An insight into the drummer, Sallam!
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            AHLAN!   AHLAN!  WELCOME!              To drummers, dancers and dance lovers everywhere!
This month we are honoured,  proud and happy to welcome our guest Sallam  Alsheikh!

Drummer Sallam is a stalwart of the bellydance community and a man of great integrity. This month we have the fantastic opportunity to get to know him better. He is shares his knowledge of Arabic rhythms for bellydancers and gives some great tips for dancing a live drum solo. A read not to be missed.

There's also news of where to catch Zara and Zara's Zouk so please sit back and enjoy!
An insight into Sallam Alsheikh
(with Arabic dance rhythms and Drum Solo tips for dancers) 
by Zara 
I am so happy to welcome Sallam into my home on the first day of Ramadan. He’s a great friend of mine, not just within the dance community but also outside of work. Often during Ramadan we meet up or he comes to my house for if’tar (a meal to break the fasting). Something I greatly appreciate as I don’t always have someone to eat with. I know he feels the same as the majority of his family still remain in Syria. Though I insist that I have cooked, he comes with bags of delicious food, which he has carried for over an hour on public transport to my home. His generosity is something that never ceases to amaze me. He is such a giving person and all with the expectation of nothing in return.
On countless occasions he has helped me in times of need and is more than happy to drum for me whenever I need him. And it isn’t just for me, Sallam is a very well know and much loved drummer in both the professional and hobby dance scene in London. He has drummed in hundreds of Arabic restaurants across the capital; works with professional dancers; regularly drums for performers at belly dance haflas (such as Arabic Night) is part of big student showcases and co-teaches at countless drum and dance workshops.

If you have danced in London you are sure to know Sallam!

He is more involved with the dance community than I am – actually more than any dancer I know. I ask him just how many dancers he knows in London, â€œOh more than one thousand, many, many dancers.” and I know he’s not exaggerating!
Photo: The Melissa Belly Dance end of term show "The Coronation of Cleopatra"
In my eyes he’s a fantastic asset to the bellydance community. To have a professional Arab musician (Sallam plays many instruments other than the tabla/darbuka) who is more than happy to work so closely with so many dancers, at all levels is a blessing. He hates me saying this and insists it is nothing. He hates the spot light! I know and appreciate just how lucky we are to have him do this feature in Zameena as he has been asked many times to do interviews and refused. “I am doing this only because you are a good friend Zara, Really.” He is definitely not in search of fame. When I ask him why he does so much for the dance community, his reply is more than poetic:
“Darbuka has been with me long enough now to be considered as an inseparable part of my existence.
My soul sings through it and synchronises with my heart beats. It is a part of who I am and where I come from.” 
Having worked with him on many occasions I know what he is saying is true. He’s always excited and passionate to perform. I personally find it so lovely and heart-warming that no matter how often we have worked together he is still full of anticipation whenever we get to do a show. And whenever we meet up he always reminisces with me of all the past shows we have done togrther, and recalls them with so much detail that I am shocked. It is obvious that every individual performance he does is a joy to him.

“The skin on the darbuka has a mysterious effect on my hands which ripples through my inner being. It is basically my tongue and through that I express to the world who I am.“ 

I start to understand why he can come across sometimes as shy, reserved and quiet.
“I love to work with dancers! They personify the music, melodies and the rhythms used in Arabic music, and in the best way possible they show the beauty and colours of the Arabic culture.”

When I come to take a few photos of him for the article, he hurries to his bags, along side all the food, he has brought his tabla/darbuka and his signature trade mark, a velvet jacket in a suit bag.

“This is new, Zara. I am wearing it for the first time today for this interview.”

I laugh, and ask him just how many jackets he has,

 â€œOh, I have over 20 jackets, but only 8 velvet jackets!”

I continue to laugh thinking ONLY!?
Sallam takes great pride in his work. It is something I highly respect about him. I have asked him as well as the interview, to do a short video explaining the basic Arabic rhythms for dancers. He is very particular about where we do it insisting that the light has to be right and the acoustics. I didn’t expect he would take my request so seriously.  I tell him it’s obvious he love his work and he tells me:

“Every journey starts with a dream, although this was a dream, the realisation of it depended on years of hard work, perseverance and self motivation all cemented with love and passion for art and people.”

