lack of translation

alosha

New member
so i found a song i would like to dance too....actually a bunch of them. but i cant find a translation, and i feel weird dancing without knowing what the song is saying. how can i properly portray the emotion?

so my question is, how do you feel dancing to a song you don't know the lyrics to?
 

gisela

Super Moderator
Which song is it? Did you try asking for it here? There could be someone who knows what it's about.

If it's a song from say a bellydance compilation then it should of course be fine (as in appropriate) to dance to. You could end up finding music that are not as appropriate if it's a call to prayr or something.

I had a teacher who said that she thought we were way too anxious about the meanings of the songs. The song are about love 90% of the time and usually you can detect emotions by the sound. We should listen more intutively to the music and loose the "logic" and the literal translation. Something like that she said. I'm not sure I agree completely but I was also a bit relieved that it's ok just to feel it.
 
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Mya

New member
Asking here is great and sometimes gisela's teacher is right about intuitive dancing. There was this song that Yasmine and i were both preparing at the same time last year and it had no lyrics, both of us managed to feel the correct sentiment for the song though! We only found out that we were right when Mahmoud translated the title for us.
 

PracticalDancer

New member
to pile on -- there has been a fair amount of discussion (OK: debate) here about whether oriental dance "tells a story" when interpreting music. That is, western sentiment seems to like a plot, whereas others argue that it is more culturally appropriate to convey the emotion, but not necessarily the lyrics of the song. (Oh, Aisha -- calling Aisha! let me know if I misspoke!)

So, while I understand that you want to make sure that you are familiar with the material (i.e. no political lyrics that you disagree with, not "dancing happy" to a sad song), there is a line that a dancer can cross where she literally tries to tell the story that the lyrics are saying. In some dance forms (ASL signing dances, Baratha Natyam, perhaps Hula) that may be appropriate; in oriental dance -- not so much. That said, one of my trusted teachers and friends once gave this advice, "When dancing, you want to convey the emotion of the music. But, you must do this with only your movements of your body (from the neck down). Your facial expression should remain pleasant, even while the rest of the moves display any sadness in the music -- and that can be hard." (BTW -- I have not mastered that!)

So, my 2 cents is make an earnest effort in your research; but, don't go overboard. Not sure how much 2 cents is worth in this economy, tho. ;)

Regards,

Anala
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Lyrics, etc.

Dear Gang,
to pile on -- there has been a fair amount of discussion (OK: debate) here about whether oriental dance "tells a story" when interpreting music. That is, western sentiment seems to like a plot, whereas others argue that it is more culturally appropriate to convey the emotion, but not necessarily the lyrics of the song. (Oh, Aisha -- calling Aisha! let me know if I misspoke!)
Usually, authentic ethnic belly dance does not "tell a story" in the way that ballet does. Often the dancer will maybe use her hands as she might in talking with them. The song might say, "I tell myself its over, but every time I look into your eyes, my heart melts." The dancer might touch her face by her eyes or bring her hands together under her left breast to emphasize how her heart feels.

So, while I understand that you want to make sure that you are familiar with the material (i.e. no political lyrics that you disagree with, not "dancing happy" to a sad song), there is a line that a dancer can cross where she literally tries to tell the story that the lyrics are saying
.

I agree with knowing what the lyrics area about, because you never know. there was a popular song out years ago about a mare who gibes a good ride. There are songs that say stuff like, "all she wants is my money", or I can take or leave you if you don't call. The songs might or might not be about love, but that does not mean they are about something you want to dance to. At the same time, as Anala says,acting put the whole story is over the top! That's what Egyptian skits are for!




