Leila was one of the most popular working dancers in Cairo for over a decade!
While living in Egypt she performed for parties, dignitaries, and weddings in Egypt and throughout Europe and the Arabian Gulf. She also danced continuously for cruises, in the best hotels, and in televised concerts. Leila was also a well-known actress, model and recognizable personality throughout the Middle East – having been involved in hundreds of TV shows, music videos, commercials and films.
Since returning to America, Leila continues to teacher her exquisite dance style, drawing on years of cultural knowledge by immersion - as well as thousands of hours on stage in Egypt.
Leila has produced some of the best-loved dance CDs today (the only dancer to utilize a "live sound" in her productions). Her DVDs are the top selling belly dance DVDs on Amazon.
Leila was the founder of Camp Negum, a yearly live music dance festival in Egypt that focused on exposing dancers to the culture behind the dance. Her writings about dance and culture are utilized by scholars and dancers around the world.
Valerick Molinary is an award winning artist known for her unique and elegant style, which flows seamlessly while having that touch of sassiness resonant of her native Puerto Rico.
She has taught and performed at international festivals across four continents. For over 15 years Valerick has dedicated herself to the in-depth study of Arab dances and folklore, traveling to study at diverse Arab countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco. She has trained with recognized dance artists like Nourhan Sharif, Mohamed Kazafy, Raquia Hassan, Aida Nour, Pierre Haddad, Simon Sarkis, Ahmed Hussein and others. She has a BA in Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature, the influence of which can be seen in her creative and poetic approach to choreography, dance teaching and production.
Since 2015 she organizes the Lebanese Love Affair, an annual event in Miami dedicated to providing a platform for dancers to study directly from renowned and dedicated Arab dance artists, all in a big celebration of love for Raks Sharki and the countries that gave birth to it.
In 2021 Valerick won the Best Movie award in the Raqs Film Festval for her screendance work "Trapped" created with Tyler Mominey.
Debbie Smith is a dancer specializing in Egyptian style raqs sharqi with over 30 years of experience in this field as a performer, a writer and a teacher. Her approach is to look at and consider this dance within its cultural context, which includes not just dance knowledge and steps, but also music, language, and culture, as well as an awareness of history, politics and religion and how they affect society and culture. What enables her to do this is a combination of experience, study, and living and working in Egypt for extended periods over the last 15 years, as well as an abiding love and respect for all that is wonderful about Egyptian and Arab culture. As a performer, she is inspired stylistically by the great Egyptian dancers and guided by a very close relationship to the music and is a believer in “less is more” and in the power of subtlety. In addition to performance, she does workshops, classes and talks that allow her to share her dance and cultural knowledge from a nuanced and informed perspective. She has a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.
Debbie also has over two decades of professional experience in the United States and Egypt as an arts administrator, encompassing everything from program management and development to proposal writing and fundraising, to production and event management, and anything else that might be part of running an arts and culture organization. She now does this work on a freelance basis as an independent consultant and works with clients in the United States, Egypt, and Lebanon. The values that guide her work are providing access to arts and culture for all, bringing artists/organizations and resources together, and creating a space in the cultural landscape for a diversity of artistic “voices” and practices. She and her husband Yasser currently divide their time between Cairo, Egypt (population 20,000,000) and Bald Knob, Arkansas (pop. 2500), and so have the best of both worlds.
Find out more about Debbie at https://www.hattayabatta.com/
Bahaia of Austin, TX is a long time mover and shaker in the Texas belly dance community. She is the proud owner and principal teacher of the Austin Bellydance studio est. 2013, and a producer with over 40 events to her credit, including The Austin Belly Dance Convention, and Cabaret Dance Camp. Bahaia was a judge on the belly dance reality show, “Project Belly Dance” Season 2, and is a featured video artist on the Cheeky Girls label. Bahaia is the current president of The Austin Belly Dance Association
Bahaia performed for many years in the vibrant Arab restaurant and nightclub scene of Houston, TX where she worked with live bands, forging lasting friendships with many of the musicians. She went on to produce the album, "Ya Bahaia" with Samer Issa and the Am'waj Band, featuring vocalist Jabour Bakla. Bahaia has more recently collaborated with musicians Matias Hazrum, and Gaston Chaade of Argentina commissioning original music.
Bahaia is currently studying Somatic Movement Education at Austin Community College, for movement observation, notation, and therapeutic applications. She is also undertaking certification in dance notation through Language of the Dance, USA.
