It was a star-studded night at the 14st Playhouse yesterday evening. Dance troupes, show sponsors, long time supporters of the Raqs Arts and local business came out to enjoy what was absolutely one of the most soul-stirring Live Music shows we’ve had in at least a year.
Suhaila Salimpour and her band laid down the law last night with raw, passionate energy. This was the old school classic of a live band plus sole dancer. You don’t get that just anywhere. For the past decade we’ve seen this type of show turn into a festival of dancers with gala extravaganzas featuring 20+ artists (professional and amateur) performing to recorded music, some using the same music twice…but not last night. That BIG show we all long for was reigned in by the one and only Suhaila herself and that extraordinary band.
The evening began with a very generous note of praise and thank yous to the “elite of Atlanta” filled audience by Faaridah, one of the principal leaders of AFBD and member of raqs troupe Amoraat. A group from Wells Fargo was in the house as were major sponsors like MissBellydance.com. The theatre had few empty seats and you could have heard a pin drop at times as we sat mezmerized and curious as to what this improv solo show would entail next.
From start to finish the band held strong, playing classics we all know and love, mainly Egyptian and included two pieces of what has been termed “Electro-Chaabi” by some in the region. THAT was a treat…talk about bringing back the roots of raqs…wala, yani, that was it right there. Suhaila’s gait was one of ta’arab and powerful emotion that we all felt from our hearts to the soles of our feet. We swooned with her every move, just soaking up this opportunity to enjoy her and that fantastic band for 90 minutes non stop. There were no glitches, no music breakdowns, just full on raqs madness and middle eastern music at its finest. It was extremely hard to sit still, to not get up and go nuts, throwing roses or one’s jacket as has been seen in the past.
For me personally, I found myself closing my eyes and drifting off to days gone by, weddings, henna haflas, basement parties in our international community and even car rides where these classic hits played loud and clear on LBC or classic remastered cds that just came in from Egypt and Lebanon to our local neighbourhood store. Those were the days we danced and attempted to not think about looming wars, financial hardships of the youth and middle class or the ongoing fighting and conflicts in our home countries. Those were the times when we as various ethnic groups were attending University, getting along, dancing together after tea or coffee and mimicking the legends on TV in the parking lot or warehouse of baba and uncles store. They were some of the most joyous moments of our lives despite the hell that lingered in the air from political strife…so to have that scene repainted LIVE in a theatre just made me and many other international community members (most in the VIP section, cause you know we cherish this) extremely emotional…there were MANY tears that fell that evening.
She brought with her a beautiful scent of majestic revelry…it perfumed the air and enraptured us as she completed her intro veil work. Her costumes were a black, star-studded bedluh for the first half and then she returned later with an ivory bedluh complete with beaded arm cuff drapes and assuit design down the center, jewel studs across her hips. It was pretty hot…and she looked spectacular.
She included a lot of the moves we’ve seen on her over the years but in this case, her raw passion and raqs realness was just flowing like a river, nothing felt “staged” or “choreoraphed.” Suhaila was nonstop with lots of playful gestures to the band and a fun intimate drum solo where her body remained in contact with her tabla player.
Suhaila is overwhelmingly captivating, it was hard to not remain fixed on her while being serenaded by her band.
I was so happy to attend this show, it was a privilege and an honour. I was even more thrilled to hear her say she appreciated my interaction from the front row and that there was mutual admiration there. I told her about being 19 and watching videos…and now a decade + later I’m still enraptured…again, this was another full circle moment and thanks to Faaridah and friends for getting us great group shots on the red carpet. I cherish my first picture with Suhaila (thanks to Tezra) and now have another to add to the archive.
Bringing big artist like these is hard…there’s nothing easy about it. Finding the funds, paying the venue, risking bad weather that could keep people at home…I mean…you name it, IT’S HARD! But, the love of the art keeps us going…we push on, we sacrifice to unspeakable means to create historic moments like last night. Mabrook wa Shukran Faaridah and team! Big thanks to Suhaila and her band for coming, I pray we can do this again!