Rhythm Exploration for Belly Dancers: The ‘Baladi’ (Masmoudi Saghir)

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. 

Masmoudi Saghir (also known as baladi)

4/4 Rhythm: DD TD T

Listen to a sample of this rhythm below:

I prefer to call this rhythm “masmoudi saghir” (“saghir” means “little.” This rhythm is the little masmoudi; there is another rhythm called “masmoudi kabir”, which is the “big” masmoudi, and sounds a bit different). I prefer to use this name instead of ‘baladi,’ because the word baladi actually evokes the image of a particular style of dance.

Baladi means “of the country/land” in Arabic, and there is a music style that is usually improvised called a baladi progression. For belly dancers, the performance style that goes along with this progression is also usually improvisied. A baladi progression may or may not have the masmoudi saghir/baladi rhythm in it. Just hearing the masmoudi saghir/baladi rhythm does not indicate that the song you are listening to is a baladi progression, or that the song is suitable for a baladi-style performance.

Masmoudi saghir is a super common rhythm, so you’ll hear it in a range of styles of music, not just in ‘baladi’ style music. Here’s an example of the masmoudi saghir rhythm in a song, starting at 2:50:

Looking for more resources Maqam world is a great place to learn more about Middle Eastern music! Check out the Maqam World Reference on the masmoudi saghir / baladi rhythm.

Want to learn more about Middle Eastern rhythms? Join our upcoming online Belly Dance Summer School class for our Middle Eastern Rhythm study!

Join us on Wednesday August 5 and 12, 2020, from 18:30-20:00 CEST (Amsterdam timezone; around lunchtime for most of our North American students) for a deep dive into Middle Eastern musical rhythms, and some fun combinations to dance on them! We’ll be covering some of the basic rhythms, as well as some special tricky ones! This mini-series is suitable for belly dancers of all levels. Register and find all the details here.

Learn more about the Malfouf rhythm in another blog post here.

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