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Al Jeel.  (Pronounced "ahl JEEL".)  This refers to a style of music popular in Egypt today, which is representative of the students and more mobile youth of Egyptian cities.  It's a reaction to Western influence, to new technology, and the universal need of young people to get up and dance.  The al jeel style first emerged in the mid-1980's.  Like city kids everywhere, the young Egyptians wanted their own music, and they wanted it fast and danceable.  Lyrics are variously about love or country, and rarely stray into more sensitive areas.

Assaya.  See the entry for Raqs Al Assaya.

Assuit (Pronounced "uh SOOT".)  See the entry for Tulle Bi Telli.

Awwady. (Pronounced "uh WAHD dee".)  In Arabic music, this refers to the free-form improvised instrumental solo that has no underlying rhythm.  This is often used for the opening few phrases of music played for a belly dancer, and it is then followed by the fast, or medium, tempo entrance music.


Bedleh.  (Pronounced "BED luh".)  In Arabic, this literally means "suit".  It refers to the cabaret-style beaded bra/belt/skirt/body stocking costume that a belly dancer wears for a performance.

Beledi(Pronounced "BELL uh dee".)  Alternate spellings include Baladi, Beledy, and Balady.  In Arabic, people who have relocated from their rural homes to the city would use this word to refer to "my country", "my village", or "my home town."  City people, in turn, may use it disparagingly to mean the people that come from the countryside, or hicks.  In belly dance circles, the word beledi has several different meanings.  Some people, especially in the United States , use this word as another name for the maqsoum rhythm, which is a folkloric rhythm, and asking a musician to play a "beledi" means you're asking for a song based on that rhythm.  In an Egyptian nightclub show, after performing cabaret-style raqs sharqi in bedleh, the dancer may exit and do a costume change.  When she re-enters, she may be wearing a beledi dress and do a "beledi" section to her show, which means a folkloric dance done to folkloric music.

Beledi DressThis is a long, floor-length dress, frequently used in belly dance costuming.  Made of natural fiber such as cotton, it gives a very folkloric look and is popular among dancers who do "American tribal" style.  Made out of a sheer or glittery fabric, it offers a nice covered option for a cabaret performance.  In Egyptian nightclubs, after performing a raqs sharqi routine in bedleh, the dancer usually goes backstage and changes costumes, then comes out wearing a beledi dress to do a folkloric dance.


Chalwar.  (Pronounced "CHAL war".)  An alternate spelling is shalwar.  Chalwar are pantaloons. The word originates from Persia.

Chiftitelli.  (Pronounced "shift uh TELL lee".)  An alternate spelling is chiftetelli.  The word has taken on several meanings.  In one of its meanings, it refers to a certain Turkish drum rhythm which is in 8/4 time. (8 beats to a measure, a quarter note gets one count.)  The Arabic-speakers call the chiftitelli rhythm "wahad e noss" or "dar e noss" ( "1 & 1/2" or "hit & 1/2").  Another use of the word chiftitelli refers to an improvised musical section by a solo melody instrument that is layered over the top of that pulsing rhythm (similar to the Arabic taxim, which is defined below).  There are two primary ways the chiftitelli rhythm may be played--as a fast, spirited, upbeat song, or as a slow, hypnotic, sensuous melody.  The fast chiftitelli originated as a folk dance done by couples and occasionally groups, but is now frequently used by belly dancers who enjoy Turkish music.  When belly dancers refer to chiftitelli, they are usually thinking of the slow chiftitelli, which they may use for floor work, balancing, or standing undulations.  Greeks spell this Tsiftetelli, and in Greece this word refers not only to the musical definition of the word but is also used to mean "belly dancing" in general.  That's why many Greek recordings intended for belly dancing contain the word "tsiftetelli" on the label.

Choli(Pronounced "CHOH lee".)  This is the bare-midriff, fitted blouse worn under saris by women in India.  A close fit is the main characteristic of the choli, since it serves both as an undergarment and a blouse for the sari.  The specific styling of the choli can vary from one region of India to another.  Use of the choli for belly dance practice outfits and costumes was popularized by Carolena Nericcio of FatChanceBellyDance in San Francisco.


Debke.  (Pronounced "DEB kee".)  This is a folk dance native to Lebanon.  It involves intricate footwork, and often some squats, and is done to folkloric music.  The upper body is held in a proud, upright posture with minimal movement.

