Show Musicians You Love Them: Fun Tips from Carmine Guida – 054


“Hafla Prince” Carmine Guida of NYC has played oud, cümbüs and percussion for thousands of delighted belly dancers. Hear Carmine’s tips for helping the band love to play for you and for making  it super fun.

Carmine Guida is a party-making machine, and he is also a very talented and versatile musician. He teaches percussion and plays melody instruments including jimbush (joombush or cümbüs) and oud. He created the recordings “Middle Eastern Rhythms for Practice” that is a great resource for dancers, as well as a list of hafla song notation that dancers can share with the musicians in our lives. You can get it all on 

Carmine’s awesomeness has been sprinkled throughout many episodes of A Little Lighter, including the episode #20 with Lady drummer Casey Bond, who loves drumming with Carmine and episode #26 with Johanna Zenobia, who loves dancing to Carmine’s music. Many of the time that I talk about dancing at Pennsic, Carmine was there with a flock of davul players around a raging fire. Other nights he played oud surrounded by dancers in Ottoman Turkish costumes  in the soft light of a hafla. And he even played live music for some classes I taught at Pennsic, which was precious. So now, I bring you directly to this musician adored by so much of the belly dance community in the US and abroad, Carmine Guida! 

Alicia: Your band Djinn hasn’t performed together for a few years now, but it was pure magic. One of the percussionists in that band, Brad Mack was in episode #42 featuring his lovely partner Kaeshi Chai. Hakan, a male dancer you know from Pennsic, featured the Djinn song “Burning of the Temple” in episode #24. That band created amazing dance and party music, and I miss that configuration with beat boxing and hurdy gurdy and violin with joom bush and percussion. What music projects are you excited about now? 

The drone of the hurdy gurdy with the pluckiness of the joom bush makes it perfect for fusion dancing.

I’m excited to work on new old songs.

The Turkish Cümbüs vs. the American Banjo

Alicia: If there was a battle between the American banjo and the cümbüs (pronounced joom-bush), who would win? 

The cümbüs sounds Eastern immediately. It is fretless, so you can play microtones on it. The strings are doubled and they are never perfectly in tune. It builds in a chorus, watery effect with a fuller sound. The cümbüs is cooler. The word cümbüs actually means fun. 

The banjo you can play faster on, and it’s easier to play chords. The banjo is sturdier and the neck is bigger and body is heavier, so it would survive a drop better.

Alicia: You organized Super Fun Dance camp for years at a campground just outside New York City, and that was a magical event with Jill Parker and fire dancing and live music late into the night. So many musicians and dancers love performing with you, Carmine.

Carmine’s Secrets to Making Events Super Fun

#1. Set it up so that the event organizers can enjoy their own event. Then everyone will have more fun. Choose a space that simplifies logistics.

#2. Set it up so that attendees share meals together. This increases the chance for organic friendships to form.

#3. Set it up so that attendees to not have to get rides between their accommodations and events. Super Fun Dance Camp was on a campground, so attendees could walk to everything.

#4. Make it possible for large groups and strangers to sleep in the same room. Super Fun Dance Camp had sharing cabins as an option. If you snore, you self report. Otherwise, it was a mix of dancers in each shared cabin. Being separate in hotel rooms also makes an event more fun.

#5. Invite fun people who like to do silly things. Choose fun teachers and musicians and fun attendees will follow.

Some of the Best Ways for Dancers to Acknowledge Musicians

Alicia: What is the best way for a dancer to acknowledge the band? What helps you feel appreciated? 

The dancer is a physical manifestation of the music. They are the sound of the oud.

The dancer is interpreting the music for the audience.

Making eye contact with the band is tremendous.

Spend a little time dancing next to the musicians at the beginning of the performance and connect. When there is an instrumental solo, the dancer can go near the soloist, helping the audience see what is happening.

Visit the band throughout the performance, pulling the show all together. Stop and dance by the band.

What Should All Belly Dancers Know About Music?

Alicia: On Spotify, search for Carmine Guida and you will find some great music for dancing as well as an album of rhythms for practice at different speeds. So helpful. For example, you can practice drumming Khaleegi rhythm with the recording starting slow at 90 beats per minute, and then speed up and drum with the next khaleegi track at 100 bpm, then 110, then 120. It’s so helpful. AND it’s helpful for dancers who just want to learn to identify rhythms and practice dancing to them too. What is one thing that you wish more belly dancers knew about music?

Know the names of at least some of the rhythms. Beledi, Saidi, Ayub…

The rhythms are the foundation.

Even if you have no idea what the melody will do, the rhythm is still there. It’s probably just one of ten rhythms.

It is helpful for the band to know you want to dance to a song that starts with Saidi, or that you don’t want to dance to a ayub.

If every dancer took just 2 drum classes and every drummer took just 2 dance classes, the world would be a better place.

If you are going to perform with a band, go see the band before your performance. At least watch them on Youtube.

What is the future of live music and belly dance?  

We need to make our own shows. The days of having belly dance to live music every night in New York City are over. The days of venue owners hiring a belly dancer and band for weekly gigs are over.

Once people see live Middle Eastern music, they love it. Live music fills restaurants. The hard part is getting people to come when they don’t know that they are going to love it.

What Shows That a Dancer is Confident Dancing to Live Music?

Alicia: What does a musician look for as a signal that they can really get into it? 

When the dancer says “Just play whatever you want” or “Play whatever you are in the mood to play, just nothing too slow.” If the musicians play whatever they are in the mood to play, it’s going to be really fun.

Sometimes dancers are nervous and they forget to say hi to the band. That’s fine. But when the dancer interacts with the band on stage you can see that they are comfortable.

No one show is going to make or break a person in their career. Mistakes are so small when compared to the hours and years of practice that came before it.

I don’t think belly dance and what we do is an exact art form. It’s very live. Things happen organically. Relaxing and enjoying is so important.


Who are some of your favorite dancers to play for and why? 

Kaeshi Chai

Jill Parker


Athena Najat of Greece

Ava Fleming

Layla Isis

Tava of NYC

Danceable Song: Brooklyn Baladi by Djinn

Damn Sexy Dance Move: Balance a Tray on Your Head

You don’t need to be John Compton dancing with tea for 4 on your head! Balancing all kinds of objects on your head can be fun. Grab a tray when you perform at a restaurant.

Vegan Whole Food Carmine Loves: Tomatoes

Costume Tip for Musicians: Wear all black

And keep a few safety pins with your gig bag so in case a dancer needs one.

Feel-good-look-good habit: Start Your Day with Music

It takes the harshness off of the morning. Play an instrument or listen to music before your day begins, and you will feel like you already did something enjoyable.