Rhythm Exploration for Belly Dancers: The Malfouf

This article was originally written for Greenstone Belly Dance Newsletter recipients in June 2019. Want to receive nerdy new belly dance articles as soon as they’re published? Sign up to our semi-regular newsletter!

As belly dancers, it’s important we work on our musicality so we can better understand and interpret the music that we dance to. If we are not from Middle Eastern or North African countries, this can mean spending a bit of extra time getting used to new sounds! Let’s spend some time learning about some rhythms you’ll often hear in belly dance music. 

Siobhan Camille of Greenstone Belly Dance performing with Middle Eastern Inspired band, The Unfortunate Repercussions, in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The Malfouf / Malfuf Rhythm

2/4 Rhythm: D T T

Rhythm Sample

An Example of Malfouf in a Song

Above is an example of the malfouf rhythm starting at around 1:08 in a version of the famous belly dance composition, Set el Hosen.

Typically, the first part of this famous song (up until ~1:08) is played (either by a live band, or nowadays, on a recording!) without the dancer being present on stage. Malfouf is often described as a travelling rhythm or an entrance rhythm (remember, it means “rolled” in English, so we can think of the rolling feeling of the rhythm), so when this rhythm starts, this is when the dancer would come on stage.

You can see an example of a dancer entering on the malfouf rhythm below:

Maqam world is a great place to learn more about Middle Eastern music! Check out the Malfouf Maqam World Reference.

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