A Lot of Free Arabic Music

I stumbled across this website by accident and what a find! So much free Arabic music to download, it is a belly dancers heaven.

Ghaneli sports hundreds of Arabic artists and thousands of albums. Sign up is simple and you can start downloading. The site is available in both English and Arabic which is handy for us English speakers! I can’t read any Arabic script as yet.

I haven’t quite got the hang of the site yet. I don’t seem to be able to listen to anything first, so it’s a bit of pot luck unless you know what you are after. The other problem is that I only seem to be able to download “Albums” not songs or “collections” by hitting the download button but you can download individual songs by looking for the text link download.  Despite these glitches I still have access to 3394 albums!!  A slightly annoying thing that happens is that sometimes the songs get placed on your start up page but it takes only a second to delete the shortcuts from there. Abou El Leef’s album Super Leefa had “ghaneli” come through as the title for every song so I needed to do a bit of cut and paste from the website to get the correct titles but for the other albums I have tried that didn’t happen.

Jade belly dance students should consider downloading the cave man looking album by Abou El Leef. This is an album I bought in Egypt and we use the song Abl Ma Anam in the kid’s class.  I had to try a lot of times but I finally managed to download songs by Oum Kalthoum -Joy! .

The Legendary Oum Kalthoum

For a bit of fun I have been picking a few albums at random. I have discovered that I am not really a fan of Amar – too babyish voice for my taste. Wael Jassar is a bit hit and miss for me. I think every dancer should have an Amr Diab song, if only to have an excuse to have a picture of him on an album cover. (I still remember the big billboards of him in Cairo and each time the group of dancers I was with drove by, all conversations stopped momentarily 🙂 )

I don’t know what the legalities are of this site but it looks pretty clean. I haven’t got any viruses off it as yet and it isn’t full of horrid flashing advertising. My biggest concern is that I am unsure how artists get reimbursed. I am suspecting they don’t (but I am not sure), so for the sake of good Karma I would suggest that if you download something you really like listening or dancing to then you should seek out potentially more official versions. Also it’s a good idea to tell people what you like to give the artist a bit of a plug.

Totally worth checking out. What is your favourite Arabic artist? Did Ghaneli work for you? What’s your best find? Comment below….

Free Arabic Drumming Apps

I recently decided to see what belly dance related apps I could find. When you are stuck waiting for an appointment or on public transport, etc. – having a dance related app to entertain and educate can be a great use of your time.  In terms of actual dance apps, the pickings are pretty slim. Belly dancer drummingThere are several paid apps that will apparently teach you the basics of belly dance but are expensive and have bad reviews. I will do a future post on the best of those. Things fared a little better though when I looked at Arabic drumming rhythms. Knowing your rhythms is important for all serious dancers as well as drummers (I am also a drummer). In order of usefulness:-


I found a free and very simple app called DumTek for iphone /ipod touch/ ipad. The interface is very basic, just a list of rhythms but the basic rhythm and then fuller versions of it are included. When you click on the rhythm you see the rhythm written out with the timing. You then have the option of speeding it up or slowing it down to beat per minute (speed) you want to listen to it at. It is a small app that takes up very little space, does not rely on internet connections and is very useful. It has enough rhythms (30) that all but advanced drummers should find something to learn on it. For dancers, it is important to be familiar with all the basic rhythms, this is an easy way to hear each rhythm in isolation so it is easier to recognise in your dance music – and it costs nothing. Worth downloading although it looks to be available on apple only and not android.

Tabla – free (by fredo)

Basically an Egyptian tabla for your pocket. You can’t poc or do anything too fancy on the free version for apple but you can tap out basic rhythms with a Dum and 2 kinds of Tek. A little dancer with big hip movements accompanies some of it and prompts you every so often to buy the full version that includes finger cymbals and roll sounds and slaps. The android version is free for the full program but you get ads and can’t change around where the sounds are on the drum (at least I couldn’t find a way to do it like you can on the apple version). It also seems to lag more than the apple one meaning you can only play very slow rhythms, the apple version was faster. Not really of use for a dancer as the dancer is very small and does basic moves but can be a bit of a novelty for a drummer, better on apple.

Rhythm Trek Lite

This is the free version of Australian Drummer Matt Stonehouse’s drumming app – I didn’t realise this when I downloaded it.  I want to say something good about it as I have actually had a lesson from Matt before and he seems like a great guy and is a fantastic drummer but… despite reading the instructions several times over – I found it difficult to get the app to do what I wanted. I am not sure how Matt riding a camel fits in with it all. I managed to get a base rhythm to play and to introduce a riq sound. You have the option to muck around with 4 bars of music which could be good to make up your own sounds but without already knowing the full rhythms it could be pretty boring and limited. I guess if you are good at making stuff up it will sound alright. The pirate ship kept sailed off to difficult places to find and the screen was slow to respond when you tried to scroll to another part of the map to find it. When I have another 10mins spare, I will try again, it is probably good when you work it out……

I tried it with my ipad and while it would play, its screen size is suitable for an iphone or ipod touch, perhaps the android version works better? Still it’s free so if you want to put together a short piece of basic Middle Eastern music then give it a go. The full version has more options but its ease of use that I find a bit of a worry. It is definitely the most original approach to Arabic rhythm lessons.

