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OF EMPERORS, AIR SHIPS AND TIC TOC
„Steampunk“

by Anna Maria Cancelli

graphics and layout: Konstanze Winkler
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Steampunk has a distinct sound.  Abney Park (www.abneypark.com) , a Seattle based quintet influenced by World music, industrial dance music, Tom Waits, and the orchestrations of Danny Elfman, is credited as being America’s seminal Steampunk band.  Abney Park, who get their name from London’s Abney Park Cemetery, have put out numerous records and perform live in a variety of venues from Dragon-cons to arts and lifestyles festivals. These “scoundrelous musicians” play “anachronistically hybridized instruments,” and their “Steampunk musical mayhem” appeals to belly dancers as well as those into cosplay[1].


[1] Role-playing. Video games, comic books, and graphic novels have spawned a subculture who takes on the appearances and personas of characters in these mediums.

Although Maduro (www.myspace.com/maduro) isn’t known as a Steampunk recording artists, his album Fin de Siècle has been deemed Steampunk by public perception. It wasn’t Maduro’s intent to create Fin de Siècle as a Steampunk album, but he sees how it can be equated with that style since the phrase means “end of the century” in French, and as he explains, “was an artistic and cultural period of degeneration and specific themes of the decay, the carnivalesque, new psychology and technology.” 
Maduro noticed that over the past few years belly dancers had been choosing music reminiscent of “side show themes and the mechanical,” so he decided to sample technology from bygone days to create the vintage sounds in Fin de Siècle.In this day and age of computer created art, it is remarkable that Maduro did not computer generate these sounds but used actual recordings of phonographic Edison cylinders of the late 19th and early 20th century. Maduro wanted to create a vintage sound but didn’t want to replicate the sound with live instrumentation, so he used authentic turn of the century materials and recordings, which deliver the distinctive scratchy quality. He also used march sounds, contemporary samples of sounds from the subways of France, and samples of broken organ grinders to create what he deems the “dark world carnival progressions” that fusion belly dancers love to kinesthetically interpret.
"Abney Park" with "Airship Pirates" (YouTube Video)
Other musical artists who deliver Steampunk style sound include Beats Antique, Pentaphobe, Beat Circus, Johnny Hollow, Attrition, Rasputina, Jill Tracy, The Dresden Dolls, and Mr. Bungle, just to name a few. For those not willing to commit to one artist, several compilation albums exist such as An Age Remembered - A Steampunk / Neo-Victorian Old World Mix and A Dark Cabaret. Tempest recommends tuning in to The Davenport Sisters’ weekly podcast "Music o' Gears" at www.clockworkcabaret.com for a wide array of anachronistic music from blues to gypsy punk to dark cabaret to classical.
© Octofoil Records (www.octofoil-records.com)
Beats Antique "Beauty Beats" (YouTube Video)
Tempest dances to Jill Tracy's "Evil Night Together" (YouTube)
Pentaphobe "Kitten Pig", vintage cut (YouTube Video)
The Dresden Dolls "Coin-Operated Boy" (YouTube Video)
Is Steampunk here to stay, or merely a fad?  Di’Ahna believes “it has the potential to go either way.”  She feels “if the concentration is only on aesthetics and gimmicks it can be something shallow and uninspired,” but believes that “there are a number of dancers working hard to really flesh out Steampunk as a sub-genre” of belly dance. 
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Anna Maria Cancelli is a college English and literature instructor in Coastal North Carolina. She is one half of the belly dance performance duo Tara Sophia
Anna Maria may be contacted at

http://www.myspace.com/tarasophiabellydance

Anna Maria Cancellis homepage

http://www.playwithdangeroustoys.blogspot.com/

e-mail:

<annamariarocks@gmail.com>

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This article was first published under the title: „Steampunk“
in the US-magazin „Zaghareet“, Issue March April,
Elizabeth City, North Carolina, 2010 –
www.zaghareet.com

Anna Maria Cancelli (©)
Tempest expects that when it comes to Steampunk and belly dance, those who take the time to understand it and fuse it into their dance will be exploring it for quite awhile. 

Cybelle, Director of Savannah’s ever-evolving World Fusion belly dance troupe Eclypse, believes “some aspects of Steampunk will survive the test of time,” and she is looking forward to exploring it further and adding its elements to the troupe’s eclectic style.  She is intrigued by Steampunk’s retro-futuristic designs and is interested in integrating its “Mad Max” look and story-telling component into Eclypse’s performances. Cybelle “can't imagine a more flexible form of dance as is fusion belly dance,” and warns, “whether it is a fad or a hanger-on, sit back with your Absinthe and enjoy the ride!” (www.cybelle3.com)
Cybelle, leader of World Fusion Tribes "Eclypse"
Photo © Charles Snyder