Letter from the Editor:
I recently did a short video show again for people from Kuwait. I had the pleasure of wearing a new creation of mine and it included a “Cape Veil” made out of some material I had in my collection for 20 years. I was very pleased with the results. The “Cape Veil” probably came into prominence around the 1980’s. I personally never had one, I continued to use regular veils with the costumes my mother and I made. So I admit it was quite fun to finally have one of these. The fabric may or may not be “Persian Lace” but is a lovely pattern.
Thinking of Houston as I made my debut there when I was one year old. Been a “pro” ever since. Hopefully, people will take seriously the issue of “climate change” and stop shoving it “under the carpet.” God bless everyone that was effected by “Hurricane Harvey.”
Egyptian Chick Magazine is published by:
Aziza Al-Tawil “Editor in Chief”
Billy Jack Watkins, “Research Assistant to the Editor”
Josephine Homonai, “Fashion Consultant and Model”
Egyptian Black Seed Oil and it’s Miracle Curative Properties
by Aziza Al-Tawil
As a young girl in NYC, I remember how much I relished with excitement our trips to Brooklyn’s “Atlantic Ave.” If we weren’t performing somewhere at night there were trips during the day the most exciting aspect of which was the smell of the spices in the big barrels outside the shops. The most delightful was the smell of cumin and “Falafel” was such a favorite because of that spice’s domination thereof. In a way it was no surprise to learn as I grew older that these same wonderful spices had health properties as well.
I’ve always been interested in “Natural Health” because I was brought up that way with a mother that knew something about the Appalachians and herbal traditions. She descended from “First People’s Indigenous” American tribes and was also interested in anything they used. Her own experience as a belly dancer who was around Greeks a lot led her to the main herbal treatment that really helped me when I had “hyperthyroid” disease and that was “Hymetis”-also known as “Sage” which I drank as a tea.
As far as “Black Seed” (“Nigella Sativa”) – AKA “Black Cumin Seed” – it’s a remarkable herb with amazing curative properties. Found in “Tutankhamen’s Tomb,” centuries later the prophet Mohammed said that it was “a remedy for all diseases except death.” Christian and Islamic traditions consider it a “blessed oil” – in Arabic “Habbatul barakah, literally the “seed of blessing.”
Gluconeogenesis Inhibitor (Anti-Diabetic)
Hepatoprotective (Liver Protecting)
Renoprotective (Kidney Protecting)
Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Inhibitor
In the modern time there have been many studies of the pharmacological properties of the “Black Seed.” Many of the illnesses they say it cures or treats include the following: Type 2 Diabetes, Helicobacter Pylori Infection, Epilepsy, High Blood Pressure, Asthma, Acute Tonsillopharyngitis, Chemical Weapons Injury, Colon Cancer, MRSA, and Opiate Addiction.
Anyway, I’ve loved regular cumin for a long time in Middle Eastern cooking. It might be time to give this variety a try.
“Lady Popular”: a Fun Game from Bulgaria
By Aziza Al-Tawil
If you enjoyed paper dolls as a child then you would probably really dig “Lady Popular,” an online dress-up game invented in Bulgaria several years ago. It was so “popular” they came up with an “International Edition.” There are many “special events” within the game that enable players to get their hands on unique dress, backdrops for their characters, and even furniture for a multi-level apartment.You can even have cars and pets. So far there have been many chances to have components for dressing your doll in a belly dance costume including Carrie Fisher’s sensational outfit from “Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi” (1983). I’ve had some nice experiences since I was asked by a lovely Bulgarian lady to join her club in “LP.” I’ve met and chatted with a lot of cool ladies from around the world and we even mourned together when one of our ladies passed away at the young age of fifty three. We dressed all our ladies in black and then we all voted for our deceased friend to go to one of the podiums. The dear lady made it to the “top” posthumously and perhaps unlike some other things in the world proved that women really can have close, sisterly connections and not just “competitive” ones.
Gifts from Cathy
by Aziza Al-Tawil
Was pleasantly surprised when my neighbor gifted me with 2 interesting books about Egypt the other day. One was a “Scholastic” book about the country and the other was the autobiography of Jehan Sadat, a brave woman like Jackie Kennedy in that she saw her beloved husband Anwar Sadat assassinated in October of 1981.
The book reveals that Jehan had an English mother and an Egyptian father and was raised in Egypt. I remember so well the turbulent incident of her husband’s death and all that it meant in the world to different people with different opinions on what the correct course should have been in the political realm over there.
Anyway, I look forward to reading the books!
Rhythms for Belly Dance in the Golden Age of the Greek Taverna: A Simple Primer
by Aziza Al-Tawil
Recent discussions with friends have given me pause to write an article about what the most popular rhythms were for belly dance in the “heyday” and how to understand how that influenced a person’s “Act” or “Set.” In the “Heyday” of the 1950’s and 1960’s in some cities the Greek Taverna dominated the “scene” as Greeks tended to have a very good knack for entertaining “The World”-not just themselves. Despite a lot of “bad blood” between so many people in the Near and Middle East the Greeks had a way of harnessing what made the people “alike” not different. Examples of this, for instance, was that the first song played by the band to kick off the evening was always a “Paso Doble.” Some forms of “rhumba” were played to add a touch more “Latin” to the proceedings also, but the main fare of the evening highlighted the shared culture of Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Arabs, Jews, and various other ethnic groups like Albanians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and just about any others you could think of who once called parts of “Asia Minor” their home.
