From the Belly of The Beauty and the Beast:
A Special Report on Heavy Metal and Bellydancing
by Special Guest Writer Bassem N. Hafez
Rock & Heavy Metal have expressed themselves persistently as expressions of art with rebel message. Starting with the revolutionary beats, riffs, lyrics, and even haircuts, makeup, uniforms and paraphernalia, rock/metal musicians and fans have challenged the mainstream on many fronts. The need for that challenge might have been arguably among the paramount reasons for the persistence of this music genre. Among other reasons for survival is its continuous evolution and self re-invention to challenge the MAN. Jack black has highlighted that theme and struggle against the establishment in his movie “School of Rock”
Sticking it to the Man:
A recent interesting form of development/evolution in the metal scene is the introduction of new forms of art that associates with the revolutionary message, offering it a new driving force through new forms of artistic expression, new controversy, and eventually opening up to new cultures and fans.
Sam-Dun’s documentary “Heavy Metal Around the World” was seen as a development that broke the idea of West-centrism of Rock and metal music. Our beloved music genre, and its endless sub-genres, have classically been perceived and documented as American and European. But in the 1990s we started to appreciate Sepultura and similar bands in Latin America. Sam Dun introduced us to a booming scene in Japan, China, India, Indonesia and the Middle East. Earlier, we were introduced to a booming underground metal scene in Iraq through the documentary “Heavy Metal in Baghdad”. A two decades ago, the Egyptian state cracked down on what we realized to be a then prosperous metal scene in what was known in the media as the “Satanists Case.” However, the critique against Sam Dunn revolved around the orientalist perspective of an existing metal scene that have been developing since the end of the 1980s.
This Orientalist perspective doesn’t identify the new way of thinking and practice about metal in different countries. It is not only about the music, and their homegrown arts that are deeply rooted in a colourful history and culture have amalgamated with the imported metal music to form exotic forms of metal to be studied later on. It is not only about topics that reflect local issues and struggles, and not only lyrics that is performed in local languages, but also homegrown artistic and cultural elements that promise to enrich the metal experience.
No doubt the exposure to different cultures (including music instruments) has been among the reasons of Sepultura’s success and Sam Dunn’s novelty. It is not a secret that Sam Dunn is originally an anthropologist and his work originally intended to focus on humans and their cultures.
Roots Bloody Roots – Sepultura:
This feature will focus on a new element introduced to the the metal scene that is as novel, rebellious, controversial, and powerful form of artistic expression. Heavy metal belly dancers are rockers who challenge the mainstream of artistic expression, and thus expand the domain of expression. Their fans are increasing, their art is gaining ground, and most importantly they are transcending the existing cultural and structural differences between art forms. Our pioneers here are two western artists with oriental origins who combine the two worlds or belly dancing and heavy metal together into an exotic amalgam.
Earlier combination like these existed, and added to the metal world something memorable. Though his art contributed a lot to metal, but his Afghani origins did transcend Haggard’s Asis Nasseri’s German nationality to offer something about Afghani history, culture or sounds. However, it was an interesting interview by Sam Dunn that revealed the origins of Dio’s Devil Horns in his Italian grandmother’s “Maloik” to push away evil eyes.
Sam Dunn – Dio on the Devil Horns “Maloik”:
Back to the highlight of this feature, Foroogh Karnadani, aka Mahafsoun, is a Vancouver-based belly dancing artist with Persian origins “and a drop of Azerbaijani and Egyptian blood” who is an old metal fan. She has Facebook and Youtube pages that have attracted thousands of fans from around the globe. She posts and produces belly-dancing videos of her performing on metal bands like Moonspell, Lacuna Coil, Orphaned Land and Epica.
Mahafsoon Studio Belly dancing – Orphaned Land’s Birth of the Three:
She succeeded with her exotic performances, combined with signature costumes, makeup and tattoos, to earn a special appreciation that fans are interested in here photo sessions, semi-gothic fashion, and fairy-tale like decoration and setup that has an oriental spirit. This has gained her acclaim manifested in partnerships with photographers, tattoo and makeup artists and also bands like Epica and Moonspell to take her studio performances on stage during metal performances, which offered the attending audience a value-added fusion that added to the excitement. Though her favourite genre is symphonic metal and favourite band is Nightwish, she hasn’t yet given her metal fans the joy of attending or downloading a joint production with the great Norwegian band.
While one might not automatically associate Canada with belly dancing there is another Canadian connection. Villainizer is a Canadian thrash metal band which might be unique on the Canadian scene to incorporate belly-dancing in their repertoire. A belly dancer or two appear on the music videos and live shows of the thrash metal band which is dedicated to resisting ISIS and Islamic extremism in their own way. As Amon Amarth has branded itself as Viking metal band, and Swashbuckle as pirate metal, Villainizer decided to reserve the unique nascent place of terrorist metal.
