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Welcome to October's Zameena!

(Zameenaby Zara's Zoukaims to share empowerment, knowledge and LOVE, of bellydance) 

It is our great delight to welcome a wonderful guest this month.
She is a warm hearted, extremely knowledgeable
North African Dancer:

  Welcome, Esraa Warda!! (see photo above)
What's a chikha you ask? Read Esraa's article to find out! 
Esraa talks about Moroccan Chaabi, and gives us lots of  information and much to think on. 
We also hear about how dancers are perceived in Moroccan society! 

Info Spot has a French Video Documentary featuring Zara who was interviewed and shadowed for it over a number of days. And the Music Corner also talks of a Zara Dance Project --- that we REALLY hope you'll like.....
Plus there's lots more not to miss so,
make sure you open the full e-zine,
sit back and enjoy! 

By Esraa Warda
Culture from the Maghreb (Arabized North African countries west of Egypt) is becoming increasingly popular in belly dance communities, particularly Moroccan Chaabi, the “popular” music of Morocco.

“Chikhat” performances also seem to be the trend, which are poorly executed and choreographed - often by white women or generally overzealous dancers - who are oblivious to how they are misrepresenting a dance tradition. 

Myself and many North African professional dancers have spoken out about what exactly the problem is with “chikhat” performances, yet it seems that it goes unnoticed and unheard. I’d like to use this opportunity to present a learning experience for those who’d like to explore Moroccan Chaabi dance ethically. Everyone can (and should!) dance Moroccan Chaabi, but NOT everyone is a chikha. 


Let's go through some basics before I talk about how chikhat performances I’ve seen are problematic:


Moroccan Chaabi, “Cha3bi Maghribi” or “Chaabi Marocain” is a popular music genre that is the people’s music (hence the word Chaabi coming from the word Chaab = people) that presents the spirit and voice of everyday working class/rural people and their common problems.

Known artists are (old school) Fatma Bent Hocine, Rouicha, Haja Hamdaouia, Khadia Bidaouia, Said El Khouribgi, Khadija Ouarzazia (whom I perform with), and (new school) Said Senhaji, Daoudi, Zina Daoudia etc… 

Chaabi is known for its polyrhythmic percussion with multiple bendirs (frame drums with snares) and a derbouka that altogether hold up to  3-5 different rhythms on 6/8 timing. Chaabi is famously known for the Kamanja (violin that is played vertically on the lap). This sets the melody and mood of dance, along with periods of “jarra”, instrumental breaks that “hype” the crowd. Chaabi can also have an oud, loutar, and guitar depending on the style.

Chaabi has different styles depending on the region, like Haouzi style (from Marrakech), Doukkali style (from El Jadida) or Bidaoui style (from Casablanca).
Chaabi thrives in informal social dancing spaces such as: Moussems (festivals of saints) weddings, hennas, ceremonies, social events (cabarets, etc).

Chaabi is danced socially



Often people confuse the word chikhat to represent a dance style. And that is incorrect. Moroccan Chaabi is a genre and dance style.
Chikhat are Moroccan women who are traditional dancers and/or singers who perform Moroccan Chaabi. To be a chikha (singular of chikhat) requires years of earning respect from elders, studying heritage, music, and dance, and as a result becoming
your social occupation in traditional society. The occupation of Chikha is present across North Africa for different musical traditions (in Medahatte tradition in Algeria for example).

A chikha is a woman who is wise, respected,  artistically proficient, and is a tradition bearer in her community-- and that doesn’t come easy.

Chikhat can also be singers and the “MC’s”, but are more famously known as dancers. (FYI, I am using the word “performance” in this article to mean a public expression of dance, not necessarily a choreographed set.) As dancers, Chikhat perform informally without strict structure and choreography. At times there are as little as 1 and up to 10 in a performance.


There is a socio-economic context to who Chikhat are. Chikhat have been known to lead difficult lives, usually are thrown into becoming a dancer due to poverty, and obstacles to formal education (this is starting to change a bit over time, as some chikhats have more choices now, and choose to work as dancers) Sometimes women start young after a parent dies, or perhaps start after being widowed or divorced.

Chikhat are commonly known as “expatriated” women, women who live outside the margins of typical patriarchal norms of society because they dance in male-dominated public spaces and earn their own livings. In a traditional/religious/cultural/conversative context, dancing in public as a woman is stigmatized and deems one as “dishonorable” - therefore categorizing chikhat unsuitable to “live under the rule of a man” .
Often if a chikha gets married, they usually quit their profession. Being a chikha is not easy.  

