Belly Dance Music Recommendations
Not sure what music to buy? I’ve purchased a lot of music in my time as a belly dancer and here are some of my recommendations. I’ll put links to a place where you can buy them, but these will be somewhat random, so you can get a look at the album cover. Feel free to do a google search to find the best deal or to find sites that offer samples to listen to.
The best all around online vendors I’ve found for Middle Eastern and belly dance music are:
however there are several great CDs that you have to get from one source.
Egyptian and Lebanese Oriental Dance Music
If you are looking for classic Egyptian music with that full orchestral sound and good arrangements and dynamics for dancing and minimum synthisizer
below are some of my most used favorites. Many of these were produced by professional dancers, most of whom worked in Egypt for several years. They are not necessarily in order of preference. I like them all.
Jalilah’s Raks Sharki Series – I have all of these and love them all, one of them is Lebanese music and has that same full orchestral sound and one of them is an instructional rhythm CD. The titles are:
- Raks Sharki, Classic Egyptian Dance Music
- Amar 14
- Journey of the Gipsy Dancer
- The Rhythm Workshop
- Stars of the Casino Opera
- In a Beirut Mood (this is the Lebanese one – I actually did the cover art for this album)
Beata and Horacio’s Oriental Fantasy Series – I have several of these and want them all. They have been extremely useful for professional gigs.
Sahra’s CDs "Layali Zaman", "Music for an Egyptian Dance" and "Sahra Saeeda" are all great albums. I believe she has also put out a Nubian music CD.
"Princess of Cairo" – this was Nagua Fouad’s music and is considered a standard that every good Egyptian style dancer knows. (I love this album!)
"Aswan Dances with Souher Zaki" – this is Souher Zaki’s music and again, a classic must have.
Katia’s "Amar El Laily" – a beautiful CD that I’ve gotten a lot of use out of.
"Nadia Gamal Traditional Arab Dances" – Really great music written for the famous Lebanese dancer Nadia Gamal. The drama in this music is incredible.
Serpentine CDs – These are put out by the DC dancer Yasmin, she is working with her former band in Egypt. She is offering a wide variety of subject matter in the realm of Egyptian music and has several more on the way. I love all her CDs. They have the best liner notes you will ever find. They are like small educational textbooks in each CD. The music is also incredibly beautiful. I have them all and I often use "Cry to the Moon" in class. Her "Dancing with Genies" CD includes two complete Oriental Dance shows and is a great one to start with. But I recommend buying everything she puts out.
Amir Sofi’s "Millennium" – Amir Sofi is a drummer (and a male model, I think) who has dated some really excellent belly dancers. His "Millennium" Album is really good. I don’t have his new album yet, but it is worth a look.
Hossam Ramzy’s "Faddah" – Hossam Ramzy is an Egyptian drummer married to a dancer that has put out a lot of belly dance albums. Some are better than others. Some contain music that just seems to wander on forever. I like a few, but I think that Faddah is one of the really good ones. His "Sabla Tolo" CDs (a play on the words tabla solo) are also quite useable. It’s worth looking at some of his others. They are all really great albums for drummers, because the tabla is really clear and crisp and nice to play along with.
Nourhan Sharif’s CDs and the Wash Ya Wash Series – Put out by Nourhan and Yousry Sharif, some of these are better than others. I’ve been able to pull a few useful songs out of some of these, some really beautiful incredible songs acutally, so I thought they were worth a mention. A few are too synthisized for my taste, but it really varies. Nourhan’s Rhythms instructional CDs are excellent.
The Masters of Bellydance Music vol.1 – This is a compilation CD and I really love it. I’ve heard that their volume 2 is really good as well, but I don’t have it yet.
10 Songs Every Belly Dancer Should Know – This is another compilation CD that lives up to it’s title.
These next few have a little bit different sound to them, a bit of a nightclub feel, they might have a little synthisizer or a slightly smaller or different style ensemble, but they are indespensible:
Belly Dance Classics with Fifi Abdo – has a little more of a nightclub feel to it, but is a standard, must have in my opinion.
