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A Middle Eastern Music and Dance  Performance

"Ecstasy in Music and Dance"

Click here to see clips of show

See below for reviews of The Tarabiya Show


In spite of the high temperatures directly imported from Cairo, the show Tarabiya was greatly enjoyed by all. Here are a few comments:

"This feels like Cairo".

“If this were any other show and it was hot like this, I would have left. But I stayed till the end. I didn’t want to miss the music or the dancing.

“The hair on my arms was standing on end when the singing started.”

Will, the sound and light technician held up a sign during performance.“OMG!”

“And when all the girls came out in the end, wasn’t that song Fakkarooni?”

“I knew Husain could sing, but this was the best kept secret. His voice is so moving.”

When Jalal started playing (Kanun taqsim), it was like heard the Jimi Hendrix of Arabic music.”

“Why doesn’t Husain sing like that at Aswat?”

“Younes and Jalal totally made the tarab.”

“This was wonderful, you need to do it again!”

“Everything was great, but where’s the air (conditioner)?”

“I’ll never forget this night for the rest of my life.”

“It took my breath away when I saw all the beautiful girls dancing together in the finale.”

“It was wonderful how every dancer understood the lyrics and was able to convey the meaning with her dance.”





By Alisha Lions
While belly dancing trend-setters look for the next craze in “the dance” (the latest being Burlesque Belly) Amina Goodyear, ignited the stage at the Mission Cultural Center, on October 1st, with her band, five dancers and an MC, through the concept of Tarabiya (visual enchantment) and Tarab (inner mystical joy).  This, along with a multi-cultural extravaganza of talent and their devotion to Arabic culture with a deep understanding of the music, sets the stage for the next evolution of “the dance”. 
This production was dedicated to Om Kalthoum, regarded as one of the greatest female singers of all time.  The dancers in this production did not just perform; they interpreted the meaning of the lyrics from such lovely poetic pieces she once sang, such as Enta Omri, Lessa Faker, Daret el Ayam, Hayart Albi Maak and Alf Leila wa Leila, expressing love, love’s confusion, loss, sorrow and joy.  We have seen great dancers such as Naqwa Fouad, sing to the audience with feeling as she danced.  However, the dancers at the Tarabiya concert took it a step further; they internalized the drama of these lyrics and conveyed them through sincere, heart-felt emotions along with subtle dance movements - similar to the way actresses do - by internalizing the emotions before expressing them outwardly.  This gives “the dance” a whole new meaning and places it on a new level of existence - a plateau of respectability where it richly deserves to be.  These are not just belly dancers, they are artists:  Dannhae, Nicole, Ahava, Hana Ali and Zahara. 
Master of Ceremonies, Salena (an accomplished dancer, herself) added to the concept of Tarab with her grace and ability to interpret the lyrics of each song sincerely, without any fanfare, as she read them to audience before each dancer appeared.  This allowed the audience to become more aware of what they were viewing and more involved in the supreme state of Tarab and Tarabiya.   
The musicians, each, long time, well-established players in the Bay Area, certainly contributed their musical arrangements to this event:  Faisal Zedan, percussion; Husain Dixon Resan, oud, voice; Jalal Takesh, kanun; Sandy Hollister, percussion; Amina Goodyear, percussion; Younes el Maqboul, violin.
The following sponsors contributed to Tarabiya production:  La Taza coffee Shop, Mi Tierra Market, Truly Mediterranean, Old Jerusalem Restaurant, Samiramis Imports.  Their endowments along with Amina Goodyear, Dannhae and Jason Wallach (Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts) made this wonderful event possible. 
Thank you all for this extraordinary evening.

About Alisha Lions:

Alisha Lions (dance name, "Aleeah") has been a major lover of Middle Eastern dance for 20 years.  She began her studies with Aisha Ali in the nineties.  Some of her other teachers have included, Dr. Mo Gheddawi, Shareen el Safy and Amina Goodyear.  Whenever she can she performs at Rakkasah, Pena Pasha Mama and Al Masri.  This was her first year she danced at Paloma's Holloween Bean Scream and had an absolute blast.  She also enjoys writing. 


TARABIYA - An Evening With Om Kalthoum
Concert and Dance Performance Review

By Rebecca Firestone

How many of us have heard the name Om Kalthoum? The most renowned Arabic singer of her generation? The voice that was heard on radios throughout the Arab world, the woman who created an entire genre and repertoire of love songs, composed especially for her - songs that are now considered as the "Egyptian classics" of bellydance?

