Rony Barrak – drummer (Lebanon)

The darbeki player in this clip is a very youthful looking Rony Barrak.  Born in Lebanon, Rony Barrak made his first TV performance at the age of seven and by the time he was seventeen he’d won a Gold Medal in a tv competition for young musicians in the Middle East on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC). He moved to London in 1990 to study at the Guildhall School of Music and later taught Middle Eastern percussion at the Trinity College of Music.  He’s also played with the late Setrak Sarkissian.

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Samara (سمارة)

This is Iraqi born bellydancer Samara performing on a Lebanese tv game show. In this clip, she wears a faux snake skin bedlah and starts her performance with slow music and some serious backbends all while wearing high heels.
Samara moved from Baghdad to Beirut in Lebanon in the early 1980s as a university student. She also began taking dance lessons from Nadia Gamal who encouraged her to find herself and develop her own style. Samara made her name in Lebanon being most popular during the mid-1980s. However, the Fanoos website is unabashed in describing Samara as ‘…an average dancer with boring tableaux’. The site continues with a bit of background, “In 1986, she (Samara) became a mother and had to shortly stop dancing or making appearances. Because of problems with her spouse Tarek Osman which ended in a divorce, her career was also put on hold and she disappeared for a long while before making a weak comeback in 2008. Samara was however busy giving private dance classes and opening belly dance institutes in all countries of the Gulf, and in 1997 she opened her first Academy in Brazil.” Well, you could shoot pumpkins through the holes in that quote, but we’ll move on……. Samara’s rise to fame seems to have been thanks to her connection with Simon Asmar, I guess you could say he was the Lebanese Simon Cowell of the time. Asmar developed talented artists, not only bellydancers but singers too, and showcased them via his tv talent show ‘Studio el Fann’. He also either directed or produced many of the Lebanese tv game shows where bellydancers or singers performed. The tradition continues as Asmar’s son Bashir has worked as a producer’s assistant on the Lebanese tv bellydance competition called ‘Hezzi Ya Nawaem’. For those who’ve never seen the show, its similar to the tv programme, ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, but with bellydancers only.

Mona al Said drum solo

This is a conversion from an old VHS video tape to digital so the quality is not the best but there have been so many enquiries about whether I had this particular piece that it seems that nobody minds a bit. So here’s Egyptian bellydancer Mona al Said performing her drum solo. Yes this is the (in)famous gold bikini drum solo but IMHO Mona could wear a sack and it would still be a fantastic performance.

Samia Gamal (1954) سامية جمال drum solo

Samia Gamal rarely performed a drum solo in her films but here’s one in a scene from the 1954 drama ‘Al Wahsh’ (The Monster/The Beast الوحش).  In this film she plays the dancer-girlfriend of a thug who terrorises a small town in rural Egypt. He’s The Beast of the title and is played by Mahmoud al Meligi at his most sinister.  The hero of the film, a police officer sent to put an end to The Beast’s tyranny, is played by Anwar Wagdi.  Trivia: Suleiman al Gendi plays the part of the police officer’s young son, who’s been kidnapped and is sitting on the ground next to Omar al Gizawy. Al Gendi reappears 9 years later playing Sami in the 1963 film ‘Umm al Aroosa’ which starred Tahiya Karioka.

Drummer Setrak Sarkissian

Lebanese-Armenian drummer Setrak Sarkissian is a legend in Arabic music. Born in Beirut, Lebanon and still resident there, Setrak had to overcome family resistance to have a career in music.  When he was young, his family even went so far as to break his drum!
Setrak has played tabla for many of the most famous singers and bellydancers in the Middle East including singers Warda, Sabah and Samira Tawfik and bellydancers Taheya Karioka, Nadia Gamal and Ranine plus so many others. This clip is a rarity as it showcases Setrak himself. Many Western dancers would know Setrak from his music cds and if you’re a bellydancer you’ve probably, knowingly or not, danced to Setrak’s music..
In 2009 Setrak was awarded the St. Mesrob Mashtots medal by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia.
In case you’re interested, the medal Setrak received is named after St. Mesrob Mashtots who’s credited with having invented the Armenian alphabet.