Sunday, May 3, 2009

How well should you know your music?

In a workshop I attended, Nourhan Sharif said you should listen to a piece of music so much that you are sick of it, and only then are you ready to dance to it. Her point being that you need to know your music well to be able to do it justice with a live, improv performance.

I understand what she is saying but I also see it slightly differently - I have basically the same set that I use for all my basic gigs (birthdays, retirement parties, weddings, etc). Pretty much the same songs, in the same order, unless there is a special request or other reason that I would change things up. Lately, I have been feeling, well, uninspired when I dance to those songs. Kind of like "Ho hum, shimmy, shimmy, pop, turn, turn, turn.....same old, same old" I know them SO well, that they don't get me excited any more - you know, the feeling you get when you hear a song you LOVE and you just need to get up and dance to it right away!

I have found that, lately, my exciting (to me) shows - the ones where I finish feeling like I rocked - are the ones where I am using different music. Maybe a song I don't know very well, because I've only heard it a few times. So it's new to me. Yes, I am probably missing some accents I could be using, or getting slightly off-beat when there is a change in the music that I didn't realize was coming. But I am having more fun, and I feel like it shows. And I think that is pretty darn important.

What do you think? Do you listen to your songs until you hear them in your sleep? Or do you like to change it up frequently?


Naima said...

I'm really picky about my music. Sometimes I can listen to a song a thousand times and never get tired of it, others bore me after one or two performances.

My rule of thumb is, as soon as I loose "the feeling" for a song, I put it aside and move on regardless of how many times I've heard it.

I can see listening to a song over and over if it is a really layered emotional song, but not so much for a repetitive "generic" song. I guess I go either way.

Carrara Nour said...

I'd have to agree with everything you wrote. Especially the part about keeping things fresh.

I think Nourhan has a point, especially if you're dancing to classic Egyptian music, or anything folkloric and unfamiliar. That type of music requires a little more training to the Western ear.

In my case, my audiences are mostly American, so I use a lot of pop and BDSS-type music. That type of stuff is so repetitive and danceable, I think you could feasibly put on any Hakim or Nancy Ajram song and improv on the spot with no problem.