which music genres are okay for tribal?

When I began creating Tribal Odyssey ITS over ten years ago, I made a big decision regarding the type of music we would use in performance. Our musical path is starting to evolve now in ways I didn’t foresee.

In our first ten years we almost always chose American bellydance music; Miramar (TOBD co-creator in Winchester VA) often used Alan Bachman and Desert Wind; I favored the music of the Desert Knights and Dolphina’s Workout CD. We used other American bands like Helm and Sirocco too, but not often. I didn’t like to because I felt (as a folkloric dancer myself) that if we used music that sounded so traditional, village-y and obviously NON-American, audiences would easily confuse our dancing with authentic Middle Eastern folkloric dance.

As an educator in the field of Middle Eastern and American bellydance, the last thing I wanted to do was cause confusion if I could help it, so that explains my decision about music. This was directly opposite to what the “root troupe” of the tribal tree, FatChanceBellyDance®, was doing. They did – and still do – often use Egyptian village music (the same music used for folkloric dancing), or American bands that sound folkloric, like Helm and Sirocco. Different strokes for different folks.

From time to time we’ve explored other genres to keep our performances fresh. We’ve used tracks from the famous Putomayo World Fusion compilations – Asian Lounge, Arabic Groove, Sahara Lounge; we’ve even used American club favorites like Abba, Black Eyed Peas, Pink, Parliament Funkadelic, even Billy Idol.  I also have a taste for techno and trance and have composed electronica myself; those tracks come in useful when videotaping – no copyright worries on YouTube!

WARNING: Tribal Shocker

So it shouldn’t be a shock – although I’m still getting used to this idea myself – that we can use modern Arabic pop for ITS. No one can mistake it for folkloric dancing, I’m sure! So I’m looking through my Arabic “party music” for steady, medium tempo songs for us to dance to, and here’s another shocker – we’re going cabaret!

No, just kidding. Actually I’m not though, here’s what I mean: although I love my tribal gear, and do have some shimmery, glamorous tribal ensembles of  tie-tops and full skirts (thank you, India), most of my dancers’ tribal costumes have the heavy cotton/rayon look. Next week we’re scheduled to do a demo performance at an upscale Bridal Show, and we’ll be immersed in the shiny, sequined milieu of the Bridal world. I want our look to fit in so I made a judgement call: we’re wearing glitzy bellydance dresses! And playing cymbals, and dancing  “tribal” together.

Yes, it’s quite a shocker. But really, anyone who’s been in my bellydance community for a while knows I explore new ideas and concepts frequently, and am not afraid of trying new things. I think Tribal Odyssey itself is proof of that!

And, as I’ve told my students: tribal is to serve US, not the other way around. So we’re adapting our look to fit the venue; that doesn’t mean we’re throwing out our earthy costume looks – not at all. But in this context, it behooves us to “glitz it up”.

I’m actually excited and looking forward to “tribal in cabaret” so to speak! And of course, can’t wait to see the pictures…

(End of Post)



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