Michael Ibrahim is a dynamic conductor, and one of the newest most innovative artists to emerge onto the Arab music circuit. His teachers have included some of the leading artists in his field including, Simon Shaheen, Johnny Sarweh, Nadeem Dlaikan, Douglas Bianchi, Anthony Iannacconne, Dr. David Pierce, Robert Williams, and Victoria King; causing him to realize the value of a solid educational background. Having earned a bachelor degree in music from Eastern Michigan University, Michael went on to further his studies at Wayne State University; completing a Master of Music degree in conducting. The impact of Michael’s musical leadership is felt equally by audiences across the globe, and the musicians he collaborates with. Throughout his early career, Michael has performed in many concert halls and venues the world over; allowing him the unique opportunity to share the stage with some of the most influential figures in Western and Arab music. Michael’s diverse musical background and unique approach to composition and improvisation has also led him to be featured on a number of recordings and film scores.
As an artist, Michael has used his educational and professional experience to fuse Western and Arab music idioms in his performances. As an educator, Michael has taught privately and in the classroom; providing instrumental and ensemble instruction, as well as lectures and demonstrations on Arab music both at the university and grade school levels. His extensive experience as a performer and educator has led Michael to found all three ensembles of the Michigan Arab Orchestra (now the National Arab Orchestra). A Metro-Detroit native, Michael was born into a Syrian immigrant family of humble origins. He began his musical studies on the ‘Ud, later studying the Bassoon and Nay as his musical training progressed.
This will be Michael’s first time in San Antonio. He will be accompanying the other musicians on nay.
Georges Lammam, of Palestinian descent, born in Beirut, Lebanon is a solo violinist exemplifying the Arabic style of instrumental improvisation.
Mr. Lammam has toured the world as a featured artist. Most recently, he toured in Bolivia with renowned artists, Eddie and Gabriel Navia and joined other stellar performers in an event hosted by Joined Hands (USA NP) and organized by Marcus Lovett, in the refugee camp in Chalkida, Greece. This event was to support refugee families and humanitarians who are receiving thousands of people from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
His compositions and performance excerpts are included in scores for two award-winning documentaries: “Occupation 101” and “Tea on the Axis of Evil”, and he recorded a well-known folkloric debke in a 2016 feature film, “Wrestling Jerusalem” by Aaron Davidman.
Naser Musa is recognized by critics of middle eastern music as a talented singer, a gifted songwriter, an Oud virtuoso, an award winning composer, and a versatile studio musician. Naser Musa has composed, arranged, and recorded numerous projects in the Middle East and in the United States. His recording, among others, include "Arabia 3D" sound track: winner of the GSCA award for best score and best sound track of 2010, "Khaliji" (RT Productions): a collection of folk songs from the Arabian Gulf region, and "Christmas and Beyond "(SahaRaneen Productions): a collection of Western Christmas carols and Arabic church hymns. Naser Musa’s name appears on dozens of albums, including contributions on projects for Hollywood with John Debney and John Cameron among others.
He has recorded with pop stars Shakira, Beyonce and Michael Sembello. Naser Musa has shared the stage with Lebanese vocalists, Sabah and Ragheb Alame, and Egyptian vocalists, Hani Shaker and Hakim. Naser’s Oud was heard on the soundtrack of the film "The Passion of the Christ" by director Mel Gibson. An active and sought after performer, Naser has performed at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Hollywood Bowl, the United Nations and Chicago’s Symphony Hall. He toured the United States, South America and the Middle East, and he regularly performs with prominent ethnomusicologists Dr. A. J. Racy of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Dr. Scott Marcus of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Mr. Musa was featured as a soloist with the Cairo Orchestra during its 2005 U.S. tour with Grammy award winners Youssou N’Dour, of Senegal and Egyptian producer and arranger Fathy Salama.
For the past 5 years Naser has been touring worldwide with highly acclaimed Persian band Niyaz and world renowned singer Azam Ali. The Washington Post described his compositions as “stirring”; the Beirut Times described him as one of the most versatile vocalists and Oud masters of the Middle East; and the Al Qabas newspaper of Kuwait described him as a talented songwriter with a soothing voice that touches the heart.
