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Warning - teacher-to-student level talk ahead. All my thinky teachery friends will sporfle with laughter at how much I'm simplifying this!

As part of my teaching this summer, I made my students work on random pieces of music that I love, for improvisation purposes. I wrote about it here. I'm not a fundamentally mean person, so part of what they were learning was how to think about each piece of music, how to find a way to make that piece work for them, on an emotional level, because it's only when you can find that emotional connection with the music that you can express something to your audience about what it means to you.

We'd worked on a single piece of music (Da Ainu Miny, since you ask), for 6 weeks. Then to get them out of that comfortable familiarity, I changed it to a new piece of music each week, for 5 weeks, and now that those classes are safely over, I thought I'd share what I was doing here. If I enjoy it, and if people are interested I might even carry on further, with music that I *didn't* use for classes this summer!

So, the first piece we worked on was Mawoud.

This is a classic piece of music sung originally by Abdel Halim Hafez. It's actually one of the very first cassettes of Egyptian music I ever had (a gift from one of my mother's friends who went on holiday to Egypt, it was probably bootleg as all-get-out, but that's wasn't *my* problem!). I loved the cassette cover, showing Abdel Halim (I didn't know anything about him at that time, couldn't read the arabic label) striding mournfully through Trafalgar Square, with a big red double decker London bus in the background so there was no mistaking where he was.

I loved that the intro to the music seemed to go on forever, and that people kept clapping and cheering. I loved the whole cheesiness of it! And even though I didn't understand a word of it, it spoke to me on an entirely visceral level.

Much as I love Abdel Halim, though, it was not a good version of the song to present to my students, so I picked a version by Sherine.

She's got a beautiful, sweet voice, and I thought it might be easier for my students to relate to a female singer.

But I made sure I linked them to an original Abdel Halim version too, so they could wallow in the lushness of the orchestration, and the honey of his voice!

It would also be a good way of seeing what a full Egyptian orchestra looks like! There's a long intro- the singing part doesn't come in until 8 minutes 25!

Having picked a suitable Mawoud for my students to work with, I made sure I had a translation of the lyrics available for them, which came from here.

In the Sherine version of the music, she's only singing the very beginning of the piece. I tried to put it into more conventional English, so that my students had a clearer idea of what they were dancing to, even though it wasn't a very direct translation, and misses the actual title of the song. “Oh my heart, you're used to being tortured, you're used to being wounded. Oh my heart, your pain and wounds never heal. Oh my heart, you never get to experience joy- every time, it's just more wounds. And today, you've come to say, let all that go, that love is all in the past”. But then the music changes dramatically, becoming much more upbeat, and the lyrics change with it... “He dropped his napkin and wrote on it he wanted to meet me... Oh world, promise to take us to the joy of love, keep grief away from us, and tell love to wait for us...” It makes the change of music make sense, when you suddenly realise that it's all about the triumph of hope over experience- despite the fact that love has always hurt you in the past, you can still be hopeful that it will work out with your new relationship.

Yes, that's MASSIVELY oversimplifying the lyrics, but what I was after was a way for this song to mean something to a roomful of ladies all with individual different personal experiences. I wanted to them to find something in this song that would resonate for them. For some the whole “love hurts” message might be what sparks their dancing off, for some it could be that “well *this time* it could work” message that fires up their dancing. That's the beauty of personal interpretation, it's really, um, personal.

So I made my students dance to this several times over, making it clear that this wasn't about technique at all, it was about being able to dance freely. I was reminding them in general terms what the lyrics were saying when, and I was loving what I was seeing. I loved how the change in the music triggered a huge change in how they were dancing. This really has been a fantastic exercise for me in seeing how my students dance, when left to their own devices.

And to follow up, I gave them a load of inspiration clips, of different dancers' interpretations of Mawoud. Including meeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

The second clip is of Nata Fari, who is one of the amazing Russian bellydancers.

The third is Daria Mitskevich, from Ukraine, doing a much more choreographed version, and wearing a frankly astonishing skirt!

The fourth clip is an unknown dancer from one of the Arab bellydance channels- make sure you catch the accent at 3 minutes 30, just as the music change happens!

And finally, the completely delightful evil_spice

Feel free to share your ideas about Mawoud, either in a thinky thinky way, or in an OMG I wuv Mawoud way, or even (and I have to entertain the thought, even though it does not compute) in a Meh, don't know what all the fuss is about way.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2013 05:36 pm (UTC)
Very flattered that you included me :)

I love this piece but found the interpretation really challenging. It's that middle bit where you have to go from sad face to happy face (yes, massive simplification!) and have it make sense. Much as I love to watch Daria Miskevich, the fact that she cut that whole section out meant her dance didn't make sense to me. It's like a whole chapter was missing. Having said that I will still watch that video again to make notes.

And I am so stealing that accent!

Well done to your students :)
Jul. 15th, 2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
I love mawood. My first introduction to it was as a sort of folky version of a part of it on CD laura in Balady it was only when I grew up and stated getting things about the fact that songs have different bits that sound different that I realised that was part of Mawood. I would love to dance to it one day amd its to go on my dream CD of good versions of good songs for dancers. I love the version Nour does to her husbands singing and I am going to pin her in a corner in annoying fan like way at SITC and ask her for it. I remember being blown away by Yasmina dancing to it at Congress because it was the first time I saw her doing strong stuff. It sounds an amazing course I would have loved it as a student, in fact scratch those last three words, I would love that.
Jul. 15th, 2013 07:56 pm (UTC)
Nobody would ever think to dance to Mawoud at a hafla here... I envy you your community.
Jul. 15th, 2013 08:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, they haven't got as far as actually performing it! It's just an exercise for in class. But it's definitely made my students appreciate that an expressive dancer is more fun to watch than one who doesn't let her face take part in the dance!

ETA - But I do always cherish hopes that they will one day hear music in my class that makes them think, "Ooh, I could dance to this". It might not be Mawoud, but there were another 5 songs they worked on this term, one of those might do it...

Edited at 2013-07-15 08:08 pm (UTC)
Jul. 18th, 2013 01:41 pm (UTC)
I love it, too, but it would bore most Americans to tears before they got to the music change, which is why I don't think we see it performed much.
Jul. 19th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
But there are shorter versions out there, though....
Jul. 16th, 2013 02:14 pm (UTC)
I love this post sooo much
Jul. 16th, 2013 05:17 pm (UTC)


I want to be in your class.
Jul. 16th, 2013 06:24 pm (UTC)
Aww, thanks you two! There will be more like this- I worked so hard on those lessons I'm not letting it all go to waste!
Jul. 19th, 2013 02:42 am (UTC)
Ooh, I would love to watch these - must make time! This post needs more reading....

I bought the CD of Mawoud in part because of the "Emo Adel Halim on his OE" cover. It's great, isn't it? In fact I think I will listen to it RIGHT NOW.
Jul. 19th, 2013 02:45 am (UTC)
One of the things I like about the recording is that it has Adel Halim introducing everyone first, and you can hear that his speaking voice was just as lovely as his singing voice. Really, no wonder he was such a heart throb.
Jul. 19th, 2013 02:58 am (UTC)
Live report continues: I get it now, from what you've said, and also from listening to the lyrics which I can't understand, but I am hearing, initally, a lot of repetitions of "wounds", and then in the faster upbeat bit, many repetitions of the word for "happiness". Helpful!!!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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