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Baladi (Arabic: بلدي / ALA-LC: baladī; nisba-adjective meaning "native", "indigenous", "of the country", "rural", comparable to English "folk", with a lower-class connotation) can refer to an Egyptian musical style, the folk style of Egyptian bellydance (Raqs Baladi), or the Masmoudi Sogheir rhythm, which is frequently used in baladi music. It is also sometimes spelled in English as 'beledi'.
In Arabic, the word baladi does not only apply to music and dance, and can also apply to many other things that are considered native, rural, rustic or traditional, for example 'baladi bread'.
Baladi music is an urban folk style, which developed from traditional Egyptian musical styles in the early 20th century, as large numbers of people migrated to Cairo from rural areas. The sounds of the accordion and saxophone are hallmarks of baladi music - both are Western instruments that have been adopted by Egyptian musicians and modified to play Arabic scales.
Baladi can take the form of traditional songs, often with a verse-chorus structure - some popular examples include 'Taht il Shibbak' and 'Hassan ya Koulli'. There is also an improvised musical form in the baladi style.
This is a structured form of musical improvisation, most usually between a tabla player and an accordionist or saxophonist (although occasionally the ney may be the primary instrument). It is sometimes referred to as a baladi taqsim, ashra baladi, or a baladi progression.
A baladi taqsim consists of a number of distinct sections. Each section has a traditional structure, and the ordering of the sections follows a loose pattern, although this is not always followed. The musicians will not generally include all of the possible sections, but will choose some of them to build a structure for the piece.
Most baladi improvisations will begin with an instrumental solo (taqsim) by the primary instrument. Following this, there is usually a call and response between the instrument and the drummer, flowing into a slow rhythmic section. Further call and response sections and quicker rhythmic sections may follow. The middle part of the piece may include melodies from popular songs, or a section in the Saidi style. The final section is normally the 'tet', which has a quick tempo, and staccato accents on the off-beat.
Raqs baladi is the folk/social form of bellydance. It is more stationary than raqs sharqi, with little use of the arms, and the focus is on hip movements. Baladi dance has a 'heavy' feeling, with the dancer appearing relaxed and strongly connected to the ground. It is performed to baladi or folk music.
Typical costuming for performances of this dance style is a long dress covering the midriff, which may be plain and traditional, or heavily embellished. Traditionally, a baladi dress would resemble a theatrical version of traditional Egyptian clothing. The most common version has a straight skirt with side slits, long sleeves which may be slit to the elbows, and a scooped or shirt-style neckline. Striped fabrics or tulle bi-telli are popular. A sash may be worn around the hips, and a headscarf is often also worn. A baladi-style performance may include the use of sagat, or the dancer may perform with a cane (assaya).
Fifi Abdou, one of the legends of 20th-century Egyptian bellydance, is often described as a baladi-style dancer.
In the West, the Masmoudi Sogheir ('small Masmoudi') rhythm in Arabic music is often referred to as 'baladi', because it is commonly used in baladi music. This is somewhat misleading, as there are several other rhythms commonly found in the baladi style (including Maqsoum, Saiidi and Fellahi), and this rhythm is also found in other musical styles.
The basic structure of the baladi rhythm, played on the darbuka, is as follows:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & D-D---T-D---T--
(Dum Dum ... Tek Dum ... Tek ...)
(Capitals represent stressed beats. Dum is the dominant hand on the middle of the tabla, Tek either the dominant or the non-dominant hand on the rim of the tabla.)
What is perhaps the most common beledi version is more correctly called Masmoudi Saghir ("small masmoudi") as it is really a masmoudi contracted into 4/4 time. The drummer has freedom to “fill” in between these stressed beats as he/she sees fit to interpret the music. A common fill is:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & D D tkT D tkT D D tkT D tkT tk
(the second version has a "bridge" to lead it into the next bar)