Aside from his wonderful singing voice, his great gift was as a band leader and musical arranger. His arrangements were totally new within the context of Middle Eastern music, with the needs of the dancer totally in mind, thus he pioneered something new and accessible to the American audiences that were coming to the shows. He brought this music out from the weddings and haflas and into the clubs. Another very important detail was the role of the dancer as an essential contribution to the musical ensemble, and not simply as a decorative ornament. I feel in this context the dancer was part of a band, which was very different in America previously, where belly dancing was to be seen mostly as Burlesque, with completely unrelated music, or a worse environment – Hollywood movies. I believe he helped bring belly dancing to an appreciative art-form and changed its image by being faithful to it, without removing the sensuality from it, or disguising it with colorful genre terminology such as “Goddess Dance” or “American Tribal” sub-divisions that thankfully, didn’t exist in those days drawing boundaries. If this was all he ever did for the art-form, his contribution is huge.
Share this post