Def(Pronounced "def".)  This is a Middle Eastern frame drum which looks like a large tambourine.

Dumbek(Pronounced "DOOM bek".)  This is the hourglass-shaped Arabic drum.  May also be spelled Dumbec, Doumbek, Doumbec, or Darbuka.  Traditionally, dumbeks were made of ceramic, with the head made of either goatskin or fish skin.  In modern times, many dumbeks have synthetic heads, and the drum body may be made of metal.


Gallabiya.  (Pronounced "gal uh BEE yuh".)  This Arabic word refers to a simple-cut full-length dress or robe.

Ghawazee(Pronounced "guh WAH zee".)  This term refers to the tribe of Gypsies that settled in Egypt .  (The singular is Ghaziya.)  When the Ghawazee were banished from Cairo in 1834, they settled in southern Egypt.   Their music, dance style, attire, and other cultural attributes are distinctly different from those of the Saidi, who were the indigenous people of southern Egypt.

Guedra(Pronounced "GEE druh" or "GI druh" where the "g" is hard, like in the word "get", and the "gi" syllable uses the short i sound like in "it".)  This is an ancient blessing ritual practiced by one of the Tuareg Berber tribes.  The word Guedra has several meanings: it refers to the ritual itself, it refers to the particular Tuareg tribe that practiced it, it refers to a cooking pot, it refers to the drum that was made by stretching a skin over the top of the cooking pot, and it refers to the dancer who is actually performing the ritual.


Habibi.  (Pronounced "hah BEE bee".)  This word means "my darling" or "beloved" in Arabic, and appears in many Arabic song titles and lyrics.

Hafla(Pronounced "HAHF lah".)  This basically refers to a party.  A private hafla thrown by a belly dancer usually involves Middle Eastern music (sometimes live musicians jamming, sometimes just taped music), dancers taking turns performing for each other, and some open-floor dancing for everyone to get up and enjoy the music.  A more public hafla may be effectively a full belly dance festival, with vendors selling their wares and a more formalized stage show.

Haik(Pronounced "hah EEK".)  This is an article of clothing in Morocco, historically worn by the Tuareg Berber nomad tribes.  It consists of a piece of fabric about 6 yards long, which is wrapped around the body and fasted in place at the shoulders.


Kanoun.  (Pronounced "kuh NOON".)  Sometimes spelled Kanun or Qanun.  This is a musical instrument, common in Turkey and Arabic countries, which somewhat resembles an autoharp.  Its wooden frame is designed to lie flat on a surface such as a table or the performer's lap, and the strings across it are plucked to produce the melody.

Karsilama(Pronounced "CAR si luh mah", where the "i" in the "si" syllable is pronounced like the "i" in "it".)  This is a Turkish musical rhythm, in 9/8.  This means there are 9 beats to a measure, and an eighth note gets one count.  The accents occur on beats 1, 3, 5, and 7.  In Turkish, it means "face to face", and there is a Turkish folk dance to this music which does involve partners dancing with each other face to face.  Some belly dancers like to use a karsilama as their finale, because it's a very fast, very exciting rhythm.  Songs which are based on the karsilama rhythm include Caderemen Ustunev (also called Rampi Rampi), Dere (which is Turkish), Marinella (which is Greek), Tamzara (which is Armenian), and Hoplada (which is Turkish).

Kawala(Pronounced "kuh WALL ah".)  A type of flute made from a reed which resembles a Ney.  Commonly used in Upper Egypt .  Sometimes called a Shalabeya.

Khaleegy.  (Pronounced "kuh LEE jee".)  Sometimes spelled Khaleeji or Khaliji.  In Arabic, this word means "gulf", and belly dancers use it to refer to the style of music and dance from the Persian Gulf/Arabian peninsula area--Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman.  It uses a particular rhythm that American musicians and dancers often call "Saudi".  The typical costuming for this dance would be a thobe al nasha'ar worn to cover up your party clothes underneath.

Kirik Havalar(Pronounced "KEER ick HAHV uh lar".)  This is a category of Turkish music.  These are tunes composed of rhythmic and measured melodies--the type of music that you could hum along with.  One example of this type of music is songs based on the karsilama rhythm.


