Alaine Haddon-Casey

The music used by ATS dancers varies from the very traditional to a modern world fusion. The choice of music reflects the mood, the occasion and venue and facilitates our improvisational style of dance. ATS is a specific contemporary fusion dance form that emerged from the modern primitive movement. It does not claim to be authentic to any one region or time but rather is a blend of specific tribal dance and music influences, both ancient and modern. The wide ranging music we choose reflects this.

Most people who have had exposure to ATS dance through the Fat Chance Belly Dance video series would be familiar with the music of Sirocco (Sulyman el Coyote and ‘Uncle' Armando Mafufo ). Their cd's tribal Tales, Drumsongs, Basic Rhythms for Arabic Drum and Skin Stories are standard in most ATS dance collections. The question I am often asked is what other music is an interesting choice for ATS dance. Whilst obviously not complete, the following selection has provided a valuable launch pad for my musical journey. It is my hope that you also find it of some value.

Just as we develop our movements in a specific way, we need to approach our music selection with careful thought. Whether we are choosing traditional or modern music there are specific elements we look for:

Predictable rhythm . We look for the predictable, steady rhythms and readily identifiable accents we need to provide synchronized group improvisation. We tend to avoid music where the rhythms change often and necessitate choreography.

Clear phrasing. The ‘one' has to be easily heard by the whole group and the phrasing enhances clear, smooth improve. Transitions between moves.

Solid, repetitive, intense beat . Good ‘starters' are the Anglo-Turkish “Oojami” and Turkish- Egyptian born Omar Faruk Tekbelik, the remixed Master Musicians of Jajouka, Gypsy Caravan, Mahmoud Fadl.

Ethnic or world fusion styles such as Algerian rai or contemporary ethnic fusion music performed by artists such as Cheb Mami, Rachid Taha, Said Mrad, Saber Al-Robai, Amr Diab, Radio Tarifa or DJ remixes by Cheb i Sabbah.

In amongst the myriad of recorded music and live bands available some have emerged to become favourites of ATS performers. Many have developed their music in collaboration with ATS dancers. This makes their music particularly suited to our style of dance. I have been fortunate to have been able to meet, talk to and listen to some remarkable musicians during my annual training and performance trips to the US . One thing that did stand out was the extensive and often classical training on many instruments that many of these musicians had in common prior to embarking on their ethnic music journey; a journey that in many cases encompassed extensive field research across a number of countries. Another highlight was the high level of professionalism, respect and collaboration between these musicians both in the recording studio and on stage; the true spirit of tribal at work.

One of the best memories of this years US trip was the evening in a pasta restaurant in Sebastopol , California where Gypsy Caravan, Jeremiah Soto and Tim Rayborn played for the tribes gathered for dinner. The tribes danced, the musicians played and the spirit of community music and dance was celebrated in true improv' style!

It is with pleasure that I introduce you to their music.

Gypsy Caravan. GC, comprising both dancers and musicians, is one of the most highly recognized tribal ‘forces' in the USA and internationally. The music ‘core' is Jeff Rees, Bruce Beaton, Hans Janowitz and Jared Lewis who play a wide variety of traditional and modern instruments. Together they all contribute to an exhilarating and sometimes mesmerising and award winning sound. Caravan Rhythms offers a solid base from which to introduce dancers to the basic rhythms, the Awakening and Migration cd's great for performance and class and the recently released “ Quest ” cd would have to be one of the most loved cd's among ATS dancers today. Their cd's are carried in WA by Didgeridoo Breath at 6 Market St , Fremantle (tel: 9430 6009 ) . Both Jeff and Paulette were professional musicians when they met and have brought this background to bear in their professional approach to the music of Gypsy Caravan. Their music carries a sense of the traditional, tending toward a strong folkloric feel garnered from their music research through the Middle and Near East and North Africa . They are as good live as recorded and are true dancers' musicians with the flexibility to improvise music during performance. I enjoyed spending time with them and the Gypsy Caravan dancers in Oregon this year; totally welcoming, gracious and fun to ‘roadie' for. Awe inspiring!