In some dance forms (ASL signing dances, Baratha Natyam, perhaps Hula) that may be appropriate; in oriental dance -- not so much. That said, one of my trusted teachers and friends once gave this advice, "When dancing, you want to convey the emotion of the music. But, you must do this with only your movements of your body (from the neck down). Your facial expression should remain pleasant, even while the rest of the moves display any sadness in the music -- and that can be hard." (BTW -- I have not mastered that!)
I would say that this might be a little off base. One of the freedoms in Egyptian dance is that facial expressions are totally real. They grimace, they laugh, they smile, they pout. They dance the entire dance with their whole selves and their faces reflect their feelings, pretty or not.

So, my 2 cents is make an earnest effort in your research; but, don't go overboard. Not sure how much 2 cents is worth in this economy, tho. ;)

Good advice and worth way more than 2 cents!!

Regards,
A'isha
Regards,

Anala
 

PracticalDancer

New member
I just knew you would have good thoughts on this one, Aisha! :)

I agree with knowing what the lyrics area about, because you never know. there was a popular song out years ago about a mare who gibes a good ride. There are songs that say stuff like, "all she wants is my money", or I can take or leave you if you don't call. The songs might or might not be about love, but that does not mean they are about something you want to dance to.
I am sure we all know the Amr Diab song "Wala Ala Balo" and which Shira has graciously translated on her site Arabic Music: English Translation of Lyrics for Wala A'ala Baloa by Amr Diab. Her current translation uses the pronoun "he", I have seen others with "she" as in "she has no clue." Now, I only know a few words of Arabic, but I had learned the translation of that song when I saw one (normally good) dancer perform to it. She had a slightly . . . vacant . . . look on her face. The whole time she performed all I could thing of was the refrain "she has no clue." :rolleyes:

Regards,

Anala
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Music

I just knew you would have good thoughts on this one, Aisha! :)



I am sure we all know the Amr Diab song "Wala Ala Balo" and which Shira has graciously translated on her site Arabic Music: English Translation of Lyrics for Wala A'ala Baloa by Amr Diab. Her current translation uses the pronoun "he", I have seen others with "she" as in "she has no clue." Now, I only know a few words of Arabic, but I had learned the translation of that song when I saw one (normally good) dancer perform to it. She had a slightly . . . vacant . . . look on her face. The whole time she performed all I could thing of was the refrain "she has no clue." :rolleyes:

Regards,

Anala

Dear Anala,
I am not sure how widespread this was, and it still may be the case in countries where this rule was enforced. In some Muslim countries, male gender had to be used in all songs, so even if it was a love song to or about a woman, the gender would be implied as male. I know this was true in Saudi Arabia, for example, but I am not sure that Lebanon or the Maghrib or Egypt ever had the rule. Maybe someone can tell us more. I will ask Mahmoud and Gypsy to join the conversation
I love your anecdote above!!
Regards,
A'isha
 

PracticalDancer

New member
:shok:

well, to western ears that could lead to a whole 'nother interpretation of the song -- one probably not intended! :think:
 

shiradotnet

New member
so i found a song i would like to dance too....actually a bunch of them. but i cant find a translation, and i feel weird dancing without knowing what the song is saying. how can i properly portray the emotion?

so my question is, how do you feel dancing to a song you don't know the lyrics to?
The first 15 years of my dance life, I never knew the translations. That was back in the pre-Internet world, and translations were hard to find.

So I danced a lot to songs whose meaning I had no idea of. I found it very frustrating. My teachers did not understand my attitude - it didn't bother THEM to be doing that. When I finally got my hands on a translation for a song we used in one of my classes, my teacher had no idea why I was excited about that.

I like to know the complete lyrics when possible. I do NOT try to pantomime or gesture because that isn't really part of what Oriental dance is about, but I like having the knowledge.

When I can't find full lyrics, I try to at least find out in general terms what the song is about. Is the song one in which the woman scolds her man for cheating on her, ignoring her, etc.? Is it a political anti-Israel song? Is it a guy telling his favorite female that she's beautiful? This way, I can make educated choices on whether the song is appropriate for a wedding, and I can know what the prevailing mood is.
 

PracticalDancer

New member
The first 15 years of my dance life, I never knew the translations. That was back in the pre-Internet world, and translations were hard to find.