Villainizer- Terrorist Metal (Official video)
Their music is advanced, no doubt. Also they incorporate costumes beyond belly dancing. The vocalist puts on the Saudi Thobe, Ghutra and Iqal .. and also puts on a fake beard. During the shows he throws fake models of bombs on the audience, which he calls them infidels and together with the belly dancers they give the feel of what the media portrays of a medieval, angry and offensive terrorist middle easterner. The entourage is definitely appealing, but the critique here is about selling an image that is not accurate despite the fact that it sells. I mean that modern day terrorists mostly look like modern westerners who don’t look like what the mainstream media and Villainizer portray. But who said that an artistic expression should be politically correct? Besides Villainizer was founded by a very intelligent and charismatic frontman, Rav, (whose own heritage is Lebanese) who is acutely aware that he is perpetuating a western stereotype of ‘terrorists’ for comedic affect, shock value and satire.
Live May 31 2014 wé Belly dancers. Terror Abraxas and The Magic Lamp.
What concerns us here in this feature, relating to belly dancing as a progressive artistic evolution of metal, opens a set of questions. The controversy might arise from the aforementioned acts by front women like Kardansany and Bastet who perform with beauty and elegance in their artistic minds. But again, why assume that this itself is not subject to evolution. In both cases, it is a legitimate marriage between evolving forms of controversial art, which should continue to evolve and be generate controversy as usual.
The less famous but booming metal belly-dancing artist is the Diana Bastet. Despite the fact that her current location, Kiev, does not give her the media exposure and market offered to Mahafsoun in North America, social media has offered her powerful outlet. Her edge lies also in her more dedication to the belly-dancing profession and its related outlets, such as teaching and spreading the knowledge as well as designing and selling paraphernalia.
Her interest in Metal opened the new horizon of artistic fusion, which gained her this expanding edge. She started recording and posting these videos fusing classic belly dancing with Metal music from Seputura, Therion, Arch Enemy, and Lamb of God.
Diana Bastet – Arch Enemy’s Enter the Machine:
She also participated in many activities transcending the expected rejection to the art she is promoting. For example, last Halloween she participated in a Rock and Horror party presenting a new form of art surely never experienced by the Ukrainian audience. It is easy to identify that Bastet is more aggressive dancer, technique wise, has high regard to headbanging during her dancing, and focuses on the technique. This was visible on her recent educational video in which she taught interested audience how to dance, step-by-step, on Metallica’s Master of Puppets.
Diana Bastet – Metallica’s Master of Puppets:
It is interesting to know that this specific video was used by Egyptian cyber activists to ridicule the Islamic State ISIS and what it stands for by dubbing their national anthem “Saleel Al-Sawarem” (Arabic for the Sounds of Fighting Swords) on her video. Something that instantly outraged her, but she definitely cooled down after getting the context. The new ridiculing video has gone viral and eventually offered her thousands of new fans.
Along the same lines of incorporating eastern influences into metal music, Khepri represents an experience not to ignore. The British-based musician and producer has been composing riffs that incorporated Middle Eastern notes, highlighting the use of the Darabuka, the Egyptian drums that go side by side with belly dancing. His influence has not been death or melodic metal, like the aforementioned bellydancers, but rather the 1990s metal inspired by bands like Alice in Chains. This adds a new flavor to the influence and adds a more progressive tone to the tunes. According to his web site, he had studied classical music and music theory. This tells a lot about his music influence very visible in what he presents incorporating metal music elements with Middle Eastern ones.
The above example does a great job in producing a progressive mix, introducing Arab and mainly Egyptian notes to the Western rocker, and also adding to the ever increasing Egyptian fusion that many local bands have been developing. [PS: An example of the Egyptian local bands who have been working on that were Nagham Masry which I had managed in 2006 & 2007:
However, despite the great job Khepri does, developing the tunes that provides a ground for bellydancing metal – which he claims to be the first to call Bellymetal, claiming a virgin ground like Amon Amarth – and despite his earlier collaboration with projects like Petra and Scarlet Storm, there is no documented collaboration with a famous belly dancer like Kardansany and Baster for example to dance on his special music. However, he definitely is laying the grounds for that progressive evolution.
There is some intellectual debate behind the issue of belly-dancing that relates to the orientalist look, the feminist look as well as the Marxist look. Feminists are divided over belly-dancing. On one extreme they see it as a liberating experience to women who identify with their bodies and gain control over them. On another extreme they see it as demeaning experience where women consolidate male dominance .. and with the introduction of the element of getting paid for belly-dancing, Marxists intervene to add the elements of oriental fantasies that lead to economic exploitation.
However, the grand picture of domination by the MAN, which Jack Black had referred to at the beginning, still persists with the record companies maintaining a strong grip on the industry and directing the currents and manipulating tastes. The stories of George Michael and Savatage still remind us of how the scene is controlled. But we would still tend to believe that this control is not as powerful as the big scene which keeps expanding with opening up and breaking the Euro-centric narrative that doesn’t evolve with the introduction of artistic elements like what Kardansani and Bastet offer. There is still room to stick it to the Man with their expanding space that resists the North American / Euro-centric narrative of Heavy Metal, ultra-conservative violent bodies like ISIS and mentalities like the official religious establishment that sees metal heads as evil satanists, and introducing new artistic and cultural elements to the metal scene. Nobody said that metal is taking over the world or liberating all the disfranchised or marginalized, but it is definitely a force of resistance that manifests human resistance and coming together.
