A Review of
Habibi, You Are My WHAT?
by Leyla Lanty
Overall Rating: (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)
|On this DVD, Leyla Lanty provides an introduction to selected Arabic words that can be useful for dancers to know. The bulk of the instruction focuses on words that frequently appear in Arabic songs, with exercises on how to listen for them, and suggestions for how to express that knowledge of the lyrics while dancing. At the end, Leyla covers some additional words that dancers may find useful when interacting with Arab musicians or audience members.
* Pricing information was current as of the date indicated above, but may have changed since then. Please contact the video producer for the most current pricing information.
This DVD came about after Leyla Lanty developed a workshop titled "Habibi, You Are My WHAT?". When she announced on the Internet that she would be teaching one of these workshops, many people urged her to capture the workshop to video, enabling those who couldn't attend in person to still learn the material. Leyla engaged a videographer to tape one of her live workshops, which she then packaged for sale. That is how this DVD came to be.
What It Contains
The instruction is divided into these major sections:
- Introduction to the Arabic Language. 18 1/2 minutes. This includes an easy introduction to vowel and consonant sounds frequently heard in the Arabic language, how some words change according to the gender of the person they refer to, and why Arabic love songs often use the masculine terms even when the singer is presumably addressing a woman.
- Words That Frequently Appear In Arabic Songs. 14 1/2 minutes. Leyla introduces a number of Arabic words that frequently appear in romantic songs, such as the words for heart, night, soul, eyes, beautiful, and others. She offers insights into how to recognize different forms of these words within the context of the songs, and how to recognize them in different dialects of Arabic. For example, she explains the different ways the word for "heart" might be pronounced in different dialects, as well as how it changes when referring to "his heart" or "her heart" or "your heart". These are all explained in a way that a newcomer to the Arabic language can grasp without much difficulty. In addition, Leyla suggests gestures that can be used with these words when they appear in the lyrics. She warns against variations of the gestures that would seem innocuous to Americans but might be offensive to an Arab.
- "Nour el Ain". 16 minutes. Leyla uses the megahit song "Habibi Ya Nour El Ain" by Amr Diab as a case study to explore the words she has just taught. She provides guidance in hearing the words in the context of the song, and drills her workshop students in gesturing along with those words.
- "Habibi Ya Eini". 7 minutes. This section is much shorter than the one for "Nour el Ain," because it uses several of the same words that were taught in the earlier section. Leyla begins this section by introducing some new vocabulary words that appear in this song but did not appear in "Nour el Ain." She follows a format similar to that for the first song, but covers "Habibi Ya Eini" much more superficially than "Nour el Ain".
- "Zay el Hawa". 9 minutes. As before, Leyla introduces this song by talking about some new vocabulary words that appear in it. She then starts the music and calls out when the song comes to a word she has taught. Again, this is more superficial than the study was for "Nour el Ain".
- Conversational Terms. 8 minutes. In this section, Leyla departs from song lyrics and teaches some Arabic vocabulary that could be useful when interacting with Arab musicians and clients, or when traveling to an Arabic-speaking country. Based on my own experience in traveling to Egypt, I agree with Leyla's choice of which words to teach in this section.
- Question & Answer Section. 2 1/2 minutes. Leyla accepts questions from the audience and responds to them.
Leyla uses a flip chart as a visual aid throughout. She had prepared it in advance with all her key points, and she references it every step of the way. The camera helpfully offers many lingering closeups of the pages, which I much appreciate.
The instruction in the sections for "Habibi Ya Eini" and "Zay el Hawa" don't seem as strong to me as the section for "Nour el Ain". They still offer benefit, but the coverage of these two songs seems more superficial. I felt a bit torn in how to represent that in writing this review. If the instruction had stopped with "Nour el Ain" I probably would have highly praised how well Leyla analyzed the music and offered ideas on dancing to it, and to some extent the inclusion of the two additional songs weakened my overall response to this aspect of the video. Yet, the inclusion of the two additional songs strengthens the video as a whole by introducing additional vocabulary words and offering more practice in listening for familiar words in the lyrics. Also, by including them Leyla introduces two more songs that less experienced dancers may not know yet. So how do I criticize the less detailed presentation of these songs while at the same time saying I'm glad they're part of the video? I guess I just did....
It might have been nice if Leyla had included on the DVD some footage showing her performing to a portion of one of these songs, showing how an occasional gesture might be used to match the lyrics. Such a performance could have illustrated the point she made verbally, that in an actual performance you would use the gestures sparingly to avoid looking cheesy. Still, the video is able to stand on its own without this.
Although I normally dislike videos that are simply tapings of live workshops due to production quality issues, I feel that the use of the workshop format is a positive aspect of this video because it really brings out her personality. With real people to talk to, she's able to behave naturally and adjust the flow of her presentation according to the reactions she sees in them. The question-and-answer section at the end adds some information to the material presented on the DVD that otherwise might not have been mentioned. Through the use of microphone and intelligent camera placement, her videographer is able to avoid the usual production quality issues that arise with live workshops.
Leyla's on-screen demeanor is casual and pleasant. At the very beginning, she seems a bit nervous, but once she warms up to her subject she relaxes into it. It's apparent that she enjoys teaching this topic, and I feel she teaches it well. Her personality as she delivers the material is lively and holds my attention.
The material is well organized. It is clear that Leyla has put a great deal of thought into choosing the topics to cover, organizing them into a logical flow, selecting relevant music to illustrate the vocabulary, and identifying gestures to use with the lyrics.