So I danced a lot to songs whose meaning I had no idea of. I found it very frustrating. My teachers did not understand my attitude - it didn't bother THEM to be doing that. When I finally got my hands on a translation for a song we used in one of my classes, my teacher had no idea why I was excited about that.

I like to know the complete lyrics when possible. I do NOT try to pantomime or gesture because that isn't really part of what Oriental dance is about, but I like having the knowledge.

When I can't find full lyrics, I try to at least find out in general terms what the song is about. Is the song one in which the woman scolds her man for cheating on her, ignoring her, etc.? Is it a political anti-Israel song? Is it a guy telling his favorite female that she's beautiful? This way, I can make educated choices on whether the song is appropriate for a wedding, and I can know what the prevailing mood is.
And, shokran alf shokran for providing those translations for the rest of us!!!

Regards,

Anala
 

alosha

New member
i really just want to make sure that i'm not dancing to a song that says dancers are stupid. that kind of a thing. i had NO intention of acting out every word, never even crossed my mind...

i did post one of the songs, and i've had no hits.
 

Kashmir

New member
Dear Anala,
I am not sure how widespread this was, and it still may be the case in countries where this rule was enforced. In some Muslim countries, male gender had to be used in all songs, so even if it was a love song to or about a woman, the gender would be implied as male. I know this was true in Saudi Arabia, for example, but I am not sure that Lebanon or the Maghrib or Egypt ever had the rule. Maybe someone can tell us more. I will ask Mahmoud and Gypsy to join the conversation
I love your anecdote above!!
Regards,
A'isha
I understand the "rule" is a hang over from classical poetry - and Egyptian songs use the same convention.
 

Kashmir

New member
So, while I understand that you want to make sure that you are familiar with the material (i.e. no political lyrics that you disagree with, not "dancing happy" to a sad song), there is a line that a dancer can cross where she literally tries to tell the story that the lyrics are saying. In some dance forms (ASL signing dances, Baratha Natyam, perhaps Hula) that may be appropriate; in oriental dance -- not so much. That said, one of my trusted teachers and friends once gave this advice, "When dancing, you want to convey the emotion of the music. But, you must do this with only your movements of your body (from the neck down). Your facial expression should remain pleasant, even while the rest of the moves display any sadness in the music -- and that can be hard." (BTW -- I have not mastered that!)
From studying with a number of Egyptian dancers their convention is to at least hit a couple of places with the lyrics - not "tell a story" but go along with the words (gesturing to "you" or "me" or yout heart/liver, waggling a finger). A bit like having a conversation. So the dancer is totally enfolded by the song. (I've even seen an Egyptian add gestures to an instrumental version because this is the bit where ...)

As far as facial expressions go - they should match the rest of the body language. Otherwise the effect is almost insulting - and too plastic cheerleaderish.
 

PracticalDancer

New member
As far as facial expressions go - they should match the rest of the body language. Otherwise the effect is almost insulting - and too plastic cheerleaderish.
I have to laugh -- the woman who said this to me is about as far from a cheerleader as one can get. But, I understand what you mean. I think what she was trying to say was that one shouldn't overdo it with any emotion -- a little goes a long way and the last thing you want is to make the audience uncomfortable.

so my question is, how do you feel dancing to a song you don't know the lyrics to?
i really just want to make sure that i'm not dancing to a song that says dancers are stupid. that kind of a thing. i had NO intention of acting out every word, never even crossed my mind...

i did post one of the songs, and i've had no hits.
So, to undo the hijack I committed :redface:, how do the songs sound?

Regards,

Anala
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
I personally would not use a piece of music with Lyrics I did not understand.

I have not seen many Egyptian dancers perform who did not reflect the lyrics and meaning in some way. The absence of this is a very Western concept for me.