Farida Dance Presents "Heya Di Yasmina" and "Layali Yasmina" music for the dancer Yasmina’s show in Cairo. Really great music with more of a nightclub feel, some real belly dance classics are on these.
Best of Saidi with Fatme Serhan – the title is a little decieving (as is the cover art with Eva Cernik), this is actually the music for one of Dina’s shows. Again really great nightclub feel and some wonderful shaabi.
Leila presents Sukara vol.2 - this is music from the dancer Leila’s show in Cairo. It also has a bit of a nightclub feel and is really great
Arabic Pop, Shaabi, Electronic Mix Music
The "Now That’s What I Call Arabia" compilation CDs are my favorites. They put them out every year with top pop artists from around the Arabic speaking world. Mostly Lebanese and Egyptian artists. I use this music a lot in class.
Zatune – has downloads of lots of popular Arabic artists, but you need to know who you are looking for. Artists I’ve found really useful for dance include Nancy Ajram, Haifa Wehbe, Shereen, Amr Diab, Farez Karam, Angham, Myriam Fares, Carol Samaha, Ehab Tawfik, Hakim, Saad al Soghayar, Mostafa Kamal and the more classic artists Oum Koulthum, Abdel Halim Hafez, Farid el Atrache, Sabah and Warda. There are many more, but this should get you started.
Bellydance Superstars – they are compilations with a mix of popular music and more classic stuff, but I find they make some pretty good pop selections on their compilations, they also sell Saad al Soghayar CDs.
I don’t use a lot of techno remix dance music when I perform, sometimes in class, but if if you want to find some, I recommend:
- Turbo Tabla
- Arabian Nights: Club & Chillout Classics
- Suhaila’s CDs
- Beiruit Biloma
- REG Project
- DJ Nadar
- Said Mrad
Arabic Classics, Classic Remakes, Classic Belly Dance Music
There are certain artists whose music never seems to get old in the Arab world. Oum Koulthum, Abdel Halim Hafez and Warda seem to be those artists.
Virtually nobody dances to original Oum Koulthum recordings, for several reasons, so there are some nice dance appropriate remakes out there. Several of the CDs I recommended above have songs here and there, but here are two really great albums dedicated exclusively to Oum Koulthum:
"A Tribute to Om Kalsoum" put out by the Cairo Orchestra and "Music of the Diva: Om Kalsoum" with the Mohamed Ali Ensemble. Many dancers will also buy her original recordings to listen to for their own pleasure.
My favorite album of Abdel Halim Hafez’s original music is "An Evening with Abdel Halim Hafez" and I highly recommend owning it.
Good Tabla CDs and artists, if you are looking for drum solos:
- Issam Houshan – his CDs The Dancing Drum 1 & 2
- Suleiman Warwar’s Beyond Rhythm
- The Henkish Brothers – Pulse of the Sphinx
- Hossam Ramzy’s Sabla Tolo CDs
Vintage Oriental Music and Classic Belly Dance Bands
George Abdo - A vintage classic belly dance band, really wonderful.
John Bilezikjian – Another classic vintage artist. He has many really beautiful timeless classics.
Gus Vali – His stuff is pretty much only available on LPs, but if you have a player and can transfer them, I like his music a lot.
The VOS CDs – There are a series of CDs put out under varios titles like Super Belly Dance and Belly Dance with …fill in the appropriate somebody. They can be identified by their rainbow colored lettering. These are vintage recordings of popular Arabic Oriental dance music. They aren’t the most usable over all for shows because of the recording quality, although you can pick out a song or two, particularly if you are going for a retro feel, but I love these recordings. Some of my favorites include Belly Dance with Samara, Belly Dance with Farid El Atrache vol.1 and vol. 2Belly Dance with Warda & Abdel Halim Hafez, Belly Dance with Aziza, Nonstop Belly Dance with Nagua Fouad and Belly Dance with Om Kalssoum. You can find most of these at Dahlals.
