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A Review Of

The "Magic" Of John Bilezikjian

by John Bilezikjian & Souhael Kaspar

 

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Summary

This album contains a collection of traditional Middle Eastern music played on the oud, primarily intended for dancers. Most of the songs are Turkish, but there are one Armenian-American and a few Arabic ones included. Some of the songs are good choices for beginning dancers to use in practice or student performances, while others are musically more complex and better suited to more experienced dancers.

John Bilezikjian is widely acknowledged as a superb oud player, and this music showcases his skill very well.

The Magic of John Bilezikjian Album Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Musical Style Traditional
Instruments Oud & Percussion
Dance Style Best Suited To... American Classic, Turkish Oryantal
Recommended Dance Skill Level Some beginner, some more experienced
Length of Music 55:51
Number of Songs 19
Packaging Helpful liner notes

 

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Description

This collection features mostly Turkish songs, but also includes a couple of my favorite Arabic selections. The bulk of the music is played by John Bilezikjian on oud and Souhael Kaspar on percussion, but supporting musicians include Helen Bilezikjian, Paul Foti, and Tony Kaspar. Some overdubbing is used to provide a richer texture to some of the songs. Most (but not all) of the songs feature vocals sung by John Bilezikjian. His voice is very well suited to this type of music, and is particularly expressive on the love songs.

Some of the songs, such as "Istemem Babacim", are in the verse/chorus format characteristic of traditional music. Using such musically simple songs as a starting point, the musicians embellish in a way that adds excitement yet preserves the integrity of the original rhythm and melody. These characteristics make these songs especially well suited for beginning dancers in classrooms, practice, and student performances because the melody is simple and predictable, yet compelling enough to hold audience attention.

 

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Songs Included

Song Title

Length

Nationality

Music Clip?

Translation?

Comments

Istemem Babacim

(opening song of "Julia's Dream" medley)

3:43 Turkish Yes Yes Folk song. Peppy, upbeat, in verse-chorus form. Ayyoub rhythm. Excellent for beginners, except that it may be a little fast for them. One of my favorites.

Jemilleh

(second song of "Julia's Dream" medley)

3:37 Turkish Yes Yes Beautiful for veil work. John's vocals are enchanting. I frequently use this in my classes for teaching veil work and slow, flowing moves.

Geceler

(third song of "Julia's Dream" medley)

2:10 Turkish No No Medium speed. Steady, consistent rhythm makes it good for beginner performances, classroom use, practice. Vocals. 2/4 rhythm.

Çile Bülbülüm

(fourth song of "Julia's Dream" medley)

1:32 Turkish No No Medium speed. Vocal. Steady, consistent rhythm. "Geceler" transitions seamlessly into this, so I'd expect most dancers to use the two together because they can't be separated cleanly. 2/4 rhythm.

Drum Solo

(fifth song of "Julia's Dream" medley)

6:12 Not applicable No Not applicable For advanced dancers. Fast, exciting, rich sound. Varied.

Tuta-Fakarouni

(Finalé of "Julia's Dream" medley)

1:06 Egyptian No No Fabulous for finalé. Tuta is 38 seconds long, and Fakaruni is 28 seconds long.

Medley:

  • Mavi Mavi
  • Telegraphen Tellerini
  • Sivasda
5:55 Turkish No No All three of these songs are cheerful and upbeat, played at a medium speed. The medley is not ideal for performance because of the 6-minute length, but it could be useful for audience participation, collecting tips, practice use, open floor dancing at a party, or classroom use.
Azziza 4:04 Egyptian No No Medium-speed. Famous Arabic song. Not recommended for beginners due to frequent rhythm changes and breaks. This version has a rich texture, but feels a bit mellow in nature.
Sallasana Mendilini 5:29 Turkish Yes Yes This song is typically played at a fast, upbeat speed, but John has opted to turn it into a soft, flowing, lyrical number. It's a beautiful song that I love to use for veil work, and I use it when I teach slow, undulating movements to my students.
Lamma Bada Yata Thanna 3:48 Arabic Muwashaha Yes No Fascinating 10th-century Classical Arabic song. Recommended only for advanced dancers who understand its challenging Samai (10/8) musical rhythm.

