Dabke: The Funkiest Beat from Baalbek?

Three years ago, I found my niche amongst a group of musicians who played music from the Balkans and the Middle East. Every Thursday night, I took my clarinet along to Brisbane’s iconic Three Monkeys Cafe and learnt songs and tunes from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Armenia, and goodness knows what other countries. All accompanied by bowls of chai. Mmmm. Heaven.

(I’ll write more about this group in future posts because so much of my musical knowledge has come from this group of musicians).

As well as fantastic music, my friends introduced me to what I consider to be one of the funkiest types of dance/rhythm - the “dabke”. An Arabic word, dabke literally means “stamping of the feet”. It’s performed in countries like Lebanon, at weddings and other celebrations. The dancers stand in lines, usually holding hands with the people on either side, and do various leaning-forward-and-stomping movements. As far as I’m concerned, it looks like a group of people stamping rhythmically on a row of snails. But what a rhythm!

I’ve done a bit of hip-hop and funk dancing in my time, but nothing felt earthier than dancing the dabke. (I say "earthier", because it's a good method of soil compacting. Just invite a dabke dance troupe around and voila! Your front lawn will be ready for pavers). The heavy emphasis on beat one of the bar, the staccato rhythms in between...seriously, the kids of the Western World don’t know what they’re missing! Drinking in nightclubs would be vastly reduced if the kids danced the dabke rather than the step-to-the-right-step-to-the-left pendulum dance. 

To prove my point, check out this video I recently discovered of a troupe from the Lebanese town of Baalbeck. At least, I think it is. I can’t read Arabic. Feel free to prove me wrong.

I like it so much that I’m thinking of using the rhythm in a pop song of mine. So, watch it, and if you don’t feel the need to jump out of your chair and either join the stamping men in the front, or the hip-shaking ladies in the back, then I’ll return your money. They got rhythm...who could ask for anything more?

The dance starts at about 0.50.