Raq Star Interview with Jensuya

I dance because I must move; and dancing is not just moving to the music, it is becoming the music; and music is an expression of life; and so I really live when I dance...it's tarab... plus, I still get to play dress-up!"


Where were you born? 

Los Angeles, California.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Gutsy, efficient, unwavering.

What is your favorite song, movie, book, dessert?

Song:  Alf Leyla Wa Leyla

Movie:  A Room with a View

Book:  Nectar through a Sieve

Dessert:  Tiramisu

What's your favorite iPod app?


How long have you been playing music?

I played recorder in 5th grade, then stopped in 7th when a school-wide hearing diagnostic test "revealed" that I had no musical talent.

What is your first inspiring dance experience?

Watching my mom perform as the lead in her college modern dance recital when I was 6…then learning "the Bump" when I was 11 on a tiny little island off the coast of Venezuela.

What was your most embarrassing moment in performance?

When we were playing a gig with a lot of performers and there was no "stage manager" and the next performer came out on stage right in the middle of my dance and "upstaged" me.

Who are your 3 favorite performing artists?

Ansuya, David Byrne, Johnny Depp

What inspires you to dance/play music?

To play music…when I'm tired of communicating through talking.  To dance…any music played with feeling.

Why do you dance to Middle Eastern music?

You don't choose your music…there simply is music that resonates with you.










About Jensuya & Bob

After swapping engineering and graphic design careers in Washington, D.C., to spend nearly half a decade traveling the world by bicycle, Jensuya and Bob settled in what they affectionately call the "Middle Eastern Panhandle" of West Virginia.  Inspired by the local arts community and their worldwide travels, they pursue their love of the Near Eastern music and dance in Berkeley Springs, in spite of residing half a world away from the roots of the art.
    Bob and Jensuya first felt the sparks of interest in Middle Eastern music in Tunisia in 1994 during their 4-year global bicycle tour. While being hosted by a village family, Jensuya was adorned in traditional costume, then she and Bob were paraded by the family through the neighborhood.  They paused in front of a music shop, mesmerized by the mysterious sounds of Tunisian singer Amina blaring from the speakers.
    The intricacies of the melodies and the complexities of the rhythms lingered with Bob, who since childhood had wanted to be a drummer.  "I was in 3rd grade, and we had to pick an instrument to learn.  They didn't have drums, so at my dad's suggestion, I took up the trumpet."
    Bob went on to become a whiz kid on the horn, and turned semi-pro by the age of 16.  But adventuring and his budding career in design, lured him away from the nightlife of a musician, and it wasn't until 1998, that the musical spark was re-ignited.
    Recalling the rhythms of North Africa and Turkey on their world tour, and in particular, the ubiquitous drumming in Morocco, Bob got his hands on the goblet-shaped drum called the doumbek (tabla in Arabic, davul in Turkish).  By the time Bob and Jensuya's first son, oud player Dakota, was two, Bob had mastered the basic eastern rhythms.
    Shortly after bassist Lhasa's birth, Jensuya, took what would become a "life-altering" weekend workshop in belly dance.  "From the moment I first swirled the veil to that haunting melody, I knew this dance was my dance."  Jensuya pursued a self-guided study of belly dance (raqs sharqi in Arabic, oryantal in Turkish), music, languages, history and politics of the region with the same rigor she had applied to engineering…and to fulfilling the prophecy of her own neonatal pediatrician that she would become an athlete or a dancer.
   In 2004, Bob and Jensuya formed TarabRaqs with two other musicians whom Bob met at the renowned Arab Music Retreat led by master musician Simon Shaheen in Massachusetts.  In the decade of performances and multiple trips to the Middle East and North Africa since then, the group has evolved organically, and continues to push the genre's boundaries.