Monday, November 05, 2007
Beware the kutchy!
A student just came to my door asking if I knew the name or history of the music always associated with snake charming, especially in cartoons. I didn't, but a quick Google search turned up this web page full of historical information. (The page also automatically starts playing a MIDI version of the song, so beware.) The first five notes may be from an authentic Algerian/Arabian song called "Kradoutja" that was popular in France in the 1600s. This was then transmitted along as the beginning of an 1857 French song called "Echos du Temps Passé". In 1893 Sol Bloom, the entertainment director of the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, claims to have improvised the current version for a press briefing to introduce an exhibit at the Exposition called "A Street in Cairo." Perhaps he heard it from musicians imported for the Expo. He didn't copyright the music, so several other composers wrote their own versions, the surviving copyrighted version is "The Streets of Cairo" by James Thornton. The web page also includes various sightings of the melody, from cartoons to They Might Be Giants. The research and web page was done by Shira, a belly dancer in Iowa City. And, coincidentally enough, I and my kids saw belly dancers yesterday at Art Attack, the children's event of DePauw's Art Fest with a wide variety of activities and performances. I think belly dancers are out to conquer the world.