Steampunk Bellydance Music, A Personal Opinion

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I enjoy Steampunk. I like the style, the manners, the mythos. The problem is that since it is completely fictional it is pretty hard to nail down exactly what it IS. What is Steampunk? What about Steampunk music? How do you determine what a genre sounds like? That has been a point of some discussion amongst fans of the genre, and as that genre has taken off in popularity of course it was only a matter of time before it crossed over into bellydance.

I’ve been giving this quite a lot of thought lately as some friends and I have been brainstorming for an upcoming Con where we plan to perform at a Steampunk themed fan suite. Since the Steampunk fashion style tends to base itself in Victorian era fashions I feel bellydance fits right in, as Orientalism was pretty popular in that era of real world history. I have found that a lot of dancers who adopt Steampunk as a style tend to be ATS®, Tribal fusion or 8 Elements™ dancers more often than traditional Egyptian, Turkish, Lebanese, etc. As an Egyptian style dancer I have found it to be a challenge to find anyone on YouTube for inspiration.

When considering what I look for in Steampunk music I have to admit my burlesque sensibilities definitely have an influence. I imagine something fun and upbeat. I feel that there should be fewer electronic instruments and more people powered or potentially steam powered sounds. Imagining what might be popular in pubs or at fairs during Victorian times I would lean more toward accordions, violins, pianos, banjos and brass instruments. This era encompasses quite a stretch of time, and includes John Phillip Sousa and Gilbert and Sullivan, as well as minstrel troupes and familiar southern ballads. That’s a lot of material to work with.

Most people who are in the know would immediately think of Abney Park. They are great, but if you want a little variety the following are some favorite artist of mine who may just fit the bill:

  • Gogol Bordello – Start Wearing Purple, Occurrence At The Border, Baro Foro, The Other Side of Rainbow, etc.
  • Viza (or Visa) – Carnivalia, Meet Me at the Troubadour, Breakout the Violins, etc.
  • Shantel – seriously, just about anything by Shantel, including the Bucovina Club compilation albums he produced.
  • Beats Antique – I know, you all were going to say that already! Obvs!

I’ve always been partial to Die Eier Von Satan by Tool, but I get a Diesel Punk vibe off of that song. Maybe I am splitting hairs there.

Just this year a compilation album called “Steampunk Experiment: Mechanical Cabaret” came out; I believe it was produced by Bellydance Superstars. It is a pretty good album in its own right, but most of the music would really qualify as Electronica or Dubstep. It just did not seem to meet the promise of its title.

There are other artists, like Rasputina for example, who may fit in the Steampunk music genre, but they are not necessarily conducive to belly dancing.

If you have any favorite artists you think would be great for Steampunk bellydance please comment!

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Choice Music to Chill By

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Niyaz

I was asked after class today what music we were listening to during the warmup and cool down. Well, lots of different stuff. I’ve been accumulating dance music since 1999, and if you played the entire lot you could go for 2 full days with no repeats. Here’s what I like to warm up with:

Serpents Dance by Arcana (from Le Serpent Rouge)

Chifti Telle and Floor Work Slow Chifti by Eddie “The Sheik” Kochak (from Strictly Belly Dance Vol 1 & 3 respectively)

Ambesto by Mahmoud Fadl (from Drummers of the Nile Go South)

Beni Beni, Tamana, and Iman by Niyaz (from Nine Heavens)

Saraab by Simon Shaheen (from the compilation album Desert Roses and Arabian Rhythms Vol. 3)

Sehr Oyounik and Last Words by the Temple, by Hossam Ramzy (from Best of Hossam Ramzy)

Some of these artists are not easy to find unless you get compilation albums like the Bellydance Superstars or Desert Roses series, but worth checking out for sure! I posted a while back about how to find new music if you are interested in learning more. Feel free to post some of your favorites in the comments!

 

How to find new music

We are about half-way through winter session now and I have revealed our choreography music: Simarik by Tarkan (the radio edit version 3:11 – available for single download). I’ve had one or two people ask me where I find my music. The answer is: everywhere. But where to start?

  • Ask your teacher for her/his favorites. That’s how I got to know Eddie “The Sheik” Kochak and George Abdo.
  • Look for compilations like Desert Roses, Bellydance Superstars, Rough Guide or Putumayo Presents. That is a good introduction to musicians you might want to get to know better.
  • Go exploring online. Many dancers post on YouTube and their personal blogs. What are they dancing to? If you are shopping online take a look at the suggestions made. “People who liked this also liked that.” Maybe you will to!
  • Make a playlist on Pandora Radio of an artist you like. See what the Music Genome Project plays for you.
  • Keep your ears open at shops, on the radio, etc. I first heard Shantel and Rodrigo y Gabriela on Fresh Air. I discovered The Buena Vista Social Club at a video store. I just asked the clerk what he was listening to.
  • Think outside the box. You can dance to anything you want. It doesn’t all have to be Middle Eastern pop. Try out Lady Gaga or Rammstein sometime.

I recently went exploring online for some Creative Commons music for an upcoming event and discovered FreeMusicArchive.org. There are some pretty talented people who are sharing their music for free. Special thanks to Damscray for giving me permission to use their music for the Erotic Art Show at the Red Raven. Which song? You’ll have to show up to find out.

Here are some of my faves, in no particular order:

  • Shantel
  • Mile Kitic
  • Eddie “The Sheik” Kochak
  • Issam Houshan
  • Oojami
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela
  • Hakim
  • Tarkan
  • Niyaz

What’s your favorite dance music? Feel free to share in the comments.