Arabic Rhythm in Belly Dance

sacred dance SaraArabic Rhythm “Ayub”

The spirituality of Ayub stems from these hypnotic, pounding dums. Ayub is most often associated with the trance dances of the dervishes. The dervishes whirled themselves into a religious ecstasy, and it’s easy to see how useful the Ayub rhythm can be for that. The energy of the pounding dums driving the dervish on, the hypnotic pattern inducing the trance. If any rhythm is designed for whirling dervishes, then Ayub is it.
While the Ayub is used in Turkey to drive dervishes into a higher spiritual plane, the identical Zar rhythm is used in Egypt and Northern Africa to drive away evil spirits. The Zar can be played as part of the sacrificial ritual which purifies an area of evil spirits, or it can also be played as an exorcism of an individual person. Usually played more slowly than the Ayub version, Hossam Ramzy describes the Zar, as “very spooky”.

Both the musicality and spirituality of the Ayub/Zar are reflected in the movements today’s belly dancers use to interpret the rhythm. When played slowly, a common dance movement is to fling the head side to side – on a dancer with long hair, the effect is especially stunning. Some claim that this represents the fact that a spirit being exorcised by the Zar ritual clings on to the hair as a last resort and must be flung off before the possessed dancer is finally free. With a fast Ayub, dancers will often turn – whirling themselves around in the same frenetic pace (although usually with much more grace) than the dervishes of old.
Ultimately, Ayub and Zar show us the power of rhythm. A simple alternation of dums and taks can take a dervish closer to heaven or can drive an evil spirit away from earth. Harnessing this power into our drumming and dancing, we can take an audience to a higher level as well.

The Ayub rhythm, as we know also called the Zar, is the simplest and yet also the most spiritually powerful of all the Middle Eastern rhythms. The rhythm’s simplicity stems from its alternating dums (bass notes) and taks (high notes). No complex patterns here: Ayub is a single dum followed by a single tak, and then another d followed by another tak. Anything simpler could barely be called a rhythm!

In fact, Ayub is just a little bit trickier than a simple staccato of dum-tak-dum-tak. What makes Ayub distinctive is the tiny delay between that first dum and the next tak. So the rhythm comes out as dum…tak-dum tak, dum…tak-dum tak. It’s a tiny shift – just a single sixteenth note, musically speaking – but that slightly delayed tak is what makes Ayub a rhythm, and not just a monotonous dum and tak one after another.

As a two-beat rhythm, is shorter than the more common 4-beat rhythms like maqsoum or saidi and just a fraction of 8-beat rhythms like masmoudi or ciftitelli. Significantly, within the rhythm’s two counts are two loud and evenly spaced dums. These constant pounding dums are what give the Ayub its driving force. One after another, wave after wave, stroke after stroke, relentless, hypnotic, mesmerizing.

This article appears on Global Sheikh magazine.

I became very interested about this rhythm because of its deep sound and because of its effect on the dancer. I love it!!!