Westerners dance over the lyrics like they are not there. An Egyptian dancer will communicate with hands, face and drama significant parts of the music which speaks to them. Think about how we sing along to tunes we like and how at certain key points in the lyrics we become more animated and passionate.

Poeple used to think I was a nutter when I sang along to Alanis Morrisettes 'Jagged Little Pill' in my car.

Foreign dancers have to learn the lyrics in Cairo to be able to feel and gesture what is happening. Instrumental is a different matter all together.

Any private lessons I have had with top Egyptian dancers in Cairo has been to bring out the expression and not have reserve in emotion and communication.
This I was told is very 'Western'.

Egyptian dance is far more animated these days than the time of the Suheir Zaki and old films. There is much more of an 'outspoken' feel to the dancing.
The cutesy thing is not present at all.
It is strong and it is vocal and it is there.

The clubs are even more funny because it is the animation... funny or heartfelt that stirs the most reaction in the Egyptian audience.

Asmahan has this off to a fine art, I have seen her in action at weddings and she is quite different and has the Egyptian gestures completely nailed.
Randa, Dina and Lucy are very passionate expressive dancers, foreign dancers have so much reserve in comparison.
 
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gypsy8522

New member
Dear Anala,
I am not sure how widespread this was, and it still may be the case in countries where this rule was enforced. In some Muslim countries, male gender had to be used in all songs, so even if it was a love song to or about a woman, the gender would be implied as male. I know this was true in Saudi Arabia, for example, but I am not sure that Lebanon or the Maghrib or Egypt ever had the rule. Maybe someone can tell us more. I will ask Mahmoud and Gypsy to join the conversation
I love your anecdote above!!
Regards,
A'isha
Hi A'isha,

I am joining this discussion upon your request.

I first want to say that the analogy you mentioned is a myth, as a native Arabic speaker I have never heard of this "rule" before :shok:. The fact is, the majority of arabic songs are written in masculine form and this is regardless of which country they are coming from, whether it's Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Lebanon.

The reason, as it has been mentioned by another member, is linguistic and rooted in the Classical form of the arabic language. In the song Wala 3ala Balu (which was brought up in a post earlier) the word "Habibi" is masculine although it is clear that the singer Amr Diab is addressing a woman. There are two reasons for this:

1.The masculine form is easier to pronounce than the female form.
Notice how the word "Habibi" (used in Classical and slang arabic) has two syllables (ha-bibi), whereas the female form has three syllables if it is slang (ha-bib-ti), and four syllables if it's in the Classical form (ha-bi-ba-ti).
Arabs, just like many Westerners, tend to stay away from complex language and prefer more simple words when it comes to writing their songs. This is most likely because shorter words or phrases 1-fit better with the music 2-stick with the audience faster.
Therefore, if the song title is changed to the feminine form "Habibti" it will automatically change the whole structure of the song, hence making it sound more complex.

This has been done in Kazem El Saher's song 'Kol 3am wa anti habibati' (forever you are my lover), the whole song was written in the female form. This was originally a Classical piece written by the poet Nizar El Qabani, therefore it has a thicker and more sophisticated tone to it as opposed to other modern songs.

2- In many cases, the masculine form is used to describe more general stuff, while the female form is used when specifically referring to a female.

It may be easier for people who speak more than one language to relate to this concept.

For instance, in French there are similar rules- masculine and feminine pronouns are used to describe living things and objects. For many Westerners however, especially those whose native tongue is English and do not know any other language, it will be very hard to comprehend any of this. In English, we say "you" when referring to a male, female, or a group of people. We often hear a male singer say "my love" when he's singing to a girl, but since masculine and feminine forms are non existent in this language, the word "love" may be used for both genders. On the other hand, the arabic word for love "el hob" is masculine. In one of Mohamed Abdou's new songs El Amaken (this is a GREAT song by the way) he says "El Amaken Kelaha Meshtagalak" which means "the places... all of them are longing for you". Here, "Places" and "them" are feminine whereas "you" is masculine. However, if he was to sing about ONE place i.e singular tense rather than plural, it becomes masculine.


