Belly dancing and Middle Eastern music hardly seem like an odd couple, but add electronic music and you have a more unusual mix. Stir in north African, Indian and hip-hop influences with the belly dancing, sprinkle in a bit of jazz and techno, and the result really adds a whole new layer of meaning to the phrase “fusion music.”
Audiences will get to experience this brew for themselves when San Francisco global electronica producer and musician Jef Stott and a Taiwanese belly dance group partner for performances in Taichung and Taipei on Aug. 1 and Aug. 2.
Stott and dancer Betty Lee (李梅林), the organizer of Shimmy Dancers, hatched plans for the show while both attended Tribal Fest, an annual alternative dance festival, in San Francisco this year.
“I saw Jef’s show and I said, wow, this rocks, this is awesome, and I thought ‘maybe we can do this in Taiwan,’” says Lee, who saw a chance to expose her students and fellow belly dancers to a new form of music.
The shows will combine a DJ set, during which Stott will improvise with electronic music and recordings, with contributions by DJs Nate D and Jez Bob, and live performances on the oud by Stott. Other Middle Eastern instruments audiences will be able to hear include the string instruments saz, tanbur and santur, and the wind instruments ney and zurna, many of which were recorded in Stott’s San Francisco studio.
While the performances may fall under the category of world music, fusion is the predominant theme.
“The feel of the show is really a dance party, electronic music made for dance clubs. It has hip-hop and techno influences, and it’s loud and exciting,” says Stott.
What: Jef Stott, Betty Lee, Essa Wen and the Shimmy Tribe, Nate D and Jez Bob
Where: Wednesday at 10pm at Bliss, 148, Xinyi Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市信義路四段148號); Thursday from 7pm to 7:30pm at Sababa’s Yongkang branch (DJs only), 3, Ln 12, Yongkang St, Taipei City (台北市永康街12巷3號); Friday, Aug. 1 from 9pm to 12pm at 89K, Takuan Rd, Nantun Dist, Taichung City (台中市南屯區大觀路21號); Saturday, Aug. 2 from 5pm to 5:30pm at Sababa’s Gongguan branch (DJs only), 17, Ln 283, Roosevelt Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路三段283巷17號); Saturday, Aug. 2 from 10pm to 1am at Vibe, B1, 155, Jinshan S Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市金山南路一段155號B1); Sunday, Aug. 3 at 10pm at Underworld (DJs only), B1, 45, Shida Rd, Taipei City (台北市師大路45號B1);
Tickets: NT$300 or NT$500 for two at Bliss; NT$400 for 89K; free at Sababa; NT$400 at Vibe; NT$350 at Underworld; NT$350 presale tickets for Vibe available for purchase at the following Sababa locations in Taipei City: 3, Ln 12, Yongkang St, Taipei City (台北市永康街12巷3號); 17, Ln 283, Roosevelt Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路三段283巷17號); 8, Alley 54, Ln 118, Heping East Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市和平店 台北市和平東路二段118巷54弄8號)
On the Net: www.jefstott.com; www.myspace.com/theatx; www.bellydancing.com.tw
The partnership between Shimmy Tribe and the musicians will be based largely on improvisation.
“We get inspired by watching dancers, because they have certain form and language of movement, gestures that they do and those gestures inform us as to what sort of sounds we should be making,” says Stott.
The dancers will perform American tribal-style belly dancing, which derives its influences from North African Berber and Bedouin culture, as well as Indian and flamenco dance. Traditional-style belly dancing, on the other hand, comes from Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, says Lee, who has trained in both.
The costumes of tribal belly dancers cover more of their bodies, and movements are stronger and more defined. Dancers sometimes fuse influences from yoga, Pilates, and popping from hip-hop dance, which Essa Wen (聞子儀), Lee’s dancing partner, specializes in.
Lee became curious about alternative forms of belly dancing after she began studying the traditional style in 2002. Since then, she has trained in Egypt, Turkey and the US. She was first introduced to American tribal-style belly dance at the 2006 Tribal Fest in San Francisco.
“Before I saw the fusion style, I had only studied traditional cabaret-style belly dancing,” says Lee. “At Tribal Fest, I saw a lot of different elements with the dance, not just cabaret or Egyptian style.
Stott, meanwhile, was first turned on to global electronica while listening to musicians like Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, Massive Attack and Ali Khan as a youngster in Los Angeles during the early 1990s.
While collaborating with the group Stellamara, Stott discovered the oud, a Middle Eastern lute, and his interest in the region’s music took off.