One reason I ended up learning these classic songs is that most live Arabic musicians seem to know them backwards and forwards. So, if you're out there with a band, and you want to be sure of dancing to something vaguely familiar, you can learn to ask for "Andah Aleik" (some of us, who don't speak Arabic, refer to this Warda song as "Under a Lake") or "Lailet Hob". It's a good idea to get familiar with the pieces ahead of time, though. These composed musical pieces are more than folk tunes. They have constant rhythm changes and breaks in unpredictable spots. They're not dancehall tunes. They're more like a conversation - or a dramatic soliloquy that makes more sense when read aloud.

Younes el Maqboul, Jalal Takesh, Husain Dixon, Amina Goodyear , Sandy Hollister & Faisal Zeidan

The bellydance world may be divided between those who think "Alf Layla Wa Layla" is the pinnacle of bellydance music and those who find the "cabaret bellydance" image too contrived or too princess-y for their taste. This is judging a book by its cover. The important thing to me is that the dance should not be soulless - "soul" being a sincere desire to reach out to the audience, everyone in the audience, and touch them somehow, include them.

But even those of us who've danced many times to these classics don't realize their depth. We can name rhythms like "Wahada" or "Maqsoum" and even play them a bit - but, Arabic music relies on "maqams" which are the structural equivalent of a key signature in Western music. Even now, I couldn't tell you how Maqam Bayati differs from Maqam Nahawand, even though I can actually sing along quite well to some of the music that uses them.

And then there are the actual lyrics. I think our translations do the lyrics a disservice, really, because their literal meaning in English doesn't capture their poetic feeling. We get things like "oh my eyes, oh oh my insomnia, a lengthy period of time has elapsed" which just doesn't capture the state of being totally obsessed with someone who's just dumped us for a new lover. We may find more resonance with Nine Inch Nails' "I want to **** You Like An Animal" - but this attitude is a couple of galaxies away from the mainly "G" rated poetry in these classic songs. And in our culture, "G" ratings just don't sell. Can you imagine Snoop Dogg singing anything G-rated? Hah.

The first dancer to appear was Dannhae, performing to "Enta Omri", which could mean something like "You light up my life… everything in my life before I saw you was a waste."

That's why this concert was so special. A joint effort of local San Francisco bellydance teachers Amina Goodyear and Dannhae, the core intention is to convey a feeling of musical ecstasy known as "Tarab" - that feeling of timelessness, of floating, while the beauty of the music flows around us and through us. As the Sufi saying goes, "The lover's food is the love of bread, not the bread."
Amina writes:
"When I conceived of this project, I chose a number of Om Kalthoum songs [knowing that] all the dancers and musicians were already familiar with her music… it is quite remarkable that Om Kalthoum, who was and is the voice of … the Arabic speaking world… is the unifying bond in this show."

The dancers and musicians were from all over: Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Turkey, Pakistan, and several hyphenated American ethnicities as well. All of the dancers live locally and study with Amina - I've been in Amina's performance class with them week after week, enduring the rigors of performance critiques and supporting one another's growth. In our little corner of the world, where big festivals like Rakkasah and "superstars" are held up as the norm, and "competitions" seek to pit dancers one against the other, this was a collaborative effort where no one was seeking personal glory. It was a labor of love.

Amina: "I primarily wanted to feature the music, songs, and musicians, and especially introduce Husain (his singing) and Younes (violin) to another world outside of the Arab community where they are already known."

Husain Dixon Resan served as musical director, often sacrificing work time to attend extra rehearsals. He played oud and sang vocals.

The dancers were given private coaching that included studying the lyrics so that they could translate the poetry to their bodies. "They were told to make the dances different than regular festival or club dancing, to be more introspective… provide space for the musicians and Husain (voice) to pull the audience into the tarab mood… I wanted the dancers to marry the music and create tarab."

So, how successful was it? Well… when it came to conveying emotion, it was very successful. There's a particular mood, a heated but veiled sense of longing, a sense of misty abandon, which all the dancers conveyed almost as if we were watching them in a cinematic tear-jerker. Their dance was very "whole body" rather than the tricks and isolations so popular in the [tribal fusion] world.

Their expressions were very gestural - movements with the hands and face as if they were pouring their heart out to their best girlfriend, or berating a faithless lover. Some of the gestures were clearly in the Egyptian idiom, not necessarily something an American would use, but the meaning was still clear enough.

Having visual cues helps the audience to anticipate and interpret the music as well. The dancers were essential to creating a complete show with visual and auditory elements. They hit the breaks without being TOO literal about it, followed the melodic changes, and had that sort of casual, offhand, languorous feeling that I associate with "high Egyptian" Raks Sharqi.

None of the dancers used choreography; it was all improvised. They all, however, described intensive preparation, and they took the mission of the show very seriously - to become the music, and to thoroughly understand the lyrics as well. Amina coached everyone personally on all aspects of the show and their performance, and encouraged them to express their own feeling. "I knew that without her amazing dedication and trust in me and the other dancers for that matter, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to dwell deep into the song I danced to," said Dannhae.