New Yorks City’s “8th Avenue and 29th Street” scene boasted an impressive array of nightclubs within just a small area. Nicknamed “Bouzoukee Blvd” – it exploded in popularity right after Melina Mercouri made her big splash in “Never on a Sunday.” The song and the film were a worldwide hit and so the search for all things “Greek” was on.
The foreign stars from Athens, Istanbul, Cairo, and other famous hubs of belly dance culture flocked to NYC, Chicago, Boston, and other Metro areas. Besides a culture that had a wealth of “line dances” there was also a tradition of “belly dance” in several countries. If you were a belly dancer in Greektown you were trained in all the rhythms to play on Darbucky because you were expected the night you worked not just to dance once or twice but to sit on the bandstand all night and play percussion for the other dancers. In other words, on percussion, dancers were considered musicians also.
The main rhythms that were acknowledged as true “belly dance” rhythms-where you can really show your “stuff”- was “Tsifte Telli” (Turkish/Arabic Spelling “Cifte Telli”) and “Arapiko” (Greek/Turkish for the rhythm known in Arabic as “Maksoum”). Now, you might ask, “What is the difference and why is one credited to an “ethnicity” namely the “Arab” and the other not?” Well, for one, it’s the actual rhythm that tells the tale.
One group of people with a thought or two on Middle Eastern music from a “musician’s standpoint” are, believe it or not, the “American Jazz Musician.” Jazz musicians, with a heritage of their own coming out of a part of Africa, of course mixed with some other musical styles like American Indian, European, and even Gypsy, found themselves easily drawn to the mesmerizing rhythms of the world of belly dance. (Yes, in it’s “heyday,” many musicians like Dizzy Gillespie (“A Night in Tunisia”) flocked to 8th Ave. and 29th St. to get some inspiration from the the great music going on there.
I remember when I was working with some Jazz musicians we had a conversation. They observed that a lot of Arabic music has rhythms where the accent is on the “Back Beat” and that Gypsy music as well as Turkish music tend to have more rhythms that accent the “Downbeat.” In fact in Turkish some that come to mind right off are “Cifte Telli,” “Karsilama,” and “Laz” (“Laziko” in Greek)-no doubt if I really stop think of a lot more of their line dances, I would probably find more of that example. The “downbeat” on a traditional drum is the “Doum”- or center of the drum.
By contrast, many Arabic rhythms have the “accent” on the “Back Beat,” (or the “Tek” which is the outer rim of the drum) one strong example is the “Maksoum,” which we stated in previous sentences here was considered such an “Arabian Style” that in Greek/Turkish was called “Arapiko” – which in essence “dance of arabs,” the same way “Hassapiko” is “The Butcher’s Dance” in Greek, “Laziko” is “Dance of the Laz” people of the “Black Sea,” In fact the dance of “Hassapiko Serviko” is the name of a “Hassapiko” with Serbian Balkan influences. (Speaking again of the “back beat” in Arabian music don’t forget an old saying that Arabic belly dancers tended to dance “behind the beat”).
The portion of these words that are “siko” or “iko” seem to be a “call to action”- as it means to “stand up” or “get up.” For instance “chorepsi” or “horepsi” is the actual word for dance. But when “iko” or “siko” is present it’s like saying “Get up and dance the butcher’s dance with me” (“Hassapiko”) or “Come on get up and let’s dance like the Arabs (“Arapiko”).
Also, I was interested to find out that a recent development has the Turkish word for Arab, namely “Arap,” has been used by some younger Greeks as an “ethnic slur.” Apparently, this has been the case since the war over “Cyprus” occurred with Turkey in the Summer of 1974, and by the 90’s Greeks in large numbers were turning their backs on shared roots with Turks and Arabs-some Arabs being “Christian” does not seem to matter-it’s as if they were lumped together with those dastardly “Ottomans.” Not to mention that certain cultures started “de-romanticizing” the “Roma”-“the “Gypsies”- to the point that they just didn’t want them to be themselves anymore. Turkey itself tore down their district “Sulekule” – itself the inspiration for many a Turkish song. Sadly, without “romance” our spirit dies and we’re just another group of people that get turned on when the world gets too crowded.
So, keeping that in mind, there is some talk of not wanting to call the rhythm “Arapiko” that name anymore. My only problem with that personally is that it’s basically saying “Arab” is a dirty word if it’s spelled in the “Turkish Fashion” with a “P.” As an artist who hates to stir the “cauldron” of hate over all this is a bad idea. I wouldn’t let a handful of people dictate the change in meaning whether it’s over “Cyprus” or “9/11.” (Also intriguing are a small handful of other dances in different regions in Greece called an “Arapiko” which are not only not done to “Maksoum” they don’t resemble each other at all-yet the question is: “Are they not related then to an Arab influence? If not, why then are they called “Arapikos” as well?” This provides food for thought. Two of the three dances in question feature just two men- one is a sword dance, the other a rather free form type dance, and the third almost a “mime piece” like something from ancient theatre.
