The old tradition of the henna night has been a growing trend in recent years, and brides-to-be are now just as busy planning their henna night as they are planning their weddings.
But why the sudden comeback? One lady can be held responsible for changing the cultural notion of the henna night with its old customs, and turning it into a full-fledged contemporary bachelorette bash for the bride-to-be and her friends.
Dalia Hassan, Egypt’s first professional female disc jockey, is spinning music for henna nights and setting a new trend for this traditional celebration.
“The idea came about because I love music, and I found that brides-to-be nowadays are keen on celebrating their henna nights, Hassan said. “My project was to [organize] the henna night in its entirety, not only be a DJ, but create a whole new and different henna night than the one everybody is accustomed to. what you can call. ‘henna casual’, she added.
The business administration graduate started out around four and a half years ago, before which she worked as an executive secretary at a home appliances company. After getting married, she left and later opened her own laundry service before going on to become a DJ.
Entering the market without any professional experience, Hassan had a lot to learn. “I started teaching myself how to mix songs. When I started I used to let songs play from beginning to end then play another song, but with practice I taught myself, she recalls with a laugh.
“I had to build a library of songs suitable for the occasion. For the henna night, people prefer Arabic songs more than English; so I focused on compiling all the Arabic songs that came out from 1950 until now, Hassan said.
Changing her career path wasn’t easy and took a lot of courage. “I wasn’t sure if I would succeed. The first party I did was ordinary and the reaction of the guests was average. However, the second party I did was a hit and I came back from this party and told my husband that I’m going to be the moda [or latest trend] in henna nights, said Hassan.
Little did she know that the latest fad would span the Arab world: Hassan now spins her music as far away as Yemen and Libya.
Away from ordinary
The henna night celebration originates from Upper Egypt and usually takes place a night or two before the wedding ceremony.
Instead of merely hosting a gathering for the bride’s female friends and relatives, where all get henna tattoos, Hassan’s parties are completely different with music, shows and wedding-themed games that have guests staying up to the early hours of the morning to enjoy.
“The night begins with the zaffa, the musical procession of bendir drums, bagpipes and horns with bridesmaids, explained Hassan. “Other segments include the bride performing for her guests by dressing up like a belly dancer. There are Spanish and Indian themed shows and a segment where the bride dresses up like a singer such as Shakira with the costume and accessories, and dances to her music, she adds.
There is also a karaoke segment where the bride, her mother and mother-in-law have to sing, ending it all with the more customary part where the bride does a little dance as she carries the henna tray with candles.
Hassan’s services also include professional female photographers and videographers to record the evening and waitresses to serve refreshments.
Egyptians know how to have a good party, and many say Egyptian girls are natural-born belly dancers. Still, there are some brides who don’t like to dance or be the center of attention – to these Hassan sends a dance instructor to show them some moves before the party.
It’s no surprise to see Hassan dj-ing at more than one henna night a week, still every party is unique.
“It’s all one community so it would be boring to do the same thing at each henna night and if I do that I would be out of business in a month. I’ve added new shows to make each henna night special, said Hassan, who depends solely on word-of-mouth advertising as she also prefers to cater to a certain clientele.
As business thrives, Hassan may find herself double-booked and so she has hired a team of three DJs, whom she has trained, to share some of the work.
“People have repeatedly told me to raise my fees but I don’t think so. I already can’t believe it when I get paid at the end of the night – that I had that much fun and I get paid for it, she said humbly.
To contact Dalia Hassan, call: 010 145 1456