Orientale Delight

  • Pinar Basha
  • Sevda Sevda
  • Yar Saçlarin
11:17 Turkish No No Short 3-part routine. "Pinar Basha" is fast, upbeat ayyoub rhythm with some breaks. Not ideal for raw beginners. "Sevda Sevda" is soft and flowing, good for veil or standing undulations. "Yar Saçlarin" is a peppy, upbeat song in ayyoub rhythm. Each song ends in a clean break so you can use them separately if you wish.
Bekledim de Gelmedin 3:12 Turkish No No Soft, flowing song in 3/4 waltz rhythm, which is rarely used in Middle Eastern music. Not well suited for beginners to perform because most classes don't teach moves suitable for this rhythm, but the song is beautiful and could be lovely if used by a more experienced dancer.
  • Seni Sevdi
  • Geönlüm
  • Yine Sevecek
3:24 Turkish No No Pretty and flowing. Would be beautiful for veil work or standing undulations.

 

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Is It Right for You?

You Will Probably Enjoy This Music If...

  • You like both Arabic and Turkish music, and you enjoy collections that include both.
  • You enjoy music played on the oud.
  • You like versatile music that works equally well for glitzy nightclub performances and traditional folkloric presentations.
  • You're already a fan of either John Bilezikjian or Souhael Kaspar.
  • You're looking for music that would be good for classroom use, beginner practice, or beginner performances. Although not every song on this album fits this description, there are enough that do to make the collection a good choice for beginners.
  • The style of belly dance that you prefer to do is American Classic.

This Music Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You use only music with the large 40-piece orchestra sound that characterizes performances by top Egyptian dancers in the 20th century.
  • You strongly prefer Egyptian music over Turkish.
  • You'd rather listen to pop music than traditional favorites.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked:

  • The musicianship on this album is excellent. Every song is precise, richly textured, and competently performed.
  • The sound quality is very clear, and suitable for professional use.
  • I very much enjoyed the choice of songs included. On some albums, I'm lucky to find just one song I like enough to use in teaching, practice, or performances. On this collection, I regularly use three of the songs when teaching my classes, and there are others I'm thinking of using in the future.
  • The CD liner notes provide excellent information about the songs themselves. Although they don't include translations of the lyrics, they do translate the song titles and include a few comments about the type of dance that John recommends using each song for.

What I Didn't Like:

  • On the CD version of this album, many of the songs are arranged in medleys within a single track. Two of these are in the form of complete dance routines, and the third is just a medley of three songs. This makes it extremely difficult for a dancer to pick and choose selected songs when assembling her favorites into a set for her own performance.

 

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Conclusion

This music best suits the American Classic style of belly dance, due to it being a collection of songs from a number of ethnic origins. John's velvety voice and virtuoso oud-playing skills would make this music highly accessible to Western ears, and therefore this album is well-suited to performances for the general public. I also find it to be excellent for introducing beginning belly dance students to Middle Eastern music.

 

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Disclosures

I have been using John Bilezikjian's music in my dancing for many years, and I highly respect his skills as a musician. I have met John and his wife Helen in person several times and consider them to be friends. John was kind enough to contribute the translation of the song Jemilleh to this web site and has given permission for short clips of his recordings to appear with translations of those songs.

 

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To Buy It

Magic of John Bilezikjian Album Cover

Artist: John Bilezikjian & Souhail Kaspar
Album Title: The "Magic" of John Bilezikjian

Dantz Records - John Bilezikjian
P.O. Box 2434
Laguna Hills, CA 92654-2434
U.S.A.

Telephone: (+1) (949) 581-5664

Web Site: www.dantzrecords.com

 

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