Lower Egypt.  Refers to the northern part of Egypt, which encompasses the Nile river's delta.  The altitude is very close to sea level.


Maqam.  (Pronounced "mah KAHM".)  Plural is Maqamat.  The literal translation from Arabic to English means "place".  A maqam is the foundation of Middle Eastern music.  Instead of using a "key" or a "scale" like Western Music, Middle Eastern music is based on maqams which San Francisco musician Mimi Spencer describes as "something more than a scale, something less than a tune".  The four basic elements of a maqam are 1) important notes that anchor the melodies based on that maqam, 2) a basic scale, 3) characteristic modulations from that maqam to others, and 4) a prevailing movement.

Maqsoum.  (Pronounced "mock SOOM".)  Also sometimes spelled Maksoom or Maksoum.  This is an Arabic musical rhythm, and can also be called Masmoudi Saghir which means "little masmoudi".  (There is a different rhythm which is known as "big masmoudi".)  In the United States, the maqsoum rhythm is also frequently called "beledi".  It is in 4/4 time, which means there are 4 beats to a measure and a quarter note gets one count.  When played on a dumbek, it sounds like DOOM DOOM teka tek, DOOM teka tek.  The above musical notation describes the maqsoum rhythm, with the DOOM sound falling on the accented notes.

Mawwal(Pronounced "mah WALL".)  Sometimes spelled Mawal.  In Arabic music, this refers to free, non-rhythmic singing.  It's a vocal improvisation that sounds melancholy.

Me-Attaa(Pronounced "may AHT tah".)  In traditional Arabic music, this refers to the question-and-answer that goes back and forth between a melody instrument and a drummer.  This generally appears at the beginning of a song, immediately after a very brief opening taxim played by the melodic instrument, and serves as the prelude just before launching fully into the rhythm of the song to come.  The word means "broken up bits of music and rhythm."

Mizmar(Pronounced "MIZZ mar".)  This musical instrument, which resembles a Zurna, produces a loud, blaring sound.  It is a member of the oboe family of musical instruments.


Ney.  (Pronounced "nay".)  This is a traditional instrument used in Turkish and Arabic folk music that resembles a flute both in appearance and sound.  Sometimes spelled Nay.


Oud.  (Pronounced "ood" where the "oo" sound is like that in "moon".)  Sometimes spelled Ud.   This is a musical instrument commonly used in Arabic, Turkish, and Armenian music which was the forerunner of the European lute.  It has 11 strings and no frets.  The melody is produced through plucking the strings.  Literally, the word "oud" means "wood", and the instrument is made by gluing thin tapered strips of wood edge to edge.  The glue line is usually no more than a thousandth of an inch wide!  The oud was introduced by the Persians to Arabia in the Middle Ages, and passed to Europe through Islamic Spain.

Ouled Nail(Pronounced "WELL ed nah EEL".)  Tribe that lived in Algeria, near Biskra.


Qanun.  See the entry for Kanoun.


Rakkas.  This Arabic word means, "the male dancer".

RakkasahThis Arabic word means, "the female dancer".  This is also the name of a very famous, very popular annual belly dance festival that is held in Richmond, California (near Oakland).

Raks(Pronounced "rocks".)  This is the Arabic word for "the act of dancing", and is sometimes spelled Raqs.  It usually appears combined with another word that defines what type of dance--for example, Raks Leyla means "Leyla's dance".  ("Leyla" is a common Arabic woman's name.)

Raks Al Assaya(Pronounced "rocks all uh SI yuh", with the "SI" syllable rhyming with "pie".)   Sometimes spelled Raqs Al Assaya.  This is the Arabic term for the cane dance.  This dance originated in southern Egypt, in the region known as the Said or Upper Egypt.  Traditionally, in the Said, men carried long sticks with them which they used as weapons, and eventually they evolved a dance (see the entry for Tahtiyb) in which they feigned fighting with these sticks.   Women then began dancing with canes as a way of playfully imitating this men's dance, and eventually raks al assaya developed into a distinct women's dance.

Raks Al Balas(Pronounced "rocks all BAH luhs".)  Water jug dance.