Some interesting commentary on this latest development can be found on Shira’s Website – notice some footnotes under the info about Stelios Kazantzidis and his song “Ehis Kormi Arapiko” visit the page on her site here Arapiko Footnotes on Shira’s Site. (Shira is now assisted in Greek translations and Greek folklore by dancer Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin, the director of the “Arab Hellenic Folklore Institute” located in the Boston area. Another page with some Greek words translated are here Words for Dancers to Know in Greek.
As for the rhythms that were “not popular” in the hey day for belly dancing I can mention two “right off the bat” that were not. Along about the late 1970’s to the late 1980’s there seems to be a craze to “belly dance” to the fast “Hassapiko” or “Kasop” rhythm as an “opener” or “entrance” piece. Some cases of this seem to be “on purpose” and in some other instances it seems to be a drummer veering off from the “Malfouf” rhythms, a popular fast rhythm amongst the aforementioned belly dance rhythms. It definitely suits just certain portions of a show though. The fast “Hassapiko”/”Kasop” can certainly be done for a brief time in an act with the hopping steps but you sure as heck don’t try to “belly dance” to it you would break a leg! Yet, I’ve seen video of some poor dancers trying to dance around to it as if they are about to have a heart attack. In the classic age, right before this you made fast entrances to fast “Cifte Telli” or “Fast Arapiko” (or you could enter “slow” for drama in your act-I always opened with “Miserlou” and entered with “mystery.”) The craze for a “break neck” speed opening in a very “frantic” un-danceable fashion seems to lie with the “Modern Egyptian” craze.
One type of dance that fits pretty nicely into a belly dance act is a “Saidi” cane dance. It was not that popular in America until the 1980’s I’d say but is not a bad choice as far as a rhythm goes. It is the second rhythm I can think of that was not that popular in the “heyday.”
While “YouTube” is a wonderful source to watch many different dance styles from different eras the sad news is there is very little to show of the “Nightclub” or “Cabaret” show “set-up.” A lot of old “Egyptian Films” are a joy to watch but they have a “tableau” that fits in with their “story line” and sometimes the male love interest is singing to the woman, or vice-versa, etc so you’re not really seeing a five to seven part tempo change act.
The more you explore old records and read info about rhythms the more “savvy” you will get when listening to them yourselves. Even though many old records are labeled correctly once in a while you will find a mistake. One Greek record I have has labeled something more like a “rhumba” an “Arapiko.” (Incidentally, The song “Miserlou” can be played to a rhumba rhythm quite nicely-it just sounds a bit different from the “Maksoum”/”Arapiko” because the “accents” are different. However, it does fit nicely).
If a belly dance was played to a particularly more Latin or French sounding rhythm it was said to be done in a more “Continental” style. A “Continental” style of playing was sometimes known quite well by the foreign musicians because, as stated before, they were well versed in “International” music and trends. One instrument that gave quite a bit of “Continental Flair” to Middle Eastern and Greek music was the accordion. (Interestingly enough, the people of India became fascinated with a similar instrument, the pump organ and it was adapted into a “portable” instrument called now the “Harmonium” because there was no use of tables at the time in Indian culture. This was around the 1860’s, but many years later there was a bit of a backlash against the harmonium as not being “Indian” enough in origin for use in “folk music.”)
I remember being amazed one time to see what had been I believe a very pricy “when new” keyboard by “Yamaha” that had the “Arapiko” beat on it’s selection of “programmable” beats. (Talk about “International!”
As with any of my articles, take as “food for thought”- further research can be done. I’m sharing what I know from experience with music as a dancer and as a musician as well.
Mystery Belly Dancer for September 2017
By Aziza Al-Tawil
Well, despite the fact that belly dancers were really quite graceful demure beings compared to some other “exotic” acts of the era, they did hold enough “sensuality” to make their way into cinema fare known today as “sexploitation.” As a “genre” it has intrigued people because who wouldn’t want to “strip” a few layers away from a much more “prim” generation and see what they were really capable of. One such film, “Honeymoon of Horror” (1964) AKA “Orgy of the Golden Nudes,” has a mystery belly dancer that is quite lovely in a party scene that boasts more outrageous fare (namely the “Golden Nude”- a human female version of the “Oscar” award statue).
Our little belly dancer has beautiful graceful hands and appears to have her “zil” on the correct hands. Would love to know who she is. The writer of this flick is Alexander Panas. I’ll say that’s Greek and perhaps a reason to see a belly dancer in his script. I do know one thing. It’s probably easier to decipher through IMDB the identity of the gal painted gold than it is to find out who our belly dancer is.
Alternate Title for “Honeymoon of Horror” (1964) was “Orgy of the Golden Nudes.”