Who were the musicians of the time?

In order to understand the dance, a foundation needs to be built in the music, so it's useful to know who was playing the music that helped make the Banat Mazin and raqs shaabi from upper Egypt so popular in its heyday.

The first thing we need to know is that the raqsat el shabeya (ghawazee) of this region dance to either mizmar or rebaba ensembles primarily. A rebaba band will usually have 2-4 rebabas, tabla and maybe duff. A mizmar band will generally have 3 mizmars and a tabl baladi. Variations are always possible. When looking at albums of upper Egyptian folk music you may notice variations in spelling on the honorific title "Rais", meaning something akin to master of the craft. It is almost always used with the leader of any musical ensemble or other important player although it is not limited to musicians, even Yousef Mazin was called Rais Yousef though he did not play an instrument but was the manager of his daughters. It is a title spoken as well as written. It seems a large concentration of the mizmar players who worked during the height of the Banat Mazin were from Jarajos while rababa players were more likely from Qena and the surrounding area.


As with the female entertains of upper Egypt, many if not all of the popular mizmar and rababa musicians belong to some branch of Roman/Domari people. That might include Nawar, Bahlawan, Haleb or Shahyna among other unidentified groups. For social reasons including personal and familial safety, individuals may choose not to reveal their relation to any of these groups, which can make certain aspects of research more complicated, but is an important reminder than layers of truth and reality exist and should be respected nonetheless as information is collected and it comes time to consider what is permissible to publicize. This kind of unspoken common knowledge is a foundational element and common stumbling block of researching ghawazee and folklore in Egypt.

Musical Format - The Ashrah

Ashrah sing. Ashrat plur. (or other variations in spelling) literally means "10" but refers to a long suit of music which usually includes several changes in tempo and melody. There are several unnamed melodies which establish a base of the suit but may appear at different times in different orders according to the mood of the musicians, request of the dancer and desires of the audience. Most ashrat also include short melodic refrains or medleys from popular folk music. The band or dancer may choose to sing the accompanying couplet/s or let it remain instrumental. It is worth noting that the ashrah musical form is used in tahtib and horse dancing events in addition to professional shaabi dance shows at weddings and other family celebrations even in the present day, and of course as music for these family occasions even when a professional dancer isn't present.


As might be expected there are stylistic variances between groups and cities, which may play a role in how Khyria's dance appears to have changed over time, particularly regarding the confusion surrounding the term Nizzawi. Personal observation leads me to the suspect the accompanying music was played often by the Qanawi ensemble/s, but which does not seem to appear to the same degree or form in recordings by other ensembles. However, more research and sources are needed in order to confirm this.

The Musicians and Their Ensembles

Mizmar Ensembles Mohammed Abu Haragy from Jarajos/Garagos Ramadan from Jarajos/Garagos Aizab from Jarajos/Garagos Metqal Qanawi from Jarajos/Garagos Mohammed el Sayed el Bardisi from Balyana Ahmed Hadid from Qeft (now his son Ali Hadad) ?Gheir Qenawi from Qena? Khalaf Mazin from Luxor played with various ensembles


Rababa Ensembles Okasha from Luxor Shougi Qenawi from Qena (appeared in Ana el Doctor) Mohammed Murad Metjali from Luxor