Jalilah (by James St. Laurent)
  • country:Egypt
  • region:Orient
  • style(s):
    • Oriental
    • Raks sharki
  • label:Piranha Records
  • gender:female
  • instrumentation:instrumental

Raks Sharki – dance of the East, commonly known as bellydance in the West – is the classic dance of the Arab world. Jalilah is one of its best known performers and one of its most tireless and successful ambassadors in the Western world.

Born in California of German and Mexican descent, Lorraine Zamora Mutke Chamas a.k.a. Jalilah, is a truly international spirit by birth. That doesn’t mean she would water down the ancient arts of Arabic dance with spices from other kinds of dance from around the world. On the contrary, having started out on her mastering of raks sharki in her Berlin years in the 1980s, she went to the roots to study the traditions on location and directly from the masters.

From 1985, Jalilah visited Egypt over a dozen times, finally staying almost a year to study and perfect her dancing. During this period she was invited by the Saidi/Nawar – Egyptian Roma – to visit them regularly in Luxor to learn about their particular style of dancing known as Ghawazee. This new-found knowledge gained her the honour of touring and performing at least twice a year from 1990 to 1996 with the celebrated Egyptian gypsy group The Musicians of the Nile at various festivals in Italy, Spain, France, Holland, Slovenia, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

Jalilah’s solidly selling, pioneering Raks Sharki album series has grown to six releases over the years, plus a ‘best of’ selection that adapts the originals to suit new listening habits and dancing routines, most notably editing down some of the more extensive originals to less demanding but all the more intense five-minute takes. Produced especially for the purpose with master musicians of the trade on location in Cairo, the series combines the music’s roots and wealth through the centuries with the professional dancer’s distinct sense of what is expected and needed to use them in the raks sharki routine.

Apart from that, these recordings of course showcase some perfect contemporary Arabic music, too – whether you want to gyrate that belly of yours or not.

A memo (just to make sure, since the times they have been a-changin’ indeed): All genders welcome! For listening and dancing pleasure alike.


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