There are many useful insights into Arab culture included in this video. Some of them are mentioned as spontaneous casual comments, while others are carefully planned into the instruction. Leyla has spent extensive time in Egypt, and it shows as she teaches this workshop. She has also seriously studied the Arabic language in a classroom environment. A good instructor always has a deep level of knowledge beyond the material being taught in the class, and it's easy to see that Leyla has this depth.
Throughout the workshop, Leyla refers the students to a handout. For those of us participating via video, the "Extras" section describes how to obtain a copy. Hint: Internet access is needed, and a printer is recommended. The content-rich handout is 8 pages long. It contains everything from the flip charts, plus additional vocabulary words that are not discussed as part of the video.
If you decide to purchase this video, I strongly recommend obtaining the handout before you begin working with it. The camera often shifts away from the flip charts to show Leyla's face, and when it does, it's helpful to have access to the version that appears on the handouts.
On my first viewing of this DVD, I did not yet have the handout printed. I was able to follow the instruction without it, but after printing it and reviewing sections of the video I have found that the handout helps me greatly with following along and retaining the material.
The handout identifies several commonly-occurring words in each song, enough to give you some ideas on where/how to gesture, but it does not contain complete translations of any of the songs.
Don't let the fact that this was taped in a live workshop make you hesitate to try this video. Although it's a low-budget production, the quality is perfectly acceptable. It's quite well lit, there is never a problem with other people being between Leyla and the camera, the camera always shows what it should, and Leyla uses a lapel microphone which clearly captures her voice. In fact, this live-workshop video is much better production quality than many videos I've seen filmed in people's dance studios. Although there's occasionally a moment of intrusive zooming or a blooper that could have been removed through editing, there are not many of these issues and they don't distract me from the topic at hand.
The Physical DVD Itself
Although Amazon says the DVD is Region 1, my testing shows that it will work in all regions. The DVD has been divided into 14 chapters, which are logically organized. The chapter breaks appear in sensible places. There is a Chapters menu with informative titles that make it easy to navigate through the video. It's easy to work with.
Is It Right for You?
You Will Probably Enjoy This Video If
- You enjoy dancing to music sung in Arabic.
- You're interested in learning a bit about the use of gestures in your dance, both ones that would be appropriate to use and ones that should be avoided.
- You are planning a trip to an Arabic-speaking country and would like to know a few useful words in the local language.
- You sometimes work with live bands consisting of Arab musicians and you'd like to learn a few Arabic words to use with them.
- You know absolutely nothing about speaking Arabic at this point and would like a not-too-difficult introduction.
- You have studied some Arabic, but would like to expand your vocabulary to include words commonly found in song lyrics.
This Video Probably Isn't Right for You If
- You never listen or dance to Arabic music and have no plans to.
- You have no plans to visit an Arabic-speaking country.
- You already speak Arabic fluently and can understand the words to songs sung in Arabic without much difficulty.
- You're looking for a product that will teach you how to have a conversation in Arabic.
What I Liked, What I Didn't
What I Liked:
- Leyla Lanty packages her knowledge of Arabic language and culture into a format that is interesting, informative, and useful.
- The Arabic words that Leyla chooses to teach are excellent choices for Oriental dance performers and students to learn.
- Leyla offers valuable information on hand gestures that fit typical song lyrics - both ones that are culturally appropriate and ones that should be avoided.
- Leyla uses flip charts as visual aids to accompany her presentation. As a visual learner, I much appreciate this.
- A handout accompanies this instruction and serves as a valuable tool both for following along with the video and also for reviewing later.
- The drills that Leyla leads with the song "Nour el Ain" prove quite helpful in identifying the keywords and gesturing appropriately.
- Leyla points out the difference between drills versus performing. In other words, although she leads the class in doing gestures with each occurrence of a given word, she points out that it would be a bad idea to do that much gesturing in a performance.
- By using the format of Leyla teaching a workshop to a live audience, the video enables her to show a natural on-screen personality. It also makes possible the question-and-answer section at the end, which brings to light some additional useful information.
What I Didn't Like:
- The part of the video covering the songs "Habibi Ya Eini" and "Zay el Hawa" does not contain as much depth in the instruction as the part for "Nour el Ain".
Musical interpretation is a very important component of belly dancing (particularly of Egyptian or Lebanese style), and it can be a challenge for a dancer to work with songs sung in a language she does not speak herself. This video discusses a rarely-taught aspect of musical interpretation - that of being able to match your dance movement to specific things being said in the lyrics.
I personally think it's valuable for dancers to know some Arabic. Although this video doesn't teach very much, it provides a not-too-intimidating place to start that is suitable for people who have never studied a language before. If you listen to Arabic music, you will be rewarded by recognizing some of the words from Leyla's video in the lyrics - words such as "soul", "heart", "love", and "darling". This may give you enough encouragement to continue your studies through a more formal program.
A conversational Arabic class will teach you vocabulary suited for tourists or business travelers, such as how to negotiate cab fare or order drinks in a restaurant. However, song lyrics contain many words that wouldn't typically appear in such instructional materials, the words of love and romance. Therefore, I found Leyla's video to be a helpful companion to my conversational Arabic studies.
This video offers a large amount of instruction (over an hour), for a low, affordable price. I feel it offers excellent value for the money, and I recommend it to anyone who dances to Arabic music or works with Arab musicians.
I have known Leyla Lanty since I was a belly dance student in the mid-1980's, back when she was friends with one of my teachers. Over the years I have come to be friends with her myself, and we have spent many hours doing things together in Egypt when our schedules led us to both be there at the same time.
Where to Get It
Web Site: www.leylalanty.com
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