Updated: Aug 22
For generations, zaffa and dabke (also known as, dabka) groups have been a part of Middle Eastern wedding traditions and special occasions. There are differences between zaffa and dabke groups. There are traditional versus contemporary, local versus traveling groups, etc. Some groups offer additional features such as providing DJ services and lighting. To help you find a zaffa group for your next event, see our list of zaffa companies in the YallaBoston.com directory.
What is a Zaffa?
A Zaffa (aka Zaffe) is a traditional Middle Eastern wedding procession or march that dates back thousands of years.
Each Middle Eastern country has their own style of zaffa. The most common styles are the Lebanese, Palestinian, Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian zaffa.
What is a Zaffa Group?
A zaffa group is made up of professional dabke dancers, drummers and belly dancers. The dabke dancers typically lead the grand procession for the bride and groom onto the dance floor and it's quite the entrance! There's a lot of choreographed dances that take place circling around the newlyweds while guests enjoy the entertainment while partaking in the celebration!
What is a Dabke Dance?
The dabke is a native Levantine (ie: countries such as Lebanon, Syria, etc.) circular folk dance that means "stamping of the feet." It is a very popular dance at weddings and other large family celebrations. There are a variety of dabke styles from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and even multiple styles within each country. For example, when in Lebanon, depending what region you are in or based on the song that is being played, a southern or northern style dabke is performed. In Jordan, there are at least 19 variations of the dabke dance!
Are you interested in learning how to dabke? We recommend an online training guide from Samir - founder and president of Al-Awda Dabke Group.
Stamping of the feet?
According to one folk tradition, the dance originated in the Levant where houses were built from stone with a roof made of wood, straw and dirt. The dirt roof had to be compacted which required stomping the dirt hard in a uniform way to compact it evenly. This event of cooperation is called ta'awon and from here comes the word awneh, meaning "help." This developed into the song Ala Dalouna (Arabic: على دلعونا), roughly translated, "let's go and help". The dabke and the rhythmic songs go together in an attempt to keep the work fun and the workers energetic. [Wikipedia]
In a traditional dabke dance, there is always a leader at the head of the circle. The circle line generally forms from right to left where guests hold hands forming what is called a dabke chain. The dabke leader sets the pace of the dance and is usually the most experienced - often times showing off his or her unique dabke moves while parading around the dance floor!
A dabke song can go on for a long time, and dabke songs are usually played consecutively. To add to the fun, some dancers will enter the center of the dabke circle to dance while everyone dabke dances around them. It is a wonderful experience, especially with family and friends during a special occasion!
If you do not know how to dabke and have never been to an event such as a Middle Eastern wedding or hafli (Middle Eastern party or celebration), but you are interested in learning the basics before attending, here is a beginner video that explains the steps. Although the debke can look intimidating (especially in the video above) - don't worry, most of the chain of dancers will be dancing at a slower and controlled pace so you'll be able to easily follow along. And there are almost always many dancers participating in the dabke for the first time!
Here's a tip: when the dance begins, and everyone hits the dance floor forming the circle - just break into the middle of the line, it's expected. If you decide to take arm of the leader, well, just get ready for a ride!
A Dabke Fun Fact
What is Zaffa Music?
Here's a sample of 13 popular zaffa dance music tracks. Zaffa and dabke style songs stem from traditional Middle Eastern folk music that include instruments such as:
Oud (string instrument)
Modern day songs like the samples above have more digitalized beats.
In both modern and traditional dabke songs vocalists sing songs that tell a story, like a ballad, where the song is based on the type of event taking place. For example, there are dabke songs focused on a bride or groom for the celebration of their marriage.
Who is Afrah Events US?
Afrah Events US has been performing traditional zaffa and dabke performances across the US for over 17 years!
"Our dabke group for wedding entrances, dances and entertainment has traveled far and wide to provide zaffa in USA. While we spend most of our weekends doing zaffa in NYC, NJ or PA, we can perform anywhere in the US. We have performed zaffe in Boston and Delaware too. Some of our dabke dances have taken us to Texas, Chicago and California as well. We use dabke drums, colorful zaffa clothing, classic swords and breath taking dances for your guests to enjoy." - Afrah Events US
Zaffa Dance Performances
Are you are thinking of planing a zaffa for your wedding? Take a look at a couple of Afrah Event US's Lebanese zaffa performances!
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I can't find a local zaffa group in my area? In most cases zaffa groups travel to your destination. Keep in mind that you may have to pay extra for long distance travel and overnight accommodations. Here is a list of zaffa companies in the YallaBoston.com directory.
What style of zaffa should I choose? It can be difficult to pick from all of the choices, but ask your zaffa group what kinds of styles they offer and what would be best suited for your event. They love to make recommendations!