Kickin’ it old school: 1930s-1950s Arabic pop and swing music (free downloads)

Just came across this gem of a weblink. Free downloads of nearly 100 tracks of Arabic pop and swing music from the 1930s-1950s, thanks to a collector who digitized a collection of records they have.

You can download the songs anytime, or contact the collector for a reasonably priced CD of the collection.

Happy Friday, and happy vintage music!!

Downloads here.


New article on! Imagining Movement: Orientalist Paintings and Photographs of Middle Eastern Dancers

Last fall I was invited by Shira of the venerable Middle Eastern dance website to write an article for her website. After several months of research, writing and revisions, the article went live last night!! Through the lens of art history and colonial history, I explore whether or not Orientalist painters like Jean-Léon Gérôme realistically depicted Middle Eastern dancers, and how photography played a crucial role in the creation of their works.

Jean-Leon Gerome, Dance of the Almeh via Dayton Art Institute








Jean-Léon Gérôme, Dance of the Almeh, 1863

Here’s an image discussed in the piece…to read the article, visit the main article page on Shira’s site.

While you’re there, check out the rest of the great content she has posted, from translations to dance history.

UPDATED: Nebraskan public safety director/ex-police chief calls escort services “fronts for belly dancers…prostitution.” Umm, WTH?!?

UPDATE (3-7-12, 2:45 pm)
Blog post from Tom Casady on the misquotation incident; link to the transcript of his testimony (where the quote was taken from) in the comments of his entry.

UPDATE (3-7-12, 1:53 pm)
The Daily Nebraskan has written a retraction of this quote, but regretfully, it’s only in their print edition, and the PDF, downloadable here.

The original article stands uncorrected, so the error is still on the e-record. See page 2 for the printed retraction.

UPDATE (3-6-12, 8:15 pm)
Via a comment on this blog and email communication to, Tom Casady has confirmed that this is indeed a misquote. Waiting to hear what the Daily Nebraskan has to say on the whole matter.

Original entry, earlier 3-6-12

According to Nebraskan public safety director and ex-police chief Tom Casady, belly dancers are the same as prostitutes, using escort services as fronts for their “services.” In March 5, 2012 Daily Nebraskan News article on sex trafficking and the internet, Casady is quoted as saying:

“Escort services are fronts for erotic dancers, belly dancers, erotic massages and prostitution,” Casady told the Judiciary Committee. They become fronts of human trafficking when force, fraud or coercion enter the mix.

Belly dancers…what do you think? Are we going to let this outrageous and potentially damaging quote stand unchallenged? I encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments on the article (linked below) and to contact the Daily Nebraskan News and the Lincoln Police department to let them know just how wrong they–and Casady–are about us.

Daily Nebraskan News article

Lincoln Police Department

Money showers…not just for showing your appreciation for belly dancers!

Money spray at a Nigerian wedding via

If you attend a lot of belly dance performances, you’ll know it’s not uncommon for dancers to receive tips of bills thrown over their head in a “shower.” This is a sign of praise for their skill, talent and presence, and is very common in Arab countries. But did you know that “money showers” are used to praise performers elsewhere? In an article on Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry), a well-known movie industry figure “sprays” that band that sings a praise song in his honor. Check out this excerpt from the New York Times article.

In West Africa, a famous presence demands recognition, so the resident highlife band swiftly shifted into an impromptu praise song. “Kunle Afolayan,” the vocalist began to trill, “Kunle Afolayan is here!”

As the singer celebrated his name, Afolayan nonchalantly sipped from a sweaty beer bottle. This was a scripted ritual; the entertainment didn’t come free. The chorus reached a crescendo as Afolayan, dressed in faded jeans and bursting from a sheer white shirt, came forward with a huge stack of Nigerian banknotes. He began to dance, shaking his hips and moving his feet, casting off bills with fluid flicks of his wrist — a tribute Nigerians call “spraying.” A band member crawled around, scooping up cash, while Afolayan delighted in the adulation.

Money “spraying” is also a common feature at weddings and celebrations, as this short clip on YouTube shows.

Are you insured? Protect your bellydance livelihood (and support the Ken Stein burglary fundraiser)

Belly dancers, from hobbyists to professionals, invest an incredible amount of time and money pursuing the art they love. From buying CDs to makeup to costumes and props, belly dance is an incredible investment, often involved one-of-a-kind materials that cannot be easily replaced. We’ve all heard the horror stories on of dancers having their cars broken into and their multi-hundred dollar custom Hanan costume ending up for sale at the Buffalo Exchange thrift store for $35. Like dancers, the musicians, photographers and other professionals who are part of are community invest tons into their art, and can be equally devastated by a theft or loss, such as what recently occurred to photographer Ken Stein, a public school teacher and friend of the NYC belly dance community. Ken’s photo equipment was recently stolen; the dance community has now banded together to help raise money to replace his equipment, but not every dancer or photographer may have this available to them.

What’s a dancer to do? While it is a yearly investment, I absolutely urge you to BUY INSURANCE! 

(UPDATED, thanks to the sage advice of some knowledgeable dancers)

Some renter’s, home owner’s or property insurance policies cover items while they are in your home, or while they are outside of your home (ie, in your car at a gig, backstage, etc), but this is more likely if you’re a hobbyist.  Call your insurer and ask how to cover your dance related equipment. To get an idea of how much coverage you should request, take a good look at all of your dance gear and add up how much you’ve spent. While you’re at it, gather those receipts and photograph your costumes, props, stereo equipment, etc in case you ever need to provide evidence of what you own to file a claim (or if you need to post pics on Bhuz to have it tracked down if stolen!!) . When it comes down to it, a $125 yearly policy is well worth it to protect the thousands of dollars of gear it takes to make you the dancer or other professional that you are. Every insurance company and policy is different, so make sure you know the specifics of your plan, deductible and claim process.

Lauren of St. Louis notes if you’re running a business based on dance, you’ll need a more specific policy or rider. Home owner’s or renter’s policies generally do not cover equipment meant for a business, which commenter Pen, a photographer, also noted.

While I hope no one ever experiences a theft, fire or similar tragedy, unexpected events can and do happen. Be prepared!

A New Year’s Steampunk Belly Dancer

As 2011 draws to a close…I look back fondly on all the successes–and struggles–of the past year, and look forward to where they’ll take me in 2012. Best wishes to you all!

To start 2012, here’s a sparkly, winter wonderland steampunk-inspired window from Macy’s in New York City’s Herald Square. She has to be a belly dancer, right? Don’t believe me? Watch the video!

Macy's Herald Square Steampunk Belly Dancer

Macy's Herald Square Steampunk Belly Dancer

Tis the season…for Arabic holiday music!

Najla Belly Dance Christmas Third Ward

Najla's Christmas belly dance at Third Ward, NYC

If you’re a belly dancer like me, you want to decorate the tree while listening to the old standards like Jingle Bells…with a (hip) twist! Here are some of my favorite Arabic interpretations of classic holiday songs, plus my very own belly dance Christmas performance from last year. For even more holiday goodness, check out’s Christmas Songs in Arabic page for lyrics in English and Arabic.

a3yaad sa3iida, everyone!

The beautiful voice of Fairuz singing “Leylet Eid” to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

A high-powered interpretation of the same song by Sassine Abi Khalil.

Wafic’s “Kel Eid,” a mind-blowing Arabic and English version of….”Feliz Navidad”!!!!

My own holiday take on some Christmas standards, complete with poinsettia costume and candy cane assaya. 😉 Thank you to Daily Bellydance Quickies for featuring this video in their 12 Days of Christmas countdown!