Raks Al Nasha'ar.  (Pronounced "rocks all nuh SHAH ar".)  This Khaleegy women's dance is a social dance traditionally done in the Persian Gulf at women's parties and weddings, even today.  The rhythm for this music is called Saudi, since Saudi Arabia is one of the countries in the region where this music is popular.  Examples of songs popular in the Gulf region that use this rhythm are Aba'ad which is a Kuwaiti song popularized by Mohamed Abdou, Meta Ashoofek which is Yemni folk music, Salemo Lee which is Kuwaiti folk music, and Leila Leila.  Each participant wears a Thobe Al Nasha'ar that completely covers her party clothes.  The footwork in raqs al nasha'ar is very simple--the dancer steps forward on one foot, closes the ball of the back foot behind it, then steps forward again on the same foot.  She then pauses very briefly in this position and repeats the whole thing on the other side.  The primary movements that characterize this dance are head tosses, and hand movements holding the thobe al nasha'ar such as those shown with the entries in this glossary for Khaleegy and Thobe Al Nasha'ar.

Raks Al Shamadan(Pronounced "rocks all SHAH muh dahn".)  This is an Egyptian dance traditionally performed at weddings in which the dancer has a large, ornate candelabrum on her head.  "Shamadan" is the Egyptian word for "candelabrum".

Raks Sharki(Pronounced "rocks SHARK-ee".)  Also sometimes spelled Raqs Sharqi.  In Arabic, this means "dance of the East", and refers to cabaret-style belly dance as it is performed in nightclubs in Egypt, Lebanon, and other Arabic countries.

Raksah(Pronounced "ROCKS ah".)  This is the Arabic word referring to a single specific dance.

Raksat(Pronounced "ROCKS aht.)  This means many dances--the plural of Raksah.

Rebaba(Pronounced "ruh BAH buh".)  Also sometimes spelled Rababa.  This is a stringed instrument, typically used in music of the Said (Upper Egypt).  It has one or two strings.

Riqq(Pronounced "reek".)  This is the Arabic word for tambourine.  It is sometimes spelled Riq or Reque.


Sagat.  (Pronounced "suh GOT".)  This is the Arabic name for finger cymbals, and means "small metal trays".  Sometimes spelled Zagat.

Saidi(Pronounced "sah EE dee".)  This refers to anything that has to do with the Said region of Egypt.  The Said region is also known as "Upper Egypt", and is located in the southern part of the country.  Raqs al assaya (the cane dance) originated in the Said.

Saudi(Pronounced "sah OO dee".)  People in the United States often use this to refer to anything that has to do with the region of the Saudi Arabia peninsula, especially the musical rhythm that is particularly associated with this region.  A more appropriate term would be Khaleegy.

Saz(Pronounced "sahz".)  This is a gourd-shaped Turkish stringed instrument, resembling a lute only with a smaller base.  It has frets whose positions can be adjusted, enabling the musician to get varying quarter tones.  Different maqams require the frets to be set in different positions.  The saz was the ancestor of the Greek bouzouki.

Schikhatt(Pronounced "SHE kaht".)  Other valid spellings include Chikhat, Shakhatt, or Shikhatt.  The Schikhatt is a particular style of dance which originated in Morocco.  Originally, it was an erotic dance with exaggerated hip, stomach, and breast movements used to educate a bride during the pre-wedding festivities on how she will be expected to move in the marriage bed.  More recently, the Schikhatt has become a social dance that women do with their families or female friends.

Shaabi(Pronounced "SHAH bee".)  This refers to a type of modern-day Egyptian music.  Shaabi music is the music of the back streets of Cairo, modernized and not necessarily poor, but traditional.  It includes woeful cries of mawwal, a vocal improvisation saddening melancholy hearts with themes never straying too far from the pain, torture, suffering, and betrayal that is life.  Lyrics often stray into commentaries on events and social conditions.

ShalabeyaSee the entry for Kawala.

ShamadanSee the entry for Raqs Al Shamadan.

Shebecka(Pronounced "shuh BECK kuh".)  This is the Egyptian name for the body stocking that is worn with bedleh.

Souq(Pronounced "sook", in which the "oo" sound is like that in the word "root".)  It is sometimes spelled Souk, Suq, or Suk.  In Arab countries, this is a market place, with row upon row of stalls of vendors selling their wares.  Belly dance event organizers will sometimes refer to the section of their event that features the vendors as a souq.

