Finding belly dance music that moves you — literally— is one of the most daunting tasks for a dancer. Here’s help.
The challenge of finding the right bellydance music persists through every stage of our journey as dancers. You should be able to find some helpful tips here whether you’re just starting out or an elite pro looking for a unique signature piece.
We all can dance…when we find music that we love.”― Giles Andreae, Giraffes Can’t Dance
Where to Begin
Egyptian, Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese style dancers use very specific music, including entrance pieces, folklore, pop songs, and drum solos from the countries where their style originates. Most of this music is arranged especially for dance.
Tribal and fusion dancers can pull music from just about anywhere, although they often use music that features rhythms and instruments from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Levant.
Start by searching Amazon — where the artist gets paid and you can read reviews — using keywords like “belly dance.” Look for albums with a dancer on the cover and read the description and reviews to make sure the music is appropriate for your style of dance.
Accidentally dancing to religious tracts or politically-themed music is every dancer’s worst nightmare. When you find a new song, google the title and artist to find lyrics, a music video, or some other indication of whether it’s suitable for dance.
The Best Bellydance Music to Own
Although most people don’t buy full albums any more, there are a few that are must-have pieces when you’re building your collection.
- 10 Songs Every Bellydancer Should Know – exactly what it says.
- Jallilah’s Raks Sharki Stage Cuts – Egypt’s greatest dance tunes cut to 5 minutes or less to meet typical performance time slots.
- Uncle Mafufo’s 25 Essential Rhythms – Sooner or later, you need to learn these rhythms.
- Bellydance Superstars Vol II – The BDSS albums offer a mix of classic, modern, fusion, folklore, pop, and drum solos. Start with this one, but check them all out.
- Now Arabia 2017 – All the Now Arabia albums are excellent sources of current pop music. 2017 seems to be the last one available.
How to find More Arabic Pop Music for Belly dance
Pop music is a “gateway drug” for many of us when we first start creating solos. The 4/4 beats are easy and familiar, and the high energy winds up a crowd. Restaurant dancers always need to keep up with the latest Arabic pop for their audiences, too.
Streaming Arabic Music
- Top Arabic Tracks of 2019 – Spotify playlist of top hits
- Egyptian Shaabi Spotify playlist for playful, rough-and-ready Shaabi
- Tarab – Spotify playlist for Arabic music that tugs your heartstrings; straddles the line between classical and pop
- When you find an artist you like, try out some of the other Spotify playlists they appear in to find similar artists.
- Anghami is a separate online streaming service, with enough Arabic pop music to keep you busy for the rest of your life. This is a great place to keep up with what’s new and find lesser-known music. Currently priced at $7.50/month
Buying Pop Music
Shopping with specialty retailers like Bellydance.com is the best way to find pop music that is appropriate for dance — as well as specialty music for Oriental, fusion, and folklore.
How to Find More Entrances & Oriental Music
The Oriental entrance, or Mejance, is a piece choreographed specifically for a dancer, with an overture, big entrance sounds, and short sections to show off your skills.
They are often titled after the dancer they were written for, using the term “Raqs” or “Raqset” as in “Raqs Mimi” or “Raqset Leyali.”
It takes a little patience, but if you search Amazon or the iTunes store for songs that have Raqs or Raqset in the title, you’ll find big payoffs — including songs by amazing artists who aren’t well-known yet in your country.
Another great place to buy Oriental music composed especially for dancers is directly from dancers who are currently working in Cairo. They have CDs recorded by their musicians that are often only available directly from them or through retailers like Dahlal . Here are a few from Yasmina of Cairo, Leila, and Outi.
Check out specialty retailers like Bellydance.com as well.
How to Find Folkloric Music for Belly Dancers
Folklore is tricky, and can be wickedly specific. A small flourish or fill in the rhythm can change a piece of music’s entire reference. To find folkloric music, I recommend:
- You can’t go wrong with anything by Upper Egypt Ensemble for Saidi — I especially recommend their Mezamar Sahara collection.
- If you need debke music to get your Arab audiences moving, try anything from Fares Karam’s Dabke Party album.
- Ask for a specific recommendation from Dahlal or your local bellydance music seller.
- If you’re interested in Egyptian folklore, you should move heaven and earth to get to Sahra Kent’s Journey through Egypt workshops. She’ll give you a CD when you finish Level 1, and she’ll be happy to answer your questions and recommend other sources.
Modern Belly Dance Music for Fusion
Fusionistas can dance to whatever they like — anything goes, really. Tribal fusion dancers often use dark pop songs, drum-heavy world fusion beats, or electronica.