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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

A Review of

The Tribal Bible
(Collector's Edition, 1999)

by Kajira Djoumahna

 

This review refers to the original edition of this book, which was published in 1999. This version is no longer in print, so the only way to obtain a copy would be to buy one used. If you are indeed looking for information about the Collector's Edition before buying it used, then you may find this review helpful. However, if you are looking for information about the current edition of The Tribal Bible published in 2003, please read the separate review for that.

 

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Summary

The subtitle says it all: "What the Heck IS American Tribal Style Bellydance, Anyway?" This book seeks to provide a definition of the American Tribal style of belly dancing, and explain what differentiates it from other styles such as folkloric dance and the "nightclub" style most people think of when they hear the term "belly dancing".

Kajira, who performs primarily the Tribal style herself, interviewed many dancers, primarily (but not exclusively) fellow tribal practitioners to get their input, and assembled their comments along with her own insights into this manuscript.

Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

The Tribal Bible or "What the Heck IS American Tribal Style Bellydance, Anyway?"

Author

Kajira Djoumahna

ISBN

None

Publisher

Kajira Djoumahna

Category

Nonfiction: General Belly Dancing Information

Rating

StarStarStar

Number of Pages

58

Published In

1999

 

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Description

This book, published in 1999, sought to describe the properties of American Tribal Style belly dance. Its target audience included dancers in locales that lacked local teachers in this style, to help them understand how to capture the style for themselves, as well as for the larger belly dance community to help them understand what it was all about when seeing it performed at dance events. At the time it was published, American Tribal Style was undergoing its major growth curve, and the later style known as Tribal Fusion had not yet come into existence.

The project started as an article Kajira intended to submit to one of the belly dancing magazines. But by the time she completed her interviews, gathered the illustrations she wanted to use, and organized her thoughts, it had grown to 58 pages.

The Tribal Bible explores the origin of Tribal, costuming and makeup styles, musical choices, authenticity / legitimacy, group improvisation technique, performance ethics, and "that Tribal feeling". The narrative tone is that of trying to help someone who is new to this style understand what it's about and what makes it different from the traditional style of belly dancing that "the general public" is used to seeing in restaurants, nightclubs, and bellygrams.

Kajira defines American Tribal Style as a form that incorporates group improvisation and a certain posture — elements that were introduced into the Tribal style by Carolena Nericcio of FatChanceBellyDance. The Tribal Bible is effective at providing an introduction to this style. It offers useful background on where the style came from and what it means to the people who practice it, and it includes pointers to resources that will be useful to those who want to pursue this dance style further. For those who are intrigued by the group improvisation concept, it offers an interesting discussion of how that impacts the overall effect of the performance on the audience, why it attracts so many people, and how to do it.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You are a collector of anything related to belly dancing.
  • You have such a passion for American Tribal Style of belly dancing that you want to collect everything associated with it.

 

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You have no interest in American Tribal Style of belly dance.
  • You would prefer to read the second edition of the book which has been updated and greatly expanded.
  • You feel you already know everything you need to know about American Tribal Style.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • Kajira's writing style made this book very enjoyable to read. She adopts a conversational, informal tone which makes me feel as though I'm sipping tea with her and chatting about a topic of mutual interest.
  • The discussion in Chapter 9 on performance ethics is excellent. Too many belly dance teachers don't address this topic with their students. Much of what Kajira says on this subject applies to all styles of belly dancing, not just Tribal. She makes some excellent points, and I'm glad she had the courage to take on this important issue!
  • There are many illustrations in the book, featuring a variety of dancers who portray this style. Some of the photos are close-up shots of jewelry and costume accessory items. For anyone who is seeking ideas for Tribal makeup and costuming, these photos will be extremely valuable.
  • The section on costuming provides a great deal of information about ethnic jewelry that would helpful to Tribal and folkloric dancers alike.
  • Although the book is Kajira's own attempt to describe Tribal, it is not a podium for Kajira herself to pontificate. She includes quotes from a wide variety of members of the belly dance community, and features many photos of the people she interviewed.
  • The frequent use of direct quotes makes the finished document very powerful — it gives me the feeling that I'm hearing the voice of the Tribal community in general, not just that of one of its practitioners.
  • Kajira gives credit where credit is due to the many people who shared their insights and opinions with her, and never presents anyone else's knowledge as being her own. As a result, she comes across as a generous, sharing person who values and respects the contributions others have made to the dance community.
  • In the chapters regarding authenticity, tradition, and legitimacy, Kajira explores the issue of where / how Tribal fits into the world of Oriental dance. Some people in the dance community have attacked Tribal as not being "authentic", and Kajira provides an intelligent, articulate, well-reasoned response to those detractors.
  • The Resource Directory chapter provides pointers to a number of vendors, instructors, and publications for the benefit of readers who would like ideas on where to turn next in their exploration of the Tribal style.

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • Kajira should have spell-checked the manuscript before sending it to the printer. the frequency of misspellings and typographical errors is distracting.
  • In some places, such as the chapter about music, the information provided could have used more detail.
  • I'm not a big fan of spiral binding, because it makes the book difficult to identify when it's on my bookshelf.
  • The one-sided printing makes the book take up twice as much space on the shelf as necessary.

 

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Conclusion

This book provides a suitable starting point for learning about American Tribal Style. Those who are already immersed in the style will probably appreciate it as a collectible. Others may find that it helps them understand a bit about why this style inspires so much passion among those dancers who embrace it. Regardless of your own dance style, the sections on authenticity, tradition, legitimacy, and performance ethics offer some important food for thought.

Considering that this book is now out of print, I probably wouldn't recommend paying a high sum of money to acquire it unless you're fiercely passionate about collecting everything you can find on belly dance or specifically on tribal style.

 

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Disclosures

Kajira sent me a complimentary copy of this book to use for the review. Kajira and I originally met over the Internet around 1997, and over the years we have become friends. I respect her on many levels: as a dancer, an event sponsor, and a writer.

 

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