Old Dabke Music vs. New Dabke Music – Who wins?

Today I thought I would share some of my favorite Dabke songs and explain why I like them.  I had no idea what “type” of Dabke music I liked until more recently where I realized there was some consistency to all the songs I played most.  When you look at my list, it doesn’t take long to realize that the majority of them are old.  When I came to this realization I began to compare old vs. new and wondered what it was that was pulling me towards the oldies and classic Dabke vs. the new Dabke music.

Singing throughout

This is the first thing I noticed almost immediately.  The old Dabke songs had famous singers.  They were very good at singing throughout the entire song.  Poetry, love, war, pride, culture all are there and you’re basically listening to a story.  When compared to more modern Dabke, there seems to be a lot less singing these days.  A few lines and then the instruments take over.  You can almost call Dabke songs today “instrumental” versions.  Eleven minutes of Dabke and about 1-2 minutes of singing.

That voice you don’t forget

Many of the older songs are sung by people we would consider “superstars” in today’s terms.  They typically had voices which people described in Arabic as “Jabali” or mountainous.  Meaning they had very strong sounding voices that would make you proud of anything they were thinking about.  Weather they were singing about your country, your culture, or the love of your life, it was something you would sing with lots of passion.  This is certainly something missing in today’s’ music.

Lack of Aggression yet Powerful

The old songs didn’t sound too aggressive but they certainly sounded very “manly”.  They made you feel like the hero saving the damsel in distress, the person ready to protect your country or your people, or the person full of cultural manners acting in sincerity and niceness while welcoming your neighbours and friends.  New Dabke songs tend to be very rough, rugged and aggressive.  Here is a funny way to describe it, old Dabke songs are like Olympic Fencing.  They are very elegant yet timed and powerful.  New Dabke is like a street fight, raunchy and rugged but leaves you full of endorphins and energy.


There seems to be a lot of culture in the old Dabke songs.  Especially about the beauty, attractiveness and delicate nature of the Arab Females from the different countries / towns, the heroism and manliness of the males, the beauty of the towns themselves and the overall tradition of good manners in the Arab culture.  The one thing that’s amazing about this portion is that it brings people together no matter what religion they are simply based on the area they come from.


This one has an unfair advantage for the old Dabke and for people my age and older.  Let me explain why;  I was an 80’s kid born in the Middle East.  The best way to describe my family’s roots is the old nation of Syria (Lebanon, Palestine and Modern Syria) with a dab of Turkey.  I grew up visiting places like Jordan, Lebanon and Syria yearly for months at a time.  Living in the west now, my memories of “home” are closely linked with the things I saw and heard around me.  That included a lot of the Music that was around during the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s.  For people like me, the old Dabke songs are forever etched in our memories with reminders of great times as children or young people hearing them playing on our parents tv’s and radios.  Maybe you were the parent and they remind you of your youth and your young family.  It could be that you’re quite old and they remind you of a better time.  For me, old Dabke songs have another unfair advantage; my father had a great voice and I was lucky enough to grow up hearing him sing some of these classics of culture.  The new songs don’t have a chance here.


Now please don’t get me wrong.  This post is not intended to bash or take away anything from new Dabke songs.  They have their own amazing features and I will eventually put a post together about my favorite new Dabke songs.

New songs are geared towards doing some awesome Dabke routines.  They’re very aggressive, fast, powerful and to the point.  It’s like they figured out how to filter everything out and only leave Dabke in the song.  You can put together some amazing Dabke routines with these news songs.  They are quite “sharp”.  This is certainly something you can’t take away from the music and I look forward to seeing how the ever-changing Dabke music and moves continue to morph.  I’m just glad I caught on early enough to be part of the movement if you will.

Lastly, as a student, I’m sure my taste and the way I listen to Dabke will change.  There might be things that I’m not hearing or appreciating yet in the New and Old songs that I have yet to  learn about.  That’s something that I also look forward to.

So, without any further delay, here is the list of my current favorites:

Wadih El Safi – Amer Ya’malem Le’mar

عمر يا معلم لعمار – وديع الصافي

Tony Hanna – Yaba Yaba Lah

طوني حنا – يابا يابا له

At 0:56 seconds into this Tony Hanna Song the energy explodes…what a great feeling.  You also get to see some old Dabke in this video as bonus.

Nasri Shamsedine – Ya Tharif Al-Tool

يا ظريف الطول – نصري شمس الديـن

Nasri Shamseddine – Haddouni Haddouni

نصري شمس الدين – هدوني

Sabah – Ahla Bhatali Ahla

اهلا بهلطله اهلا – صباح

Fairuz – Ala Dalona

على دلعونا – دبكات فيروز

I like the entire song and you cant have a Dabke list without a version of Dalona.  Skip to 2:18 for the Dabke portion of the song.

Nasri Shamseddine – La La Lah La LA

نصري شمس الدين – لا لا له لا لا

Wadih El Safi – Bel Saha

وديع الصافي – بالساحه

Sabah – Anada Nada Nada

صباح ـ عالندا الندا الندا

I hope you enjoyed the music and the post.  I had a great time putting it together and listening to the music.  Now how am I going to sleep with so much Dabke playing in my head.

Dabke “student”


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