Egyptian Baladi and the Baladi Taksim

Naima Akef The word Baladi (you may also see it spelled balady, beledi, beledy, etc.) can mean several things:

1. My country, of the country or of the people.

2. It can be used a complement as the balad are considered the salt of the earth or a slur when referring to somebody as unrefined, like calling somebody a hick.

3. In dance it refers to the dance of the everyday people, raqs baladi as opposed to raqs sharqi.

4.In dance it can also refer to a particular music and dance construct, also called baladi taksim, or ashra baladi.

5.In American belly dance and in the Levant it also sometimes used to refer to a particular variation of the rhythm masmoudi saghir.

Fifi AbdoBaladi dancing is the traditional everyday dance of the Egyptian people, not dressed up for stage. The Baladi dancer would wear whatever happens to be in fashion, maybe tying a scarf around her hips for an impromptu performance. Her posture and arms would be relaxed but still pretty and she wouldn’t travel around very much. Her center of gravity would be low and very earthy. She would be flat footed much of the time. Baladi can be urban or country, but is often used in reference to the Cairo working class’s style of dance. Baladi music uses traditional instruments like the rebaba, nay and tabla as well as more western instruments like the accordion, organ and violin. There can be a singer as well. There are a lot of fun baladi songs. There is also a very popular musical construct used for baladi dancing called the baladi taksim.

Also called a baladi progression or asharah baladi, the baladi taksim begins with a slow taksim, often the highlighted instrument is the accordion, and then typically follows a diologue between the solo instrument and the tabla. The full band comes in, slow and steady at first and the band works its way gradually into a full blown frenzy. Sometimes there is a drum solo attached to it. Hossam Ramzy claims in his article “Baladi” that this construct was used at Egyptian celebrations to get the reluctant dancers in the family to show their full range of skills. The idea is for the dancer to start understated and then build the energy gradually until she is rocking it in full gear.

Suhair ZakiThis is a very popular part of a professional Oriental dancer’s set when she is dancing for Arabic audiences. It usually comes in the middle of her set, either following her Oriental or right before her tabla solo. When performed within an Oriental set it is appropriate to perform in a two piece bedlah. Baladi dancing can sometimes include a cane or finger cymbals. It may also be part of a separate folkloric tableau. It may also be performed in a man’s galabia with a hip scarf tied around the hips, like Fifi Abdo wears in this video clip.

Although all Egyptian dancers that I know of include baladi songs or baladi taksims in their full shows, the baladi style reached the height of its popularity after King Faruk was ousted from power in 1952 and a nationalist movement took the forefront in Egypt in the 1960s,70s and into the 80s. As Egyptians first got the vote, the common man, or salt of the earth, rose in popularity, as did the baladi and shaabi music and dance styles. Fifi Abdo was particularly known as a bint al balad, or daughter of the country, and is probably most referenced when it comes to the baladi style. You will often see her in the man’s style galabia for her baladi set. She also sometimes plays finger cymbals, smokes shisha and uses a cane. Souhair Zaki, also very popular during that era, was known for her baladi taksims and inserted them in many of her performances in film and live shows. She also incorporated finger cymbals often in her baladi taksims, occassionally cane and she would perform them both in bedlah and in baladi dresses.

To learn more about the baladi taksim, I highly recommend Ranya Renee’s instructional dvd on the subject: The Baladi with Ranya Renée. She goes into detail about the different styles of baladi improvisation you will find in Egypt. With skilled musicians, she explains and demonstrates the woman’s alwadi style baladi taksim and the men’s tet style baladi taksim, breaking each down into descriptive sections for hearing, understanding and interpretting the music.

Another wonderful resource for learning more about Egyptian baladi music and the baladi taksim is musician Guy Schalom of the Baladi Blues ensemble. He has made several articles, some charts, sheet music and lyrics available through his website. I recommend taking the time to look through all of Guy Schalom’s workshop articles.

Shems’s Egyptian Baladi Dancing YouTube Playlist

Shems’s Egyptian Baladi Taksim YouTube Playlist


  1. [...] Pero también dentro del baile oriental aparece este fenómeno. La subcategoría „Tribal Style“ que nació como el Hip Hop en los setenta en los Estados Unidos y parece gustar mucho más a las bailarinas jóvenes que el baile clásico oriental. Aunque el baile oriental sea la base del Tribal Style, muy pocos  empiezan por el baile clásico para luego empezar con el Tribal, sino que  se comienza directamente con este. Su escenografía  mística y gótica parece llamar mucho más la atención que la expresión alegre y colorida  del baile oriental, que siempre fue un baile con muchas facetas, como el Saidi o el Beledi. [...]

    Pingback by LA LUCHA INFINITA | Paso a paso... — July 4, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

  2. […] Fifi Abdo baladi ruhában. Forrás: […]

    Pingback by Beledi, szaidi és shaabi ruha: mi a különbség? | — December 29, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment