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"Beirut Rhythm" from In a Beirut Mood
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In a Beirut Mood
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Jalilah's Raks Sharki 6, In a Beirut Mood (Piranha) Shake Your Hips in a Beirut Mood

Jalilah’s Raks Sharki Goes to Lebanon

The origins of Raks Sharki—or “bellydance” as it is commonly and erroneously called—are shrouded in mystery. Many believe it is the most ancient form of dance on the planet. The movement of this dance actually uses all sections of the body, with the hips the most important component.  

One of North American’s finest proponents of the art of Raks Sharki is Jalilah. This unusual dancer’s roots are of German and Mexican descent. Born in California, Jalilah has continued life travels thoughout the world—from Cairo to Chicago, from Frankfurt to Alexandria. The Montreal-based dancer releases her sixth recorded production Jalilah’s Raks Sharki 6, In a Beirut Mood; Pure Delight of Oriental Dance on Piranha Musik (distributed in the US by Harmonia Mundi). This is the second collaboration between Jalilah and Beirut composer Ihsan Al-Mounzer.  

This famous “Oriental dance” impressed kings like Herodes who offered half of his kingdom to Salomé, the most famous temple dancer of the day. Raks Sharki originated in Mesopotamia. Artifacts of ancient dancers have been found in Anatolia (modern Turkey) dating back to 10,000 B.C. This Middle Eastern dance form was found in the goddess cults of Inanna, Ishtar, Tiamet, and Astarte. In Egypt this dance was part of rituals to the Goddess Isis, Hathor, Neith and Maat.  

Jalilah became entranced with Middle Eastern music while in high school. The mesmerizing mizmar (early double-reed wind instrument) captured her imagination and a lifelong passion for the music, the dance, and the culture was ignited. Her desire to learn more about Raks Sharki was rekindled while living abroad in Germany. At that time, the early ’80s, there was only a hint of the explosion about to come in the study of Raks Sharki. The legendary Roman “Bert” Balladine was the first master level teacher in Europe to teach seminars and Jalilah was in the front row absorbing the technical nuance. Jalilah continued her studies by attending Arabic weddings, observing musicians, professional dancers, as well as the locals in their social dance. In 1984, Jalilah made her first trip to Egypt and continued for over 11 years to visit the Center of Dance studying with the well-known instructors Raqia Hassan and Ibrahim Akif.  

In 1987 she was hired by the Royal Moroccan Airlines and acquired performing contracts throughout Europe. Her dedication and talent paid off in receiving contracts with Royal Air Maroc and performing in 5-star hotels in Agadir. In 1986, Jalilah became friends with the “Saidi/Nawar” (Egyptian Gypsies). True to her curiosity, she visited them in Luxor regularly to learn about their Ghawzee dancing and music. Soon she was hired to perform with singer, Metqal Qenawi and musicians, Les Musiciens du Nil in Florence, Italy. The Italian management was thrilled with her classical dance style and thereafter she became the first oriental dancer to perform with the Musicians of the Nile at all their concerts (1990-1996). Her magic carpet of life then took her to the Meridian Heliopolus in Cairo and The Venizia in Alexandria in 1995. Jalilah’s life took a twist when she joined her husband in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. While there, she observed locals in their Qat chews, tafrutas, and weddings, studying their body nuances and musical interpretations. Today, like a true mosaic oriental carpet, Jalilah’s dance has grown into that uniqueness that has now become known as “Jalilah’s style.”  

Aside for being known for her dance expertise, and her sharp, creative mind, this delicate beauty has also extended her talents into quality music production. Producer of six CDs of Egyptian and Lebanese music, this artist now brings the dance and listening world another work of art. Jalilah’s proficiency in English, German, French and Arabic languages; her extensive knowledge of musical rhythms; and her wish to bring thrilling dance music to both dancer and dance aficionado, has pushed Jalilah into the “who’s who” of Oriental Dance!