very shiny suit (Mohamed el Ghawi)

6. Fairuz (11/21/35 - present) Very well known and loved Lebanese singer, still very active.
If your dancing should take you into the Lebanese community this is a name you should at least be somewhat familiar with.

Nehna Wil amar Jeeran
7. Warda (7/39 - present) - Warda Al Jazairia, was born in France to an Algerian father and Lebanese mother. At a very young age she sang songs made popular by M. Abdel Wahab #2 on our list and Farid Al Atrache #3 on the list.
 Absolutely beautiful voice, you don't have to understand Arabic to appreciate this woman's amazing talent. I'm so grateful that she has shared her gift with the world. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Here's lovely little number -- with choreography and all -- it is far out man!
Tab Wana Mali

Sigh...such a Warda classic, one of my favorites.

Batwannes Beek

Well there you have it. In no way is this list complete, it's just to get you started on your own journey. So  google away, read, ask, youtube -- have a blast! As you do you'll watch not only your knowledge but your love for this art-form grow and deepen. Happy journey habibi!


  1. Virtually any type of music can also be used if you are practicing for your own fitness or health purposes.

    1. True, but if you're performing for a Middle Eastern audience you should know this music.

  2. Great post Gina! I love the chart!


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