The Troupe
This drummer's journey with other drummers.

Rhythm: 4/4 The Ghawazee

The Ghawazee were a group of female and male traveling dancers, historically frequenting Northern Egypt. Typically, the Ghawazee are represented as Gypsies, with a particular attention to their music and dance styles, and heavy bass lines in their music.  Ghawazee are remembered as particularly sensual and are thought to be one of the origins for the contemporary notion of belly dance.

Representing diverse historical backgrounds, most of the Ghawazee are believed to be related to other ethnic minorities such as the Nawar (where we get the Nawari rhythm from) and the Ayyubid (seems familiar…  Oh, yeah, Ayoub!  Funny how it all connects, huh?)

The style of dance and costuming of the Ghawazee has been especially influential in crafting the look of American Tribal Style Belly Dance. Traditional Ghawazee dress consists of an Ottoman coat with slits. The abdomen is covered by these coats. The coats are typically ankle-length.  Harem pants are worn under these coats.

Ghawazee dancers often adorn their heads with elaborate head-dresses, the dancers often accompanying themselves by playing zils (small finger cymbals).

In terms of the rhythm it is the heavy bass line that make Ghawazee so interesting, and not surprisingly, so useful when drumming for tribal dancers.

Many drummers will call this a, “Saidi, but played with a Nawari feel”, and that is certainly correct to some degree.  Obviously the first “Tek  Doum” is just like Nawari, and the “Doum  Doum” in the middle is pure Saidii, but the Ghawazee is a distinct rhythm on its own.   Not to mention, it is far easier to call out, “Ghawazee”, to change the rhythm during a live performance than it is to say, “Saidi, but played with a Nawari feel!”  Add in the historical aspects, and that is good enough reason for me.

Ghawazee (4/4)

Basic (Doom and Tek)

Simple Count














When playing Ghawazee it is important to hold the beat steady, hit the Doums cleanly and with good volume, and allow a lot of space for the zil playing of the dancers to fit into.

It is a really simple beat, and easy to learn in about 20 minutes time.

Ghawazee is great practice for learning to play with a sense of timing and patience.  The triple Doum and double Tek is a bit tricky at first, but once you get it, sounds very nice.  It varies really well with Nawari and Sombati, and can be filled in well with the occasional Ayoub.

You can play while counting it out, or while speaking it.

Literally, say, “Tek  Doum     Doum  Doum     Tek” as you play.  It helps!

Practice until you can play the basic Ghawazee while holding a conversation, or listening to other music on the radio.

Of course you can ornament the Ghawazee, but I feel it is best left simple, again to leave the dancers plenty of space to play their zils.

4 Responses to “Rhythm: 4/4 The Ghawazee”

  1. can you give samples of these especially of ones which sound similar (e.g. saidi and nawari?) and how to make the distinction?


    • The best thing to do is check out videos online, and of course listen to the albums that contain this kind of music.

      There really aren’t specific examples that I would point to and say, “This is THE right way”. Every situation will be different. What works great for a raqs sharqi solo is not necessarily going to be the right thing to play for an American Tribal Style dance troupe, or for a wedding, and so on.

      Painfully, the only way to really learn is to find a good teacher, and get the basics down, and then go out on your own and make mistakes until you find your own style.

      On the plus side, the journey is completely worth it.

  2. what rhythm are the dancers playing with finger cymbals???

    • In sort of the same theme as the other question about specific fill and accent differences between rhythms like Saidi, Nawari, and Ghawazee, the answer is complicated.

      It depends on the musicality of the dancers, who they studied under, how much skill they have at playing WHILE dancing, which, trust me here, is wicked hard to do.

      Two of the basic zil patterns are Beledi, and Military.

      There a ton of resources for zil playing, and I really encourage you to look them up and study.

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