CERTIFICATION 3 - Iqa Rhythm (Zeffah) & the Art of Dancing with Shamedan Part 1 of 2

In teaching rhythms in the "Rhythms & Dances of the M.E." Certification course this year I find that  first it is important to be able to hear and identify it, play it and understand the cultural context as much as possible before dancing to an audience.

Iqa Rhythm (Zeffah) & the Art of Dancing with Shamedan Part 1 of 3

by Najia

Iqa Rhythm primarily used for Zeffat al 'Arusah ( the bridal procession) is often referred to as the Zeffah rhythm by many dancers. It is such a beautiful rhythm that stands apart from others that you may find it on the theatre stage or cabaret as well. When used for a procession it is played slowly and goes like this:

Doum /tek a tek tek /Doum tek tek 

You can find a nice example Iqa rhythm with the "Zeffah " song on Samara's cd or from the haunting intro to "Early Morning" on Cairo Caravan with Dina .You may not easily recognize it when played very fast for the cabaret stage like on song called" Leila"  made famous by Eddie Kochak. 

When dancers hear the Iqa or Zeffah rhythm we immediately associate the candelabra or shamadan worn on the head of belydancers leading and lighting the way for the bride in Egypt. My early impressions seeing dancing with candelabra or Zeffah were Egyptian movies, crashing wedding in Cairo, and a local dancer who showed me floorwork moves in the style of Nadia Hamdi. These were impressions I gathered and bits of choreography from workshops but it was still a bit of a mystery to me. It wasn't until detailed studies with my teacher Sahra Saeeda in her "Journey through Egypt"  certifications that a I developed a much clearer understanding of Zeffah. Sahra initially went to Egypt to study the Zeffat al' Arusah for her Masters Thesis for UCLA Dept. of Dance Ethnology. Here is what Sahra has to say about Zeffah :

"The Zeffah is defined as a procession with noise, the Zeffat al Arusah is the procession of the bride.  The Zeffah movement is a simple walking procession to an iqa Zeffah (Zeffah rhythm) which informs the listener as to the purpose of this Zeffah.  In the Zeffat al Arusah, ‘Awalim (professional female dancers) dance in an subdued, yet Orientale, manner in front of the bride. Often she/they will be wearing a Shamadan (candelabra) and playing the sagat (finger cymbals). The Firqit al Zeffah (Zeffah group), new in the late 1980’s, can insert segments of “mini-entertainments” of folkloric dance and music, such as Sa’idi dance, Tanoura, and Suez canal dance, between ritual iqa zeffah. 

I urge every series dancer to to seek greater understanding of the Zeffat al' Arousah ritual by joining Sahra Saeeda's Journey through Egypt Newsletter and asking for her free download on Zeffah. Its a wonderful in -depth pdf that is very clear and has photos and diagrams for the layout of the bridal part, family , musicians and dancers @ http://www.JourneyThroughEgypt.com/Thank-You/

What to do if you are hired for a Zeffat al 'Arusah?

Dancing with a Shamadan doesn't always mean that you will use the Iqa rhythm just as a shamadan is not required during wedding procession. When hired for Arab weddings here in America, on rare occasions you may be asked to participate in a zeffah either before the ceremony or after when entering the reception hall with the newly married couple. You need to know how to dance and maybe have some fellow dancers play the Iqa rhythm on frame drum . Zeffah al Arusah requires a simple yet specific way to dance for the bridal procession compared to dancing with the shamadan on stage or cabaret .Remember the bride is the female focus of attention so save your fancy moves for the stage as it is her day. A simple step walk with a hip lift while playing finger cymbals is all that is really needed. Keep the upper body moves very soft and feminine. 

What to wear for an Arabic Wedding .

In an ideal world you would have the perfect costume for every occasion. Many professional dancers do since their living and reputation depends on it. In Egypt the Alma wears a simple one piece beledi dress for the Zeffah al Arousah .The color blue is believed to ward off evil spirits and bad wishes .The color green is the color of Allah and believed to bring protection to the bride. Keep these colors in mind when building your show wardrobe. If you are having the zeffah before the couple is married you would ideally wear a one piece long conservative blue or green costume. If you are dancing with the newly married couple entering the reception you can wear your two piece costume with green, blue, pastels being the best choice. It is generally good to avoid white or red or bold warm colors . Most Arab weddings will only require your normal classic show but still consider your color choices and ask your bride what she wants for her theme.

Okay, now you have done a Zeffat al 'Arousah and want more or wish just for one….

Not to worry .You can watch the video links below for inspiration and create your own Bridal Zeffah ritual for the stage. Many organizers of bellydance shows and haflas would welcome a Zeffah troupe. There are so many beautiful dance rituals as well as folkloric styles that are so welcomed by the Middle Eastern Dance community. .Be sure to keep it to the required time limits when designing a show for the stage. Although most soloist are allowed up to 5 minutes some troupe performances allow up to as much as 10 minutes for something really special. If you are the only Zeffunah group in the area, word will get out and bring return engagements.

Zeffa Karma or Was it Sahra's Dream ?

 My teacher Sahra Saeeda was here teaching the JtE" Certification and spending an afternoon teaching Zeffat al Arousa .The next morning she was roused from her sleep hearing the Iqa rhythm and the Zagareet from women in the streets. At first she thought it was a wonderful dream from the days she lived and worked in Egypt. She was tired from teaching and travels and although she thought she was in Philadelphia with me she thought she must be back in Cairo. She looked around the room at my decorating and says "No, I am at Najia's" in Pennsylvania . Sahra looks out the window to see a Zeffa procession in my street !  She runs down to watch with one of my neighbors from my front porch. She observes the dancing and singing customs of the people who are not Egyptian but everything is so similar to what she witnessed while living and dancing in Egypt. After a long day of teaching, we return to see the wedding celebration is still going on and the wedding party is eager to share their knowledge with us . They are from Ethiopia and also call it Zeffah in their language as well. Life is very interesting....P.S. If  I were not a sound asleep workshop sponsor I would have photos for all.

Every great dancer knows there is always more to learn. As we delve deeper into our art, finding the origins of our dance and exploring culture we find so much more that it is never-ending.  We find many gifts on our dance journey.

You Tube Links for Zeffah al' Arousah










Be sure to read Sahra's dance notes when you watch this last video as they are a wealth of information.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ku3Qc28XdE

Facebook Zeffa Page 

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