A Jordanian of Palestinian decent, Naser Musa started playing Oud, a Middle Eastern lute, and studying Arabic music, at an early age while living in Amman, Jordan. He moved to the United States in 1982 and continued his studies of music at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA. His artistic versatility and sense of musical adventure have enabled him to experiment with the blending of different musical elements and artistic styles. Throughout his career, his objective has been to combine Arabic maqams: melodic structures or series of phrases based on Arabic scales, with Western elements in order to present a style of Arabic music that is understood and appreciated by the Western listener. Naser Musa is in great demand as an Oud and vocal instructor, giving lectures at colleges and universities and organizing workshops. He has been on the faculty at the Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp in Mendocino, California since 1999 and at the Heartland Seminar of Arabic Music in Racine, Milwaukee since 2004. He also represented the Arab world in the World Culture Open in 2004, in New York, NY.
Naser continues his work as a peace activist by performing and promoting concerts and presentations with artists from all over the world, He performed his award winning song Salam at the United Nations ‘60th year celebration in 2004.
Master Percussionist: Susu Pampanin is a world-renowned percussionist specializing in Egyptian Classical and Middle-Eastern styles. She recently took part in a music project with Reda Henkesh of the world-famed Henkesh family - artists from Mohamed Ali Street. The culmination of the project is a double album CD “Reda Henkesh Live with Susu Pampanin.”
Susu has cultivated a proficiency and interest in many other genres and styles of world percussion as well. Susu is internationally known for her virtuosity in Arabic drumming and is one of the few female Middle Eastern drummers highly respected by the Arabic professional music community. She plays several other instruments as well, including the oud and nay.
Susu is a member of Aswan Ensemble, Aswan Women's Ensemble, the Georges Lammam Ensemble and is a founding member of Pasha Band and Caravan Band.
Isaac Lopez is a talented guitarist, bassist, and vocalist who has mastery of a wide range of musical styles.
Isaac is a veteran of the cruise ship industry. He was hired to organize and perform in a jazz quartet for Celebrity, Norwegian, and Holland America cruise lines upon his 2013 graduation from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.
Having grown up in the Highland Park area of northeast Los Angeles, Isaac is heavily influenced by funk, blues, and rock music. He began dabbling with instruments as a child and first picked up a guitar at the age of 12.
Although originally from California, Isaac - post-pandemic - has made his home in San Antonio, TX. Sought after by several local and South Texas bands, Isaac stays busy as a freelance musician and private lesson guitar instructor. Since the summer of 2021, he has been the irreplaceable improvisation-training-guru for Karavan Studio and its Project Band Curriculum.
Amina has been a cornerstone of Arabic dance and music in the Bay Area for over 50 years as a dancer, teacher, musician and producer. She began her performance career in the mid-60's at the Bagdad Cabaret, dancing nightly in San Francisco's North Beach district during that city's golden era of Middle Eastern dance and until the Arabic clubs closed in that area. She founded her dance company the Aswan Dancers in 1975, which celebrated over 45 years of continuous performance and entertainment at parties, festivals, weddings, and educational venues. Over the years she has produced numerous full-length evenings of music and dance at ODC Theater, San Francisco State University, Noe Valley Ministry, Dance Mission Theater, and other theatrical venues.
Amina teaches almost daily live and online classes at her studio, in addition to private classes and workshops. Her dance passions are teaching to the music and lyrics and staying culturally correct. She spends many hours daily listening to and analyzing Middle Eastern music and trends and loves to study how it is forever changing. Amina's almost daily classes have a "club-like" atmosphere where students learn all aspects of performing, music and Egyptian culture. In 1991, she created the Giza Club, a cultural organization dedicated to promoting understanding of the music and dance of the Arab world, through cultural lectures, panel discussions, movie screenings and performances, as well as sponsoring visiting dancers and musicians in workshops. Among other honors, Amina was inducted into AAMED’s Middle Eastern Dance Hall of Fame in New York in 1994, and she has served as a judge, panelist and committee member numerous times in the Bay Area and nationally.
As a life-long student and performer of Arabic music, Amina has played percussion on the
nightclub and theater stage with most of San Francisco’s best-known Arabic musicians and singers.
Among the music groups she has founded over the years are the Cairo Cats, the Arabian Knights, Caravan Band, Layalli al-Sharq band, and Pasha Band. She was a founding member of Aswat, the Bay Area’s only Arabic choir, in 1999 and continues to perform with them. She has been a regular member of the Georges Lammam Ensemble for 15 years. She also produces music, recording in Egypt and the US, with a new project always in the works. Find her online at www.aswandancers.org.