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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Sabah and Nelly Mazloum

This is Lebanese born singer and actress Jeanette Georges Feghali who’s better known as Sabah. She was born in Lebanon in 1927 and died in 2014. In the 1940s she was spotted by Lebanese born film director Assia Dagher who signed her for three movies. She moved to Egypt to follow her dream eventually becoming known as ‘Sabah’ (صباح), the character she played in one of her first movies. And the rest, as they say, is history. The featured dancer wearing the galabaya and hipscarf is Nelly Mazloum. Many thanks to Marianna Mazloum for the ID.
In 1960 Sabah was part of the group of famous Arab singers who sang ‘Al Watan al Akbar’ (الوطن الأكبر‎ The Great Homeland) a pan-Arab song written by Mohamed Abdel Wahab to celebrate the 1958 union of Egypt and Syria into the United Arab Republic. The singers were Sabah along with Abdel Halim Hafez, Shadia, Faiza Kamel, Warda and Nagat al Saghira. The union of Egypt and Syria only lasted until 1961 when Syria withdrew from the union following a coup in that country. There were other coups in Syria, in 1963 and again in 1966. It was the 1966 coup that bought the Assads (père et fil) to power.

Nariman Aboud (Lebanon) ناريمان عبود

This is Lebanese bellydancer Nariman Aboud filmed as part of the Lebanese tv show ‘Studio Al Fan’. Nariman was originally spotted by Lebanese singer Melhem Baraket. Later she married singer Wissam al Amir and retired from public performing in the early 2000s to take care of their two children. In 2011 there was talk of her returning to the dance scene but whether that happened or not I don’t know. Nariman still regularly hits the dance floor at the restaurant in Jouneih in Lebanon though.
Trivia: One of Nariman’s signature pieces of music was “Ya bou el eyoun el soud” which was sung by her brother Michel. (I think it was done originally by Karem Mahmoud or Iraqi singer Nazem el Ghazali. Can anyone confirm please?)

Lebanese bellydancer Howaida el Hashem (silver)

This is Lebanese dancer Howaida el Hashem aka Howaida Hachem, Howaida Hashem, Hwyda al Hatchem etc. This clip is circa 1990s and she’s wearing a silver bedlah.. She retired from performing but now she seems to be making a comeback in Lebanon. Don’t forget that this is from the 1990s and was originally on a VHS tape sent by snailmail from Lebanon to Australia and then copied so, so many times. I transferred it from the original VHS tape onto a DVD then onto a computer and used editing software to improve the final output and cut out the bumps, jumps, glitches (and inadvertent changes of tv station) but there is a loss of quality.

Lebanese dance troupe (1964)

This scene is from the 1964 film ‘A String of Pearls’ aka ‘The Pearl Necklace’ (Akh al luluعقد اللولو), a Lebanese/Syrian production which had previously been both a tv sketch and a stage play. The film starred Lebanese singer/actress Sabah along with famous Syrian comedians Durraid Lahham and Nihad al Qali. Also starring was Fahad Ballen, a popular Syrian born singer who’d moved to Egypt and worked with Farid al Atrash. Trivia: Fahad Ballen was married to Egyptian actress Mariam Fakhreddine for several years.

Syrian bellydancers Eghraa and Fitna (1964)

This scene is from a Lebanese/Syrian joint production titled, ‘The Pearl Necklace’ (Akd al Lulu عقد اللولو) which had previously been both a tv sketch and a stage play. Released in 1964, the film starred Lebanese singer/actress Sabah, Syrian comedians Duraid Lahham and Nihad Kalai (the two men who enter the restaurant and sit at the table) and Syrian singer Fahad Balan. The dancers in this clip are ‘real life’ sisters and their stage names are Eghraa (with the headband draping over her shoulder) and Fitna. The sisters left their home in Damascus, Syria for the bright lights of Cairo in 1958. Eghraa’s real name is Nihad Alaeddin and she went on to become a well known ‘bikini’ actress while her sister Fitna seems to have only appeared in a couple of Egyptian films in the 1960s. Fitna now veils and identifies as a conservative Muslim. She no longer mentions her bellydancing past though the two sisters still speak to each other.
Trivia: (1) In Arabic the word Eghraa means ‘seduction’. The word Fitna in Arabic has many meanings but can mean ‘temptation’.
(2) Fahad Ballan moved from Syria to Egypt and worked with Farid al Atrash. He was married for several years to actress Mariam Fakhreddine who was also a star of one of Syrian comedian Duraid Lahham’s films.