Sufi(Pronounced "SOO fee".)  A sect within Islam focused on philosophy and mysticism.  One Sufi form of expression that most Westerners have heard of is the "whirling dervish".  The whirling is a form of movement meditation.


Tahtiyb.  (Pronounced "tah TEEB".)  It is sometimes spelled Tahtib or Tahteeb.  This is a men's dance, done in Upper Egypt (the region in southern Egypt known as the Said).  It is a martial arts dance, in which the men enact fighting with the long sticks as a weapon.  Raqs al assaya (the cane dance) done by Egyptian women arose as a playful imitation of this men's dance.

Takht(Pronounced "tahkt".)  This refers to a small ensemble of Egyptian musicians, often including oud, kanoun, nay, tabla & riqq (tambourine).  Originally, the word referred to a small bench or bed, and in the early nightclubs of Egypt, the musicians sat on such a bench to play.

Taqsim(Pronounced "tock SEEM".)  You may also see it spelled Taksim, Taxsim, Taxim, or Takasim.  It is an Arabic word which means "division", and refers to the section of music where a specific instrument is playing a solo.  The Arabic taqsim is improvised—in a restricted sense—according to traditional patterns, and is almost never played in the same way twice.   Musically speaking, any solo instrument improvising in the Arabic taqsim structure is playing a taqsim, including the drum taqsim that dancers usually call the drum solo.  However, belly dancers often use the term another way, referring to the section of music consisting of slow, hypnotic improvisation of a melody instrument such as an oud or kanoun that is often used for either floor work, balancing, or standing undulations.  Some belly dancers also use the word "taqsim" as the name for certain undulating movements that might be done to this musical section.

Tar(Pronounced "tar".)  This is a Middle Eastern frame drum which looks like a large tambourine.  Another name for it is Def.

Thobe(Pronounced "tobe".)  You may also see this spelled Taub.  This is the Arabic word for dress.  Different styles of thobes are typical of different parts of Arabia . Many dancers say just "thobe" when they really mean "thobe al nasha'ar", which is a particular style of dress.

Thobe Al Nasha'ar(Pronounced "tobe ahl nahsha ar".)  You may also see this spelled Taub.  This is a richly embroidered dress worn in the Persian Gulf (Khaleegy) region, in countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Dubai.  It is sometimes called a Khaleegy Dress.  It's a large, somewhat sheer rectangular piece of fabric, worn over the top of your party clothes.  There is a vertical center panel down the front of the dress, just below the neck opening, that has particularly heavy embroidery.  The arm openings on the sleeves are very large.

Tulle Bi Telli(Pronounced TOOL bee TELL ee.)  A textile art from Egypt in which tiny bits of metal are attached into net fabric (tulle) to create a design.  The Egyptian name means "tulle with metal".  Dancers in the United States made up the name "assuit" to describe this fabric.


Ud.  See the entry for Oud.

Upper EgyptRefers to the southern part of Egypt, also known as the Said.

Uzun Havalar.  (Pronounced "OOH zoon HAHV uh lar".)  This refers to Turkish music that has no rhythm or measure, and sounds improvised.  It is conceptually equivalent to the Arabic taqsim.


Zagat.  See the entry for Sagat.

Zaghareet.  (Pronounced "zah guh REET".)  The zaghareet is a high-pitched ululation done with the tongue.  It is a sound of celebration associated with weddings, parties, and other joyful occasions.  Within the context of belly dancing, it is a favorite tool for expressing approval for whatever the dancer is doing at the time, and sometimes dancers themselves will zaghareet to express how much fun they're having at the moment.

Zeffa(Pronounced "ZEFF uh".)  This term is often used to refer to an Arabic wedding procession.  The newly married couple is led into the reception hall in a formal procession to acknowledge their new status.  A zeffa frequently is led by a belly dancer.  The term can also be used to refer to the musical rhythm that is characteristically used in the music played for these processions.

Zills(Pronounced "ZILLS".)  Sometimes spelled Zils.  This is the Turkish name for finger cymbals.

Zumara(Pronounced "zoo MAR ah".)  A reed instrument with a backward cut.  Made with a single tube.

Zurna(Pronounced "ZERN uh".)  This is a type of horn used in Turkish folk music, which is a member of the oboe family of musical instruments.  It produces a loud, very ethnic-sounding tone.

Glossary courtesy of Shira at http://www.shira.com


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