They often face stigmatization by mainstream Moroccan society because of the sexist implications of being a dancer.
Some chikhat are also sex workers, because of the devaluation of this tradition which = lack of opportunity = less money.
The word “chikha” now in Moroccan society is synonomous with sex worker, which to me, isn’t an insult at all (sex work is real work!),
but the real insult lies in that being a public dancer automatically implies you are sexually available for men.

Chikhat are not victims (look up Kherboucha!). Rather they represent the resilience through the challenges and contradictions of conservative society.

They are ultimate intergenerational feminist warriors who learn from elder women how to sing and dance about sorrow, pain, love, beauty, happiness, and express common human emotions, all while entertaining a crowd. They are powerful. Also, the way they dance is incredible and law defying of hip-physics!! 


What I find problematic, is the caricaturing of Chikhat by Western dancers through the ludicrous representations of them and how they dance. This is often done through bland, overly choreographed performances with incorrect traditional attire and cringy lack of timing/musiciality. At times, it's not even Chaabi music! 


Everyone is entitled to learn to dance. However, one is not entitled to inaccurately represent a dance tradition that is very specific in context - and play make-believe imitating another woman -- especially if you are white. It's the same old thing we keep seeing with folks who appropriate cultures (see; dreadlocks, hip hop;) without respect to the women and context in which they exist (see; black folks). North African and Arab women’s bodies are often worn as costumes and our cultures are exploited as cultural capital for dancers who want to get ahead.


Please discontinue using “chikhat” as a performance style, because it's not a style, it's a person. And you are not this person. Very simple.
Chikhat are chikhat because it’s their social occupation. They are not a performance piece or halloween costume. If you call yourself a chikha or your performance “chikhat”, you are directly contributing to and normalizing the collective ignorance and disrespect of a cultural tradition.

Aside from the removal of context from chikhat, these performances are not “on time”, and ignore the musical and rhythmic structure of the song. Dance movements are placed randomly and are  “belly-dance-ified (I made that up!), meaning chaabi is danced within the framework of belly dance movement vocabulary and not as a separate study.

Also, chikhats don't choreograph, so a choreographed “chikhat piece” is already out of context right out the jump. 
Feel free to do “Moroccan Chaabi” performances, which are fine. 


1: When you are unsure if you are engaging with a North African cultural tradition in an ethical manner, hire a North African cultural worker/dance professional to consult you. 


2: Learn how to dance Moroccan Chaabi socially FIRST before you perform. Learn musicality, learn rhythm, learn how to interact with the music in a way that makes sense. Have some Moroccan friends (but don't exotify them), go to Moroccan weddings, go to your local Arab cabaret and wait till the Moroccan Chaabi singer comes on. Go to Moroccan Chaabi workshops by native North Africans. Invest in us and learn from us. Do this for years. Before you create a performance piece that will be archived and documented on the internet and used as a public reference.  Everytime you post something incorrect, you add it as a resource for others who are learning as well. Don’t reproduce further ignorance. This is a cultural tradition that requires skill and proficiency, just like everything else.

3: Stop learning how to be a chikha from YouTube. And stop calling your performances “chikhat”. If you are ready to perform, present your performance as “Moroccan Chaabi”. 


Esraa Warda 

Moroccan Chaabi by Esraa Warda - Enjoy!

Enjoyed the article?
Here is a little bit more about Esraa Warda!

Esraa Warda is a North African dancer and teaching artist from Algeria. As an educator, she prioritizes the preservation and transmission of traditional North African movement knowledge amongst women.
As an artist, Esraa Warda is a rebellious spirit who challenges traditional norms and stigmas that limit women's public expression and movement. She is a driving force in bringing Moroccan/Algerian dance out of the margins and is influencing the global culture scene in recognizing North African dance as a distinguished artistic expression.
Esraa Warda has been featured on Al Jazeera Francais , NBC Asian America, Wada7, and Hespress - and has taught all over the world from the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago all the way to the National Algerian Centre and Kings College in London.
Esraa Warda collaborates with world music artists such as Bnat Houwariyat, Morocco's premier all women percussion ensemble based in Marrakech,  and has performed at places such as NYC'S Museum of Modern Art PS1, Cuba's Havana Habibi Festival, and Marrakech's Festival Ghiwane.
Connect with Esraa:  Website   FaceBook   YouTube

Don't miss the opportunity to learn with Esraa!