Now available, the trailer for the new album by Antonello Giliberto “Journey Through My Memory“, which will be released this spring, and for sale on the website of the artist and in the main digital stores. With “Journey Through My Memory”, Antonello Giliberto releases a record full of addictive riffs, guitar solos rich in technique, melody and taste. Finally, the songs are enriched thanks to the brutal drumming by John Macaluso (Ark, Symphony X, James Labrie, TNT, Riot, Malmsteen), full of speed and groove, and to the bestial bass by Dino Fiorenza (Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Slash, Zakk Wylde).
Anthony Farrauto – Sony Music
Brian Lambert – Heavy Metal lunchbox – CJSR 88.5 FM
Lacey Paige – Absolute Underground
Ross Ferguson – Metal Nation Radio
Metal John – Mind Compression – CJSR 88.5 FM
Quebec City, Canada-based female-fronted power-prog metallers MERKABAH have released an official video for the track “Mythomania”. The song is the lead-of track from their third album ‘Ubiquity’, that was released worldwide in 2014 by Maple Metal Records. The album ‘Ubiquity’ was produced by Merkabah, and mixed by Pierre Rémillard (Anvil, Kataklysm, Voivod) at Wild Studio, north of Montreal.
The video “Mythomania” was filmed by Martin Huot (K-u3.0 Productions) and Ulric Low (Productions 1080), and edited by Merkabah guitarist Raynald Brochu. Keyboardist Mathieu Fiset also appears in the video performing his own parts.
Currently on a very successful road trip across North America with CONVERGE, PALLBEARER and label-mates VALLENFYRE as part of the “Decibel Magazine Tour” and promoting their At War With Reality album, Swedish melodic death metal pioneers AT THE GATES have announced a very special live stream of their upcoming show in Chicago on Monday, April 6th via Yahoo. More details here from an official press release:
AT THE GATES has teamed up with Live Nation and Yahoo to live-stream their April 6th concert live from Chicago, IL. This is one of 365 concerts to stream over a 12-month period on the Live Nation Channel on Yahoo Screen.
Munich, Germany, April 2nd 2015 — This week on “Ghosts of the Road”: Crowbar.
“Ghosts of the Road” is an intimate day-in-the-life-of portrait series, featuring some of today’s top rock and metal acts as they navigate a rigorous life on the road. Filmed entirely on one day during a band’s tour, these episodes capture the everyday goings-on of a modern rock tour from arrival until the band hits the stage. This fly-on-the-wall perspective aims to offer more to the fans than the traditional mic-in-the-face interview. “Ghosts of the Road” presents a personal portrait of todays top acts as they work hard to bring the rock to the masses. New episodes every Thursday. The series is presented by Guitar Magazine, Germany (http://www.guitar.de).
FreqsTV is an all new rock and metal documentary channel on YouTube. http://www.freqstv.com
Genre defining technical death metal giants, ORIGIN, will lay waste to North America once again this fall on an extensive co-headlining trek with the Brazilian death metal trio KRISIUN! The tour will also see AEON, ALTERBEAST, SOREPTION, and INGESTED as support, making this a must-see show for all death metal maniacs! See below for upcoming dates:
ORIGIN Join Forces with Brazil’s KRISIUN for the “Devastation on the Nation” Tour!
Underground Symphony is proud to announce the renewal of deal with the Symphonic Gothic metal band Eternal Silence for the release and distribution of the new album “Chasing Chimera”. After the success of debut “Raw Poetry”, the Italian band is back in the Old One Studios to record 10 new tracks, under the supervision of Giulio Capone and Alberto Cassina.
For the first time Eternal Silence have a guest: Daniele Scavoni from Spellblast who sing a special duet with Marika Vanni. “Chasing Chimera” will be available soon and will be released in a limited edition in digipak packaging.
The beautiful cover artwork was handled by Hans Trasid.
KIKO LOUREIRO of ANGRA officially joins MEGADETH. Photo courtesy of Megadeth.com.
Says ANGRA guitarist Rafael Bittencourt: “Oh boy! My spine is still giving me goosebumps!
“Kiko is in MEGADETH! Wow! What a feeling of pride!
“I have known Kiko for many years and he deserves this great opportunity more than anyone else.
“I usually say that we have a brotherhood’s relationship, so we always wish the best for each other.
“Kiko has been tracking a very serious and talented career.
“I take to say this is also an amazing achievement for Brazilian metal.
“The beginning of this new epic stage is something we all should celebrate. It will be great for ANGRA and for all Brazilian bands, since it draws attention and highlights the talent of Brazilian musicians in general.
“Regarding the works with ANGRA, I believe he will comply with all activities that he has already committed to and he will always be part of our family. He will definitively not be able to turn his back for something he helped build with so much effort. I’m sure we will still make a lot together, either in or out of ANGRA.