“In short it is all about doing the best you can everyday and I mean everyday and in every situation so to stay on track towards what you want.”

I am taken aback by what he says. They are words I feel we can all learn from as artists. I never thought this interview would result in me learning so much. 

“Sometimes, people on facebook when they see me with all these dancers, they write to me telling me I have the dream job and how can they get this job. I tell them this isn’t a job you just apply for?!?”

I can't help but to smile again as I find all his knowledge and anecdotes so entertaining.
Zara Dance  - bellydancer at Arabic Night
Zara Dance performing with Sallam at Arabic Night a regular hafla in London!
He reveals to me that he holds the dance community close to his heart as it  was actually there where he first found work after his arrival in London. He tells me of how he was looking for work and came across an advert for bellydance classes and called the teacher to see if she needed a drummer. It was from there that he started and went on to build up the contacts to work in the restaurants and clubs of London, which is the basis of his career. I understand better why, till this day, he remains such an involved member of the dance community.
“The bellydance community is full of life, love and passion. It has got a great and beautiful feminine energy full of colours and stories. I love the fact that here in the UK bellydance has its rightful place as an art form. I love that people not only look to this beautiful dance for fitness and joy but also as a way of expressing themselves. The art of expression within the dance touches each and everyone’s heart in this community. I fulfil my love for this dance by offering my drumming to anyone who wants to express themselves through this magical dance.”

And, touching the heart is what Sallam's magical playing does to me!  


The main rhythms for bellydancers - Sallam's video
As we finish the video and Sallam is happy with it I ask for his advice, having drummed for hundreds of dancers not just in the UK but across the world, for dancing to a drum solo:

“Communication between the drummer and dancer is not only essential, but also the core of improvisation art work.
I usually interpret her movements into the drum patterns and follow.
I need some response from the dancer through her movements.
Therefore listening to each other musically and visually is essential. Synchronising the body movements with tempo and choice of movements are other points I would like to mention.”

And with that the time has flown by and it is time for us to break our fast. As I lay the food out on the table and we sit down to eat, more than ever I appreciate just how lovely Sallam is!
Thank you Sallam!

Where to meet Zara's Zouk/ Zara Dance every weekend this July 

Reading - July 9th:
Our fab souk with lots of tribal and bellydance goodies are excited to be attending The 2016 Summer Spectacular on June 9th at Reading University! The three Bellydance schools uniting to create the Summer Spectacular Student Show in alphabetical order are:
Al Warner's Jawahir Bellydance in Bracknell
Rachel Bennett School of Bellydance in Windsor, Maidenhead and Wokingham
Santa Maria Bellydance Academy in Reading and Thatcham

Kidlington/Oxford July 16th 
Zara Dance will be teaching two unmissible workshops: Bellydance Empowerement and Choreograph Like a Pro! She will also be dancing in the Unmissable Cashba Cafe Hafla show in the evening. The Zara's Zouk stall will be open all day so please come and have a rummage!

Secret Garden Party (Huntingdon) 22nd -23rd July
Zara will be performing alongside Sabrynah and Tara at this massive summer festival. Secret Garden Party  It is an event not to be missed!

Cardigan, Wales 30-31st July
Zara will be performing and teaching at the Cardigan Bellydance Festival in Wales. So sign up for her renowned Bellydance Empowerment workshop and also come and check out the Zara's Zouk stall and all the goodies!
We hope you enjoyed this newsletter, Thanks again to Sallam!
Zara is currently in Cairo sourcing stock for the shop so next month we should have lots and lots of new goodies for you! 

Until then here is Zara and friend..

Wishing you sizzling July full of shimmies, a dom tak-a-tak 
and happy dancing
Yours Zara and Sandra xx
PS. Please share the bellydance love: 
Copyright © 2016 Zara's Zouk, All rights reserved.

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