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The Zar -
Trance Music for Women

Zar CD coverThere are many reasons why women are attracted to the Zar in the Middle East. Lower class women who live in poverty are under a great deal of stress in their daily lives. Yet there are few if any outlets for them. Proper Islamic behavior dictates that women stay home and act with dignity. They should cook, clean and take care of their husbands and children. To go out dancing is not an option for them to blow off steam. Neither is seeing a psychiatrist if they feel depressed or suicidal. Mental illness as a curable disease is not accepted for the most part in rural areas. But the belief in spirits is wide spread in Egypt and Africa and dates back thousands of years. Even the Quran mentions The Jinn and other beings as God's creations, in addition to humans.

Through a belief in spirit possession, women forge a social network that acts as a safety net for them. Their undiagnosable physical ailments allow them to dance and occasionally smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. The ceremonies allow the adepts to forget their everyday lives and travel to the spirit world for a much needed break.

Zar music is raw and unpolished. It speaks of the desert and the region's long history. It is also disappearing, as Islamic fundamentalists crack down on what they believe to be animistic beliefs. That is why I wanted to preserve this music and present it to the world community - so that it is not lost or forgotten.

Album Description
For centuries women in Africa and the Middle East have used Zar music to cure pain in times of stress or illness. Followers of the Zar cult believe that sometimes their illnesses are caused by "red spirits" - the Zar - who use human bodies as hosts. These spirits attract attention to themselves by making their hosts sick. Only after acknowledging a spirit’s presence and meeting its demands can a woman hope to attain a symbiotic relationship with her possessor --- and she discovers its identity by dancing to this music until she collapses into a trance.

A quote from Lucy - the famous Egyptian belly dancer:

"I started dancing when I was 12 years old. Since I can remember, whenever I heard music my body would just start to move. I couldn’t control it. I used to love it when the old women got together for a Zar. A Zar was called when someone was possessed by evil spirits. If you were mad, or sad, or upset, that’s how you would get it out. As a young girl, when I went to the Zar, I was always very affected by it. I would get so exhausted that I would collapse and fall. I realized that the music took me over. The beat can get inside of you and make you crazy. The rhythm gets you. You know, like when you’re listening to Western rock music, you get hysterical. You have to get up and dance. You can’t stop moving."

For more about the zar click here. For a mini-documentary on YouTube click here.
To read an interview with the band leader and listen to clips from the album click here.
To hear samples of the tracks: click here.

The album features the famous group Awlad Abou al-Gheit, one of the few Abou al-Gheit Zar groups left in Egypt. It includes a 32 page color booklet about the history of the Zar, a description of the ceremony and translations to all the lyrics. There is also an extensive section about the Jinn - spirits made of fire and air by Allah and mentioned in the Quran.

To order from us: Francevision (volume discounts apply)
To download or order from: CD Baby Amazon


1. Abou Gandara clip
Spirit from the Mountain Spirit tribe

2. Saly ala Mohammad
Bless the Prophet

3. Arab al-Hinadwa
Arab spirit from the Indian (Hindy) Spirit tribe

4. Abou al-Gheit clip
Sheikh from the Qalyubia Spirit tribe

5. Al-Pashawat
The Pashas

6. Arab al-Arban ya Zein clip
Spirit from the Arab spirit tribe under Saint Sayed al-Bedawi

7. Ya Benat al-Handasa clip
Female engineers - spirit named Rouqash

8. Fi-Shamayil
Up North - spirit from the north

9. Saleela
Spirit named Bath Flower

10. Yousef Madala
Spirit named Yousef Madala

11. Ruma Nagdy
A spirit soldier