BDTA: Dum Tek rhythm generator app (review)

screenshots of Dum Tek app

screenshots of Dum Tek app

Wayward Gypsy Studios has really put out something cool with their Dum Tek app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. In fact, so cool, that after playing with the app for a while, my novice drummer hub-ibi turned to me with a very serious face and said “This…is…awesome.”

So what’s so awesome about Dum Tek? Pretty much everything! The app is a rhythm generator that allows you to practice and learn Middle Eastern rhythms. While there are many rhythm drill MP3s available for practice, the genius of Dum Tek is the “play along” feature that notes just where the dums and teks are hitting, making this an excellent learning tool. You can also adjust the BPM of the rhythm to fit the music you’re working with, making it a much more ME specific practice tool than a metronome (or metronome app!).

screenshot of Dum Tek appPlatforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

What can I expect to hear? 31 rhythms and variations (and more promised in future versions)

What kind of dancers would like this app? All kinds of dancers and musicians.

Recommended by Najla? yes

Price: Free!

Where can I get it? Download Dum Tek on iTunes

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BDTA: Tabla app (review)

Screenshot of the Tabla iPhone app

Sometimes apps can be fun and educational, and the Tabla app by Fredo fits that definition. This onscreen drum also comes with a digital drum pad, finger cymbals and a bellydancer who moves with each beat, as well as full in-app instructions that teach you how to play your iPhone like a real drum.

While the lite (aka free) version gives you only a doum and a tek, the full version allows you to use all five parts of the drum and finger cymbals to play along to your favorite songs on the iPod, or to pick out new rhythms.

Platforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

What can I expect to hear? Doum doum tek-a tek doum tek-a tek tek-a…

What kind of dancers would like this app? All kinds of dancers and musicians.

Recommended by Najla? yes

Price: Lite version, free. Full version, $1.99

Where can I get it? Download Tabla on iTunes

PS. What rhythm was that?

BDTA: Belly Dance Stars app (review)

Screenshot of the Belly Dance Stars app

Ever have that feeling of deja vu? The Belly Dance Stars app will give you that “haven’t I see this before?” feeling, and maybe even leave you scratching your head.

Billing itself as “A collection of 10 videos of the Worlds most popular Belly Dance Artistes,” this app simply contains ten videos: three by Shakira, two by Rachel Brice, two by Sadie, one by Didem, one by Aziza, one by Dancing with the Stars (huh?) and a final clip by Super Stars, which I guess means Belly Dance Super Stars. So it’s really a collection of 11 clips, several of which are marked as being from 2008, which leads me to wonder…why?

What does this app give us that YouTube or some of the many beautifully produced dance DVDs don’t already provide? Save your money to buy a CD or DVD from one of the artists in these videos.

Platforms: Android

Recommended by Najla? No.

Price: $1.59

Where can I get it? Download the Belly Dance Stars app here.

BDTA: Radio Bastet podcasts & app (review)

Radio Bastet

Radio Bastet (run by Marisa) is a self-proclaimed “Vintage Belly Dance Music” station that plays the best belly dance music from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. What makes Radio Bastet so unique is that this music is all from vintage vinyl–yes, belly dance vinyl!–making it a great resource for hard-to-find or out of print albums.

In podcast form, there are over 70 episodes available, each featuring over an hour of fantastic music. Since these are podcasts, there is a little DJ narration, but besides that, it’s party time old-school! Podcasts themselves don’t contain song information, but the podcast blog page gives you artist, song and album names from each show.

Screenshot of the Radio Bastet Android App

Right now, the app is only available for Android phones. Here are the specs, from the app page itself:

* Streaming access to play episodes from anywhere
* Always updated with the latest episodes- and an archived back catalog
* Playback resume (when interrupted by a call or other distraction)
* Access to exclusive extras like PDFs, wallpapers, and bonus content
* Quick access to all the contact methods for the show like call, email, web, Facebook, and Twitter

The app includes song information for each episode!

Platforms: Podcasts, all mobile platforms and desktop. Web, streaming radio. App, Android-only, for now. iPhone app coming soon (pretty please?)! iPhone users can listen to the podcasts using the iPod app that comes with their phone.

Multi-tasking: Yes.

Song titles/artist names: Podcasts: none onscreen, available on the podcast blog. App: available onscreen!

What can I expect to hear? lush orchestrations, Eddie “The Shiek” Kochak, live recordings

What kind of dancers would like this podcast & app? Cabaret, Egyptian, Orientale, vintage American Cabaret, Vintage Orientale

Recommended by Najla? Yes.

Price: Podcasts, free. Android App, $1.99

Where can I get it? Podcasts are available on the podcast blog or on iTunes. Android app available here.

BDTA: Find new music with the Radio Fredo app (review)

Belly Dance Tech Academy: Review of Radio Fredo app

Whether we’re professional dancers or just beginning, most of us are constantly on the hunt for new music. Sometimes this can be difficult, whether it’s because of a language barrier (not everyone can read popular Arabic music sites!) or because listening to song samples on iTunes and YouTube is time-consuming.

This is where a radio app can be a dancer’s best friend, introducing you to new music to play at haflas, use for improvisational exercises or build your music library with. While app stores do have reviews, they don’t usually have dancers in mind. In my first app review, I hope to touch on some of the many things that dancers are looking for when they seek out new music.

Radio Fredo

The channels page of the Radio Fredo app

Radio Fredo is a mobile app that gives users access to 20 pre-loaded Arabic internet radio stations. Because the stations are streaming live radio broadcasts, they can occasionally cut out or be interrupted by DJs. While it might pause your jam session at a party, it’s not a major problem because you can just switch to the next station. While Radio Fredo’s instant access to a wide variety music is incredible, it does have one major pitfall if you’re using it as a music discovery tool: no written out song titles/artist info! Most of the stations have websites or desktop platforms that have more song information (and Great Cedars even allows for requests), but these are not accessible from the mobile app. So far, Great Cedars Radio, Musik Oriental and Radio Middle East CA are my favorite channels, perfect for keeping me company on long commutes (and probably helping me get strange looks from my neighbors when I unconsciously start bopping along to the music!).

Platforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

Multi-tasking: Yes, runs in the background while you use other apps. Does not support pause/volume capabilities unless you are on the app screen.

Song titles/artist names: None onscreen. Some channels with DJs do announce song titles, but they can be difficult to understand for non-Arabic speakers.

What can I expect to hear? Pop favorites/Top 40, old classics, remixes. Mostly in Arabic, some French.

What kind of dancers would like this app? Cabaret, Egyptian, Orientale, Lebanese

Recommended by Najla? yes

Price: free

Where can I get it? Download Radio Fredo on iTunes

Belly Dance Tech Academy: How to use technology to improve your dancing

Over the past decade or so, technology has been one of the greatest influencers in belly dance. Until relatively recently, dancers had to rely on the few vinyl records available for music or squint to see images of the divas of Cairo on crackling, snowy VHS tapes that were handed down from teacher to student. Today we can download music in a matter of seconds and watch twenty different versions of “Enta Omri” from dancers from ten different countries.

So how do we use this technology to our advantage? My goal with the Belly Dance Tech Academy series of posts is to suggest innovative ways to incorporate web-based technology into your belly dance practice, as well as to review products, apps and websites with the specific needs and desires of dancers in mind. Have a product I should review? Let me know!