She's coming to London and lots of other places!

Check out the tour dates below:
New York Oct 12th

London Oct 19th-20th

Brussels Oct 24th

Oct 26-27th 

Paris Nov 10th

Grenoble Nov 16th

Havana Nov 21st-24th

San Francisco Dec 1st
A great big Zameena, THANK YOU ESRAA,
for taking the time to educate and guide us on how we can dance Moroccan Chaabi and respect the culture!
Your Body, Your Rules, 
Your Online Bellydance Shop
We're getting ready for Halloween! Oooooo
   Coin Belts down to £15.00 each this month!!!

October orders will get a surprise Halloween Treat too! Oooo...
Check Out The Belts Offer Here
Do you shop early for Christmas?   
I (Sandra) tend to leave things to the last minute. Then, can't find what I want and I miss the best bargains!
Don't be like me... ... ... 
Our Christmas Specials Page is Open
We will be adding specials through the months till Christmas

They offer such good value - our gift to you!

So Please Take a Peek: 
Christmas Shop
Shahrzad Update: 

Tickets have been selling FAST for the Shahrzad Intensive weekend in LONDON in April. There are only 8 FULL PASSES LEFT: don't miss out! They offer great value for money compared to buying the workshops individually. 

For single workshops, passes and performance/hafla tickets check out the Zara's Zouk website 

In the meantime enjoy this video of the star in action.....
Music Corner
by Zara Dance

In this month's Music Corner I am going to unapologetically self publicise.

I am happy to announce the release of my Magency!

I have been working on this piece of music for some time, and will be opening all my shows with it. 

A Magency is your opening dance. It’s a taste of what is to come in your show and a celebration of your personality and individuality as a dancer. Making this song and video clip has been a learning curve to say the least. I am especially happy withthe result as lots of people I was working with on it, thought I was CRAZY.

To hear more about the story of making this piece of music check out my article in the next
NADA magazine and for the even more crazy story of making the video clip - ask me about it when you next see me!

Thank you to EVERYONE involved in the making of this song and clip it was a crazy but fun journey!

Info Spot
by Zara Dance

Yes it is me again, self-promoting. Forgive me but it is worth it...…

If you follow me on my
FaceBook profile you may remember me mentioning having two French journalists following me and documenting my life as a belly dancer in Cairo?

Well, now they have put it together with other dancers' stories to make this documentary - a view point on what they found to be the life of those who dance in Cairo.

The documentary is in French but I speak in English. it is currently being translated into Spanish and hopefully it will draw enough interest to be translated into English too.

Check it out by clicking on the picture below:
Where to Meet Zara and/or Zara's Zouk Live!

Orientalske Danseforening 20 år - Magedansfestival! 
18-20th October 

Zara will be teaching 3 workshops and performing at 

Zamila's 20th anniversary Bellydance Festival!
Celebrating Dance Festival

25-27th October 

Zara will be teaching 3 workshops
and performing 

Zara's Zouk 
will be there too!

Can't wait for this really friendly festival and looking forward to seeing you there!

Haven't booked yet?
Click to Book Here
The Arab Quarterly
Monday 18th Nov

Live Arabic Music
and Dance Show

Headlined by
Tamar Bar-gil
Also starring 

Melanie Norman
Barbara Olyus

Frederique Assor Liscia

Many more and the fab
Arab Quarter Band!

Zara's Zouk
will be there!

Buy your ticket here!

Saturday, December 7th 1-5pm (Doors open 12.30pm)

Always Fun!
 Zara's Zouk
will be there! How about you?
3rd 4th 5th April 2020
Zara's Zouk

will be there - do come 
Workshops with: 
Dr Mo Gedawwi
Dalida Galy
Munique Neith
Ivana Cleopatra
Stacey McPartlin


Ola ... and ...  
Sara Sarinha!
Thank you for reading - Your support is much appreciated!

A big Zameena
THANK YOU to Esraa.

Till next month 
Best wishes
xx Zara and Sandra xx
Photo: Zara and Sandra (Zara's mum) taken on Sandra's recent visit to Cairo
 - Zara and Sandra, the team behind Zara's Zouk and Zameena -

PS. If you want to check out past editions of Zameena, click here.
Remember, you can share the love:
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