Helm: The first time I heard and met Helm they were rehearsing with FCBD at the FCBD studio. Within five minutes of listening I bought their cd's! Favourites of Fat Chance Belly Dance and United We Dance , Mark and Ling Shien Bell have produced a number of traditional pieces specifically for ATS dancers. These talented musicians collaborate with dancers and other musicians to offer an extensive collection of evocative, earthy and haunting music. Cd's include my personal favourite Tribal Dance Tribal Drums as well as Fil Waha- At the Oasis, Zakharafa and Itneen. Both Mark and Ling Shien approach their music with the utmost respect and dedication. Ling Shien plays a wide variety of instruments. She also is the composer of Helm's original songs, drawing upon her study of Arabic music theory as well as her time spent in Egypt to create her compositions. Mark also performs with the Armenian group, Mirage , the Arabic/American fusion band, Light Rain, the Greek group, The Aegeansa, , the Turkish group Tufan, and, occasionally, with the Balkan group, Panacea .

Jeremiah M Soto: In addition to the music of Jeremiah's own Solace ( Rhythm of the Dance, Satya, The Gathering Season, Iman, Sha'waza ) Jeremiah established Eventide Music Productions, producing other artists in the areas of world, eclectic and Middle Eastern music. Through Eventide he has brought together some of the most wonderful collaborations of various artists on cd's such as The Kabila Project , a compilation featuring previously unreleased material from some of the most respected artists in the tribal belly dance community, featuring Gypsy Caravan, Tim Rayborn, Helm, Domba, Turku and Solace. Valdana offers great remixes of Solace songs by DJ Cheb i Sabah, Alex Spurkel, Warrior Productions and Joseph Macken and “ Ahsas” which brings together Harry Saroyan, Lydia Fortner, Steven Flynn, Dann Torres, Alex Spurkel, Jim Karagozian and Yogini Kundalini. Jeremiah is a musician and producer who has earned the respect of the tribal music and dance community. He is a man of grace and spirit and this colours every aspect of his music.

Domba is an unbelievably high-energy troupe of world-fusion musicians and dancers, based on the study and appreciation of cultures from the Middle East, India , West Africa and Eastern Europe . They perform both traditional and inspired music. My favourite, the Evocation cd features Tribal Middle Eastern and West African music performed on traditional instruments. The essential blend of dancers and musicians makes this music eminently ‘danceable'.

Troupe Americanistan is a w orld music group inspired by the Middle East, the Mediterranean , and beyond. Performs with thirty different acoustic, ethnic instruments from Egypt , Turkey , India , Europe and Asia . The ‘ Mosaic” cd offers a wide range of pieces for all dancers.

Tim Rayborn: is an internationally-acclaimed musician and performer of a wide variety of different styles of early and traditional music, including medieval, North African, Balkan, Turkish, Iranian, and Indian. He holds an M.A and a PhD in medieval studies! Playing more than 30 musical instruments he has toured extensively in Europe and the U.S, as well as working with traditional musicians in Marrakech and Istanbul, Morocco and Turkey and has been invited to collaborate with classical Persian musicians in Iran. The Path Beyond is a trance/meditative collection presenting Middle Eastern and Baltic songs of historical and traditional origin as well as improvisations or compositions that reflect the spirit of the Sufi's ancient heritage. Veils of Light and Ashek feature vocal and instrumental music spanning several centuries and thousands of miles from the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia . Tim offers music for all dancers – not just ATS.

Pasha: Moroccan Spirit . Pasha undertook a five year research trip to Morocco collecting samples of music from market, camps festival and desert families. Once home, he combined these sounds to share an awesome musical journey combining strong precise rhythms with haunting melody lines. Moroccan Spirit is great to put for dancing, or just listening.

Turku : Turku plays music from the western half of the Silk Road . They have played for audiences as large as 8000 people and as far away as Samarkand , Uzbekistan since 1998. Their music has received radio play as far away as Portugal and Uzbekistan . All of the songs on Turku 's CD's and in their performances are traditional or in a traditional style, with many improvisational passages and joyous melodies.

Lumin The Hadra cd is one of my absolute favourites. Featuring the gorgeous vocals of Irina Mikhailova, Lumin brilliantly fuses the ancient and the modern. A stunning live combination of Sufi Trance, drum and bass, Balkan Choir, and down tempo grooves crosses urban club with world music. One of the most wonderful moments of the last trip the unexpected pleasure of seeing Lumin play live at one of the small clubs in the Mission District of San Francisco.

These musicians and their music are staples in most ATS dance collections. They offer a wide variety of traditional, folkloric, contemporary, trance, techno and club sounds that should cover almost every dance eventuality and every mood. Hopefully they will lead down that exciting road where dance and music interact to enhance each other and to create mutual enjoyment and respect.

If you have any queries or want to talk about music for ATS, feel free to contact me at I am always happy to talk ATS!