Belly Dance – The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab – This is one of those albums with the most incredible classic belly dance music. Again, not the greatest recording quality for modern tastes, but incredible music to fall in love with.
The Best of the Sultans – One of my first albums and still one of my favorites. This is Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s old belly dance band, before he moved on to more spiritual focused recordings.
Kairo by Night – I like their album Lahadat. They aren’t as old school as the above artists, but they play a lot of classic dance music.
Dalia Carella’s Shuvani – I wasn’t sure where to put this one, it is a nice mix of both Turkish and Arabic music, beautifullly played, rich and exciting.
Turkish Classic, Roman and Oriental Dance Music
Tulumba is a good source for purchasing Turkish music.
Rhythms of Turkey volume 1 by Tayyar Akdeniz – Mostly a rhythm learning CD, but the last 5 tracks on here are straight up wonderful Turkish dance music making this CD doubly worth buying. Unfortunately it isn’t widely distributed yet and the only way I know to get it is to contact Artemis and see if she has a copy to sell you.
Asena – the self titled Asena album is great. It has a lot of Turkocized Arabic music and is a wonderful crossover album that I’ve gotten a ton of use out of. Her new releases aren’t so hot.
Ensemble Huseyn Turkmenler has put out a few belly dance albums, the two below I like the best, some of the other get a little too synthsizer for my taste:
- Ensemble Hüseyin Türkmenler, Oriental Dance from Turkey
- Ensemble Husein Tukmenler – Nasra Turkish Belly Dance
Tanyeli – Turkish Belly Dancer – A good belly dance album for Turkish Music
Omar Faruk Tekbilek – Has wonderful albums with Turkish, Sufi and Fusion music. It isn’t all dance appropriate so be careful what you select for performance. It is very beautiful though.
Hüsnü Senlendirici - A little Jazzy, Husnu is an amazing clarinet player. I was considering putting him in another category, just beautiful, beautiful music.
Somali Mustafa – Sahane Ciftetelli – Both belly dance and Roman, check out Somali Mustafa’s other albums as well.
Kardes Turkuler does a variety of music, mostly Turkish traditional, some not, but these two albums in particular have some great, really dancable music.
Kardes Turkuler – Bahar
Kardes Turkuler – Dogu
Selim Sesler – Roman and Turkish, Selim is an incredible artist, all his albums are good.
Deli Selimin Oglu Akilli Selim – Great for Turkish Roman
Romanlar Eğleniyor – Also Great Turkish Roman Music
I’m actually not that knowlegable in this area, so if anybody has recommendations as to what to put in this area, let me know.
Jazzy, Edgy, Alternative or Tribal Belly Dance/Ethnic Music
Souren Baronian and Taksim – Jazzy fusion
Turbo Tabla – Arabic techno, hip hop fusions
Ishtar – Belly Rock Band
Djinn – Tribal fusion
Raqay and the Cavemen – Progressive Middle Eastern Music
Anistar – Middle Eastern, Balkan Jazz
Ismail Luminovski and The New York Gypsy All Stars – Romany, Balkan, Jazz
Beatbox Guitar – Just what the title says, really nice music for dance
Kultur Shock – Balkan rock
Venetian Snares – breakcore, beautifully mixed, pretty dark
Gogol Bordello – Balkan rock
Devotchka – heavily Balkan influenced ethno-rock
Loreena McKennitt – very popular celtic music with Moorish and Andalusian influence
Soap Kills – Lebanese alternative music
Maduro – DC local electronic based, a lot of it made with the dancer in mind
DAM – Arabic Rap, not dance appropriate for the most part, highly political
MTM – Arabic Rap, more upbeat and fun than DAM
feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments section below: