Tag Archives: bellydance

Artist Profiles: Hossam Ramzy

Hossam Ramzy

Born in Cairo, on December 15, 1953, Hossam Ramzy’s musical career began at the age of three when he was given his first drum, an Egyptian tabla. Hossam’s passion and talent for percussion was noted by his family, and he was encouraged to study under leading Cairo music teachers. A move to Saudi Arabia, where he met people from many Bedouin tribes, gave the young Hossam a rich insight into the cultural origins of Middle Eastern music.

In the mid 1970s Hossam arrived to England, and enjoyed great success as a jazz drummer working with respected musicians such as Andy Sheppard and Geoff Williams. Hossam soon found himself turning full circle back to his first love, the Egyptian drums, and the thrilling dance rhythms of the Middle East. He then incorporated his rhythmic experience into creating a new sound since heard on hundreds of well known albums.

The distinctive sound of Hossam’s Arabic and North African string arrangements, and his exciting percussion, soon caught the imagination of Peter Gabriel. Hossam was invited to perform on Passion, and later on Us and Up.

Hossam then developed his skills in both string arrangements and production, and has played on, arranged and produced many songs for some of the world’s leading artists such as: Yesim Salkim, Celick Erici, Cheb Khaled, Tarkan, Rachid Taha, Faudel, the Gypsy Kings, etc.

In 1994 Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) invited Hossam to bring together a band of Arab musicians and work on their reunion album No Quarter – Unledded. The album was a worldwide bestseller. This led to Hossam joining Page and Plant on their historic reunion 1995/96 world tour.

A subsequent highlight was his involvement as orchestra director and lead percussionist for the historic 1-2-3 Soleil concert and album, which brought together the talents of Khaled, Taha, Faudel, and many of North Africa’s leading musicians.

Hossam released numerous albums of Egyptian dance music for ARC Music, and in November 2001, at the label’s 25th Anniversary party, he was awarded a special Platinum disc for being their top selling artist, with over 200,000 sales.

His extensive discography includes: Afro-Celt Sound System, Marc Almond, Joan Armatrading, Ash, Claudio Baglioni, Big Country, Bond, Chick Corea, Pino Daniele, Anne Dudley, E.L.O., Celick Erici, Faudel, Peter Gabriel, Boy George, Gypsy Kings, Deborah Harry, Greg Hunter, Jay-Z, Kamal Ka?et, Alexandros Karozas, Cheb Khaled, Donal Lunny, Mathilda May, Loreena McKenitt, Maryam Mursal, Luciano Pavarotti, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Procol Harum, Rolling Stones, Rachid Taha, Tarkan, Barbara Thompson, Mari Wilson and Paul Young.

Film Soundtracks: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Saint, Stargate, Stealing Beauty, Wings of a Dove.

Hossam was honored in 2014 with the significant Taichi Traditional Music Awards (Chinese Institute of Music) for his project Bedouin Tribal Dance, portraying the traditional wedding rituals of nomadic Bedouins.

More recently, Hossam toured with blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, including two special nights in New York recorded live for the “Joe Bonamassa Live at Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening” special, which went to No.1 on the Billboard US Blues Album chart.

In 2019, he gave a special performance alongside Loreena McKennitt at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall.

Hossam Ramzy died on Tuesday, September 10th, 2019


Best of Farid Al Atrash (ARC Music, 1994)
Best of Abdul Halim Hafiz (ARC Music, 1994)
Best of Oum Kalthoum (ARC Music, 1994)
Best of Mohammed Abdul Wahab (ARC Music, 1994)
Baladi Plus (ARC Music, 1994)
Sultaan (ARC Music, 1994)
Egyptian Rai (ARC Music, 1995)
Source of Fire (ARC Music, 1995)
Gamaal Rawhany – Soulful Beauty (ARC Music, 1996)
Eternal Egypt (1996)
Ahlamy, with saxophonist Rafat Misso (ARC Music, 1996)
Eclectic with Big Country (Castle Music, 1996)
Best of Hossam Ramzy (1997)
Messiah Meets Progenitor (1998)
Ro-He with Essam Rashad (ARC Music, 1998)
Rhythms of the Nile (ARC Music, 1998)
Immortal Egypt (1998)
Amar (2000)
Sabla Tolo — Journeys into Pure Egyptian Percussion (ARC Music, 2000)
Faddah (ARC Music, 2002)
Qanun El Tarab (ARC Music, 2002)
Flamenco Arabe (ARC Music, 2003)
Hossam Ramzy Presents Egyptian Sufi Sheikh Mohamed Al Helbawy (ARC Music, 2003)
Enchanted Egypt (New World, 2004)
Bedouin Tribal Dance (ARC Music, 2007)
Secrets of the Eye (ARC Music, 2007)
Sabla Tolo II (ARC Music, 2007)
Sabla Tolo III (ARC Music, 2008)
Ruby (ARC Music, 2009)
Rock the Tabla (ARC Music, 2011)


Bellydance Beats

The Rough Guide to Bellydance Café

Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Bellydance Café (World Music Network, 2007)

This Rough guide compilation focuses on the increasingly popular raks sharki (bellydance) music. There are various regional styles in the middle East and The Rough Guide to Bellydance Café is a great introduction to discover these styles.

The Syrian ensembles use the traditional middle Eastern orchestra format, with violins, qanun and percussion. The Egyptian sound is a little rootsier, with spectacular tabla (the Egyptian hourglass drum, not the Indian drums) solos leading the way.

Belly dance acts in Turkey use wind instruments more frequently, combined with the long necked lute known as saz and the qanun.

The Rough Guide to Bellydance Café also includes Greek and Moroccan acts, although it is clear that the main centers for this kind of music are Egypt in Turkey.

One conspicuous artist that is missing is Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy. He has made dozens of recordings and had become one of the most acts outside the Middle East.

Buy The Rough Guide to Bellydance Café.


The Rough Guide To Bellydance Café

The Rough Guide to Bellydance Café

San Francisco (California), USA – Late night get-togethers at an outdoor café, hookah pipes, chatter and the strong smell of coffee, are all part of the distinct flavor of Middle Eastern street life. As is the shimmying, hip-shaking music phenomenon best-known as ‘bellydance’. From Selim Sesler and the Salatin El Tarab Orchestra to Mokhtar Al Said and Sami Ali, The Rough Guide to Bellydance Café provides a comprehensive insight into the seductive sounds of the Orient.

The The Rough Guide to Bellydance Café is compiled by Nili Belkind, who specializes in world music and spends her time producing and developing artists. She is based in New York City.

The origins of raqs sharki, or ‘oriental dance’ – the Arabic term for bellydance – are shrouded in mystery but it has been and is endemic to Middle Eastern life – at the court, in the village square, the family gathering or Cairo nightclub and, though it is associated with women, it is performed by both sexes and people of all ages. This is music that can be found in an area that spans from Morocco, through the Mediterranean, and all the way to Afghanistan.

There is a rich selection of music on this album – the classical music of Syria from the Jalal Joubi Ensemble; the sound of Mohamed Ali, one of the greatest nay (Egyptian flute) players of all times; the emotive and sensual singing of Sami Ali, who represents the free-spirited side of Cairo; the reflective and unique style of Turkey’s Selim Sesler; the world famous Salatin El Tarab Orchestra; Sami Nossair, one of Cairo’s most respected musicians and Mohamed Iskander, an icon of Lebanese music.

The CD contains a data track that includes an interview with the compiler, Nili Belkind, plus information on bellydance and Turkey from the Rough Guide books.

Buy The Rough Guide to Bellydance Café.


Salsas and Salaams

The Rough Guide to the Music of Latin Arabia

The Rough Guide to Latin Arabia (World Music Network RGNET 1175CD, 2006)

The connections between Latin and Arabic music should come as no surprise. The Iberian peninsula was, after all, the hub of the Islamic world for centuries, leaving an irreversible (if at times subtle) impact on many things Latin and cultural that traveled to the Western Hemisphere and back again. (If you want proof, look no further than the fact that such Arabic-influenced instruments as the dumbek and laud were part of the Buena Vista Social Club’s bestselling sound. But although the stylistic connections that form the backbone of this album are well known, the music is so superb that there’s nothing same-old about it.

Besides such smashing collaborations as Algerian piano legend Maurice El Medioni jamming alongside Cuban percussionist Roberto Rodriguez and Turkish multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek getting mystical alongside flamenco singer Enrique Morente, there’s the mambo/rai mashup of Salamat’s opening track, the familiar bounce of “Ya Nour El Ein” by Egypt’s Amr Diab and Cuban violinist Alfredo De La Fe perfectly blending Middle Eastern grooves, Colombian cumbia and a bit of hip-hop.

Still not convinced? Consider Radio Tarifa’s Benjamin Escoriza singing atop a flamenco-sweetened beat that sounds equal parts Gnawa trance and Afro-Cuban bata, the astounding Judeo-Andalusian vocalizing of Emil Zrihan or a Maghreb-laced version of the classic “Chan Chan” (a song you might have thought you were sick of) recorded by Moroccan singer Rhany at Egrem Studio in Havana. That’s it- I’m through gushing. Buy this excellent CD and enjoy it deeply and frequently.

Buy Rough Guide to Latin Arabia.


The Rough Guide to Latin-Arabia

 The Rough Guide to the Music of Latin Arabia
The Rough Guide to the Music of Latin Arabia

San Francisco (California), USA – The Rough Guide to the Music of Latin Arabia (RGNET1175CD) journeys to the little known but highly musical region of Latin-Arabia, located somewhere between Cairo and Havana. Here, it explores the long-standing influence of Latin music on the Arab world and similarly, the imprint of Arabic music on Latin America.

The connections run deep: from the Nubian sounds of ‘Mambo el Soudani’ by Salamat to the Spanish and North African music of Benjamín Escoriza, the voice of Radio Tarifa. The album includes collaborations between musicians from the two regions including Algeria’s Maurice El Medioni and Roberto Rodriguez as well as Omar Faruk Tekbilek and Flamenco legend Enrique Morente.

The Rough Guide to Latin Arabia fuses three of the most popular dance styles: belly dance, salsa and flamenco (including Flamenco rumba).

When the dueling violins of Alfredo de la Fé, from Cuba, and Salah Rahanny, from Morocco meet on the track, ‘Macondo’ it is no coincidence that the sounds are both contrasting and harmonious. The artists may have been brought up on different continents but they share in a musical tradition which dates back to the ninth century.

The 600 year-long Moorish control of the southern part of the Iberian peninsula brought many Arabic musical influences to Europe including the ‘ud, from which some scholars think the guitar is descended, as well as Berber drums and the theoretical approach to music from the Persian system. As Spain’s Christian rulers overthrew the Moorish empire in Andalusia in the 15th Century they also began the explorations which would lead to the development of a Spanish empire in the New World, ensuring that the Arabic influence was transported to Latin America.

The Moorish influence lived on in European music, perhaps most noticeably in the Andalusian flamenco style and the proximity of North Africa to Spain’s southern coast has made continued cross-pollination inevitable.

So, the music on The Rough Guide to Latin Arabia is not an exercise in ersatz fusion but a continuation of a musical conversation which has been going on for hundreds of years. Among the most well known tracks on the album are ‘Ya Nour El Ein’ (Light of My Eye) by Amr Diab and ‘Alabina’ by Ishtar & Los Niños De Sara. While these two have proved the massive appeal of Latin-Arabian music among the lesser-known tracks on the album there are plenty of hidden treasures.

The afore-mentioned ‘Macondo’ by Alfredo de la Fé is a fevered romp through Alfredo’s colorful musical influences. Maurice El Medioni creates an evocative blend of Cuban rhythms and Arabic-influenced melodies on ‘Oran Oran’.

On ‘Paquita La Guapa’, Radio Tarifa’s Benjamin Escoriza employs a cromorno (crumhorn), an oboe-like instrument from the Renaissance, echoing the sound of the Arabic shenai.

The flamenco sound is exposed to its North African vocal roots on Mahani-Zin by Emil Zrihan, an expert on Jewish folk traditions in the Middle East.

For the album’s conclusion, ‘Ah Ghanilek’, the CD revisits the massive pop potential of the Latin/Arabic crossover – an irresistible dancefloor hit from Reines De Saba which features Los Niños De Sara on backing vocals.

The album contains a data track that includes an interview with the compiler Nili Belkind. Nili specializes in world and Latin music, producing, marketing and developing artists.

Buy the CD:


Think Inside the Globe

Th!nk Global: West Africa Unwired

Th!nk Global: West Africa Unwired (World Music Network RGNET 1169CD, 2006)

Th!nk Global: Bellydance (World Music Network RGNET 1161CD, 2006)

These releases remind me a bit of the pre-CD era when records came packed in cardboard and not much else. World Music Network, already the label behind the fine Rough Guide and Introducing lines, now unveils Th!nk Global, an environmentally and socially conscious series packaged entirely in recycled card (no plastic) and produced in conjunction with two very worthy causes (Amnesty International and Oxfam).

But while you’ll be doing right by this planet you call home and its people, buy these collections for the music.

West Africa Unwired not only features superstars the caliber of Baaba Maal, Boubacar Traoré and Toumani Diabate, but emerging talents like Gnawa bluesman Nuru Kane, Tuareg/Wodaabe band Etran Finatawa (also responsible for one of 2006’s best debut CDs) and Senegal’s new shining star Daby Balde.

Note the “Unwired” of the title- this music is rich with koras, balafons, n’goni lutes, acoustic guitars, earthy percussion and muezzin-like vocals that are pure raw brilliance even when a degree of contemporary edge (as with Mali’s Issa Bagayogo) is evident. Absolutely terrific.

Various Artists – Think Global: Bellydance

The Bellydance disc is likewise a sumptuous selection of a varied style that has survived everything from kitschy stereotyping to Islamic fundamentalism. Many of the best in the raqs sharki business are here, including Egyptian master percussionist Hossam Ramzy, Turkish Sufi multi-instrumentalist great Omar Faruk Tekbilek and Syria’s esteemed Salatin El Tarab Orchestra.

There are both instrumental and vocal pieces, some basking in near-symphonic lushness, others sparser but no less striking, still others factoring in subtle Gypsy, jazz and Mediterranean fusion. What’s constant is the mosaic of pan-Arabic percussion, stringed and wind instruments that give every track a beauty and grandeur that may put you in mind of gyrating midriffs or just send you blissfully off to a desert dreamland.

Buy West Africa Unwired and Bellydance.


Th!nk Global Releases Bellydance Compilation

Various Artists – Think Global: Bellydance

Danced all over the world, bellydance is linked to some of the richest folk, pop and classical music traditions of the Middle East. Think Global: Bellydance (RGNET1161CD) presents some of the best contemporary bellydance musicians and singers to have set the world on fire. Bellydance is a round up of the musical styles that have developed in tandem with the traditional Raqs Sharki (or Bellydance) dance of Arabic North Africa. The compilation brings together music from Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and beyond. The tracks have been also been sequenced to suit a bellydance performance.

Notable inclusions on the CD include Hossam Ramzy, who has collaborated with the likes of Page & Plant, Joan Armatrading and Peter Gabriel (on the Passion album which formed the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ); The Cairo Orchestra, one of Egypt’s most famous bands and the house band of the Al-Ahram nightclub in Cairo; Richard Hagopian & Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s ‘Gypsy Fire’ project, an attempt to recreate the musical melting pot of New York’s 8th Avenue in the 1930s; Omar Faruk Tekbilek, who has worked with Don Cherry, Youssou N’Dour and Trilok Gurtu; and a legend amongst Egypt’s musicians, Dr Sami Nossair, the head of Cairo’s Music Conservatory.

Bellydance has been produced in collaboration with Oxfam, an independent organization and registered charity. They work at all levels from global to local, including international governments, global institutions as well as with local communities and individuals to ensure that everyone’s rights are fulfilled and protected.

Buy Bellydance.