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This week I  made a really cool playlist for you guys of the legend Sugar Mary Vartanian! Make sure you listen – it’s some classic stuff!

We are always so interested to hear stories of 8th avenue back in the day. 8th avenue between 23rd to 40th streets in NYC used to be the place to be. The avenue was lined with clubs that played Turkish, Armenian, Greek, and Jewish music. One of the stars of 8th ave was Sugar Mary Vartanian – or as she was known  – Seker (Shakar in Armenian) Mary. Seker is Turkish for Sugar.

Sugar Mary came from Istanbul. She played the mandolin in France and ended up as a cabaret singer in NYC. During the summer, she like many other Armenian musicians would perform in NY’s Catskills, in what was called the “Yogurt Belt”, because of all the Armenian resorts.  She was known for the sultry tone of her voice and her wooden spoons that she would clap in each hand.

Click below to see a video of her performing when she was in her 90’s!


So freakin’ cool !!! ^^^^^^




For this week’s belly beats playlist we’re shoutin’ out the musical genre and dance reggada (الركادة)

The roots of this music and dance originate with warriors. It’s a very old ancestral dance from the Rif mountain region of Northeastern Morocco. The people of the Rif mountains who were warriors were also called “aarfa” or “imedyazen”, and the dance reflects the nature of these brave people. They would bust out this dance as a sign of victory over their enemies. This is a Moroccan folk music/dance that has evolved tremendously and has been brought to a more public eye due to Moroccan diaspora in Europe. This genre is widely listened to and very popular in all of Morocco and France, not just limited to the Northeastern Rif region.

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Mona El Said was discovered at a popular disco called Triang A Go Go in Cairo. It was there that Leila Murad told her, “You should dance, because you should be an artist.” That was all Mona needed to hear. She began dancing professionally at 13. Due to her fathers great disapproval of her dancing, Mona left Egypt in 1970 and moved to Lebanon to be able to pursue her dream of becoming a famous dancer.  She fulfilled her dream dancing in Beirut at the best clubs.

Mona found her way back to Cairo in 1975 as a dance star. Her fame, talent, and originality got her gigs at the most upscale Cairo hotels. As mentioned on her website, Mona highly disapproves of counting music saying that it stops you from feeling the music. She “focuses on feeling and emotion, new, innovative movement and creates magic on the stage with her energy.” Mona also notes that is important to listen to the speed of the music and not speed up unless the music calls for it.

Mona’s command of the stage and her audience and her regal presence earned her the nick name of “ Princess of Raks Sharki,” from non other than Tahia Carioca. Egyptian newspapers and magazines nick named her “Sa’mraa El Nile” or “The Bronze of the Nile.”

Aside from dancing in clubs and hotels Mona starred in seven Egyptian films and was featured in many others.

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Assi Al Helani is a popular Lebanese singer who has been big in the Middle East since the 90’s. What’s cool about him (aside from his great music), are his humanitarian efforts. Helani regularly participates in fundraising concerts for causes like global hunger and poverty. Very cool, Assi, very cool 🙂

Enjoy! This week’s bellybeatz playlist: عاصي الحلاني




*Post originally written by Gazelle.