Riqq (Lite)

On android it is just Riqq and the full app is free, on the apple platform it is Riqq Lite for the free version. Same as “Tabla” above only it’s an Egyptian Tambourine instead of hand drum. Same issues with lag and options with the android version. Is it just me or have they got the rim and middle sounds mixed up? The dom is on the edge on a riqq I thought???

DumTek Darbuka

Android only, not on apple that I could find. Same concept but it’s the Turkish looking instrument. Found it was also not fast to respond on my Samsung galaxy phone. There is another page that makes it better to use – you have to click the option page then ‘other page’. This will bring up a page of little drum heads each with a different sound- 24 in all. Too slow to really jam with but a good variety of sounds to play with.

Percussion Drums

Choice of Maracas, tambourine or doumbek with other instruments apparently soon to come. Also free and on android not apple. A waste of time though. I could only get it to make sounds on coloured squares with a variety of percussion noises. You didn’t know which was which though and it failed to make a single sound on any of the instruments when selected individually – so who cares if more are to come. Big Raspberry. Update – after 4 attempts and much waiting I got a sound for the doumbek – just a dum and a tek both tinny. Lucky it’s free.

Tom Tom Darbuka

Glitchy, android app. Choice of 10 sounds you play on generic looking tambourines – not Arabic looking at all. Sounds are clipped and poorly recorded. “Tabla” is way better.

 I would probably only bother with the first 3 apps. One of the apps I downloaded seemed to allow a whole heap of unwanted stuff to download onto my phone. I suspect it was tom tom darbuka.

Do you have any apps you would recommend dancers or drummers?

Please comment below or email me at jadebellydance@hotmail.com

Common Arabic Words in Songs with Houda

Coffs Harbour’s best kept belly dance secret- Houda!

Born in Lebanon during turbulent times, (so turbulent in fact that her birth wasn’t recorded!! ), this local belly dance teacher is not well known outside of Coffs Harbour.


So if she is so good, why doesn’t she have youtube clips showing her countless choreographies, why isn’t she gracing all the local stages here and further abroad?

Well the answer is quite simple, where she is from, the dance is part of her culture, where it is a dance for women and danced  with other women; a dance where every woman is a dancer and she is to be celebrated. Houda  has been dancing since childhood, the dance that has been passed on from mother to daughter. Public performance does not feel right for her (though she doesn’t judge those that choose to). You can however catch her moves at women’s only bellydance events that are held sporadically in the area – but again not on the stage only on the dance floor. So is she worth getting lessons off? Absolutely, this gal doesn’t even have to advertise her belly dance class she is that good. There is something special about getting lessons off someone that comes from the culture and understands the lyrics!!! Houda’s belly dance classes have a gentle, authentic feel (not performance based) and her Arabic classes are personal and dance oriented. I highly recommend both. Houda is also available for private tuition and to run dance workshops (ladies only) or Arabic classes (commencing 10th of May 2012 for term2) for your event. Houda has been teaching in the Coffs Harbour area for many years on a Wednesday night at Cavanbah Hall 5.30-6.30 pm she can be contacted on 0421 220 499  email arabesquebel@hotmail.com. Her dance school is called Arabesque Bellydance. Houda believes in uniting all dancers in a sisterhood and promotes co-operation and supporting each other rather than competitiveness. Jade Belly Dance supports these ideals as well and is happy to promote Houda and the Arabesque Bellydance dancers.

5 Common Arabic words used in songs

Listen for these – you will be surprised how often they occur in belly dance music

Al Hobb – the love

Gamaal – beauty

albi – my heart

Habibi – my darling

Ammar – moon

Want more? Houda has made a list of the most common words that she will be sharing at her upcoming workshop. See below for more details. I am going, don’t miss out!

Houdas Arabic Music Workshop People's Choice Award Please, please, please consider clicking the icon and voting for me! I am trying really hard to deliver a great and useful blog to all dancers of our genre. Wouldn’t it be great if a belly dance blog got some recognition? Raising the profile of our art helps us all. I am up against a lot of slick professional bloggers in various fields and would love it if you could give this hard working mum a hand! You do not have to be Australian to vote! My international readers are more than welcome to join in.

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