Sorry for the lecture, but I hope you understand better now with this little explanaition.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Music, etc.

Dear Gypsy,
Hi A'isha,

I am joining this discussion upon your request.
Thanks for helping out.

I first want to say that the analogy you mentioned is a myth, as a native Arabic speaker I have never heard of this "rule" before :shok:. The fact is, the majority of arabic songs are written in masculine form and this is regardless of which country they are coming from, whether it's Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Lebanon.
This was according to Saudi Arabians I once knew. At the time it was not at all acceptable to write songs in the female gender. In fact, you could go to jail, according to these guys. They named some singer.... I can't remember who. This was the early 80s, which was why I stated that I did not know if it was still a rule, but it appears to have been at that time.

The reason, as it has been mentioned by another member, is linguistic and rooted in the Classical form of the arabic language. In the song Wala 3ala Balu (which was brought up in a post earlier) the word "Habibi" is masculine although it is clear that the singer Amr Diab is addressing a woman. There are two reasons for this:

1.The masculine form is easier to pronounce than the female form.
Notice how the word "Habibi" (used in Classical and slang arabic) has two syllables (ha-bibi), whereas the female form has three syllables if it is slang (ha-bib-ti), and four syllables if it's in the Classical form (ha-bi-ba-ti).
Arabs, just like many Westerners, tend to stay away from complex language and prefer more simple words when it comes to writing their songs. This is most likely because shorter words or phrases 1-fit better with the music 2-stick with the audience faster.
Therefore, if the song title is changed to the feminine form "Habibti" it will automatically change the whole structure of the song, hence making it sound more complex.

This has been done in Kazem El Saher's song 'Kol 3am wa anti habibati' (forever you are my lover), the whole song was written in the female form. This was originally a Classical piece written by the poet Nizar El Qabani, therefore it has a thicker and more sophisticated tone to it as opposed to other modern songs.

2- In many cases, the masculine form is used to describe more general stuff, while the female form is used when specifically referring to a female.

It may be easier for people who speak more than one language to relate to this concept.

For instance, in French there are similar rules- masculine and feminine pronouns are used to describe living things and objects. For many Westerners however, especially those whose native tongue is English and do not know any other language, it will be very hard to comprehend any of this. In English, we say "you" when referring to a male, female, or a group of people. We often hear a male singer say "my love" when he's singing to a girl, but since masculine and feminine forms are non existent in this language, the word "love" may be used for both genders. On the other hand, the arabic word for love "el hob" is masculine. In one of Mohamed Abdou's new songs El Amaken (this is a GREAT song by the way) he says "El Amaken Kelaha Meshtagalak" which means "the places... all of them are longing for you". Here, "Places" and "them" are feminine whereas "you" is masculine. However, if he was to sing about ONE place i.e singular tense rather than plural, it becomes masculine.


Sorry for the lecture, but I hope you understand better now with this little explanaition.

I did not think of this as a lecture so much as exactly the kind of information that helps us all better to understand about musical structure in the Middle East. I very much appreciate you taking the time.
Regards,
A'isha
 

gypsy8522

New member
This was according to Saudi Arabians I once knew. At the time it was not at all acceptable to write songs in the female gender. In fact, you could go to jail, according to these guys. They named some singer.... I can't remember who. This was the early 80s, which was why I stated that I did not know if it was still a rule, but it appears to have been at that time.

A'isha,

Although Saudi Arabia does have quite a few sexist laws, I don't see how they could possibly filter the Arabic language by taking out the feminine form.

From Mohamed Abdou's early 80's songs, there is 'Eb3aad' where in the hook he sings "Laila, Laila, Laila.... oh, Laila", I am pretty sure that "Laila" is a female gender. There is also 'Mehtag Laha' (I need her) and many others.

All patriotic songs are sung in the feminine form since Saudi Arabia is a she.
 
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