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Raqs al Baladi

One of my favourite dancers, 
Anne Ashcroft, teaching baladi
 in the UK, 1994. Photo: L. Hawes


Raqs al Baladi refers to an Egyptian dance style that evolved in the early part of the 20th century. "Baladi" means "my country" or "from my country", and in the context of this dance, refers to its folkloric or country origins.

The evolution of raqs al baladi coincided with waves of migration of rural people to the larger Egyptian towns and cities. They brought with them their traditional instruments, music and dance. In the cities they were influenced by  western music (in particular jazz and blues) and instruments (in particular accordion, saxophone, clarinet and trumpet). This merger of traditional Egyptian and modern western music gave birth to the distinctive baladi sound. It is often referred to as "urbanised folk" music.

Baladi music is typified by several distinct sections. Not all pieces or music have all the sections, and they are not necessarily in the same order. Musicians and dancers are usually improvising within a loose framework.

Typical Baladi Repertoire
Dulab Musical introduction
Tahmelah An light and bright popular song. The dancer typically enters and displays lots of personality. Simple walks, turns, bounces and gestures rather than complicated moves.
Taqsim Hur Slow improvisation to instruments such as saxophone, ney, accordian. This section is usually more soulful in mood.
Awady A slow and steady rhythm over which a more fluid melody develops. The melody is usually the instrumental version of a baladi or saidi song. The dancer can move between these two influences - the heavy beat or the softer melody. Awady means "reed".
Sakkat These are sharp staccato-like accents that usually appear at the beginning or end of the awady. They may be interspersed with melodic instrumentation, silence or drum rolls.
Tet A repetitive fast beat with a climatic energy. 
Engrar The pull - a quicker rhythm that extends the tett. There is typically a solo instrument such as a ney that plays over the rhythm and gives the engrar a more fluid feel.
Tabla Solo Drum solo
Final Song Similar to the tamelah.

Raqs al Baladi Personalities 

When dancing baladi style, the dancer usually adopts typical Egyptian female personalities to suit the contrasting emotions of the music. Dancers tend to naturally lean to one particular personality but in the course of a baladi piece of music, they may display several shades.

Dall'ua - playful woman

Bint el Beledi - innocent country girl

Fellaha - country woman

Ma'alimah - boss woman

Alma - wise or learned woman

Ya Walla or Ya Wadd - tomboy


The Birth of Baladi by Katrina Robinson - The Hilal School of Raqs Sharqi Newsletter 1994

Understanding Raqs al Baladi by Hossam Ramzy - Habibi magazine 1994

Andalus (Judy Lees) Class Notes

Lesley Jolley Class Notes



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This site was last updated on: 18/10/05