"I listened to the song over and over again. I wanted the song to be imprinted in the memory cells of my body… " said Dannhae. "I knew that I had to use a veil, because the music [Enta Omri] seemed to ask for it… I had an idea from the start of how I wanted to enter the stage… I purposely wanted to make my piece as "raw" or natural as possible. I knew that dancing to live music is very different than dancing to a recorded piece...with a recorded piece you can time yourself, but with live music you have to be flexible about any changes in the music. So choreography may not always work, especially when one hasn't had much time to practice with the band."

Younes el Maqboul, a recent arrival from Morroco, played violin for the show.

Hana prepared in a similar manner. "I danced to Hayarti Albi Ma’ak, a song I’ve had a longstanding love affair with – both its musical arrangement and its poetry… My preparation consisted of listening to various versions of the song ad infinitum (including Umm Kulthoum’s original), trying to internalize the poetry as much as I could and just dancing to the various versions. I also attended one of the band rehearsals at Amina’s and it was very educational and fun watching & listening to the musicians as they figured things out."

Although the songs aren't overtly religious, there is an element of unselfish devotion that I think is encoded or disguised as romantic love. The dancers picked up on this as they gave themselves to the music. Zahara said, "I read the translation and asked God to do my best! I was the last one to perform I was back stage hearing the amazing band and the crowd going crazy in love all night and that made me so happy already I prayed one more time before I go on because I wanted everyone to keep all their happy faces on!"

There were times I thought the stage should have more decoration - although there were large swaths of Egyptian print cloth hung around the theater itself. Which was BOILING HOT by the way. The single biggest thing the Mission Cultural Center could do to improve comfort would be two big floor fans… but anyway.

The dancers had a large stage, but not all of them used it. I've had an experience where I'd carefully choreographed this brilliant dance piece with a thousand barrel turns and a big veil, only to discover that my actual dance stage would be a 3' square piece of carpet honeycombed with wiring for sound equipment. If you have a big stage, you can travel, spin, and put those $100 Isis wings to good use, finally.I think one could do this and preserve the "tarab" feeling.

On the other hand, going back to the bareness of the stage, that gave the event more of a curated feel, the way one might present "high art" in a museum - it needs no adornment. And this was the audience to do it for. I saw people there I hadn't seen in years, probably from one of Amina's "Giza club" events (film showings, discussion groups, awards

All the band members are members of Aswat, a large Bay Area Arabic musical ensemble. Many audience members were Aswat fans (or members) as well. They came primarily to support the musicians and to enjoy hearing some of their favorite classic pieces. Now, I think that the audience is a great teacher for someone who may be new to, say, Arabic music, or really any genre that's unfamiliar at first. There's some sort of group cellular response, a collective sigh, that you can pick up on to know what's important.

The music was arranged so that each musician had an opportunity to show off with lots of taqasim (improvisational solos). These interludes are the core of Arabic music, showing the virtuosity of the musician and their mastery of the maqam - they embody the music for the audience, becoming the gateway for everyone to enter into the state of tarab. Solos also allow some of the quieter instruments, like the oud, to stand out and shine a little - sometimes the oud gets drowned out by louder instruments, even with the most careful sound mixing.

Jalal Takesh, a master kanun player who owned the Pasha restaurant in San Francisco for 20 years, shared his skills. The kanoun is the law in an Arabic orchestra, because with 70 strings, every other instrument tunes to it rather than the other way around.

Amina wrote to me at length about how and why the show was conceived in the form that it was. "I was insecure about producing just a music event, as I am a dance teacher and not an Arab male, musician, singer or music events producer so didn't feel I could reach the music lovers crowd… I hoped to bait people by the important visual addition of "dancers".

Preparing for the concert was a labor of love on the part of the musicians, none of whom were guaranteed much in the way of payment. They rehearsed extensively, as Amina describes, in order to make some changes specific to this show.

"The boys (and Sandy) and I got together and practiced a number of times for hours at a time. Everyone already knew all the songs, but I had some arrangement requests that made them have to stray from automatic pilot. This was difficult for them as they are so used to playing it as on Om CDs and were totally programmed to do it exactly as original recordings."

Those of us who've never played in an orchestra may not fully appreciate the work of creating a balanced ensemble with the right mix of instruments. Amina goes on, "The only thing missing from this takht was the nai (flute). There are a couple of nai players in the area but I needed to use musicians who were friends and on the same page musically and capable of instantly "picking up the pieces" in case of musical forgetfulness errors.

And on the matter of payment, Amina was honest with the band, telling them she would give them whatever she could afford after expenses. "None of them even balked at that. They still wanted to set aside time and more time for practice. Younes and Husain are limo drivers and sometimes gave up jobs to practice. Faisal is a new (stay-at-home-dad) father and came to rehearsals with his baby, even though we told him he didn't have to. I know that Jalal and Husain and Faisal also got together and practiced other times too at Faisal's and Jalal's houses."

The dancers were unanimous in their praise of the band.

Hana: "When the band started playing and we heard the audience respond, the excitement backstage was palpable. I almost wished I was in the audience watching, instead of stuck backstage without permission to utilize the ‘peep-holes’! What stood out for me was how well the band seemed to connect and Husain’s singing – I’ve always liked his singing because he does it with such feeling – but I thought he outdid himself that night. His inflections & repeats…pure joy!"

Dannhae: "I was thrilled at how the band performed, I could hear from the way the audience was responding. They clapped, cheered, and I could hear some people singing along. To me every sound the musicians made on the stage, from the violinist to the drummer, felt and sounded organic, like a heart-beat."

Each musician seemed to me to have a uniquely personal sound, almost like they were different spice mixes that went together but each had some unique savor in how they interpreted each maqam - and since all the melodic instruments were fret-less, including of course the human voice, they had full control over nuances of tonality. (OK, the kanun isn't exactly "fretless" but that one had plenty of shading as well, and a shivery, shimmering sound.

Amina notes, "Sandy and I were there to provide a little extra fullness and feminine energy on the stage. We both wished we could have matched the guys' virtuosity and talent but that will have to be another lifetime."

I seem to remember Amina telling me that the musicians had originally wanted the much-beloved Jalal to be the musical director, but he was too humble and demurred. So, the task fell to Husain Dixon Resan, who's been a long-time member of Aswat as well as playing regularly with Georges Lammam's ensemble.

Here I would venture to make one suggestion for next time, which is that the musical director might have to be positioned in a way that he can visually cue in the rest of the band. Every orchestra has a conductor, and most bands have a leader as well - sometimes it changes from one song to the next, but there are times when too much humility needs to be balanced with firm, clear direction - especially if there are any first-timers in the audience. Of course, maybe they'll repeat this show, or do another one with a different theme, and over time the rough spots will just naturally smooth themselves away.

One final observation is that with many shows, the artistic director acts to control every aspect of the choreography and execution - which can create a very tight, very disciplined show, but also leaves it as more of an expression of the director's vision rather than the performer's individuality. Amina is not an egotist, and rather than dictating exactly how every move should be done, she left it up to each performer, and acted to guide, encourage, and draw out the talents they already possessed. This created a different kind of camaraderie.

Dannhae said, "What was magical about that night was to see my fellow dancers and myself all sharing a space that for a moment felt so sacred. I felt a tremendous sense of sisterhood between us. We were in harmony with each other. We all looked focused and I could feel the intense energy in our bodies."

Ahava:" I felt as if I was in the presence of like minded artists who all shared the same passion for Oriental dance and Om Kalthoum."

Photos: Tarabiya Band - Linda Grondahl - All others - Ian Wilson

About Rebecca Firestone:

Rebecca Firestone has been studying Middle Eastern Dance for over 10 years. Besides having a strong background in ballet and modern dance, she has also studied other dance forms such as jazz, Caribbean, West African and Fire Dance. In additions she is proficient and studies martial arts including Aikido, Kung Fu and Kupigana Ngumi (Afrikan fighting). She has a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Oberlin College and supports herself as a technical writer, biographer and blogger for an Architectural firm in San Francisco.

Mosaic Productions


Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts



A Sold Out Show

Jason Wallach, Program Director of the MCCLA

Saturday, October 1, 2011 - 7:00 pm

Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts

2868 Mission Street (near 26th St) San Francisco CA

The Tarabiya Band


Husain Dixon Resan, Jalaleddin Takesh,Younes el Maqboul Faisal Zedan, Sandy Hollister and Amina Goodyear (Amina m.i.a. during sound check)


creating the tarabwith exotic rhythms and entrancing melodies

for some of the finest Bay Area dancers

Ahava. Dannhae, Hana, Nicole and Zahara

with Salena as M.C.



A dance and music show created for you to experience Tarab!


In a tribute to Egypt this first Tarabiya Show showcased the music of Om Kalthoum and Egypt's Golden Age.

The musicians played many traditional and beloved pieces written especially for Om Kalsoum- the voice of Egypt. In this manner we hope we brought you memories and feelings that invoked Tarab.
There is no word in the English language that accurately defines the word "Tarab."
In Arabic culture "Tarab" is used to describe the emotional effect of the music on the listener.

These emotions induce ecstasy and trance.

Ecstasy and Trance comes in many forms. We hope you experienced this with us.





The Aswan Dancers
829 Elizabeth Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 282-7910