Tune of the Day: The Streets of Cairo
Yes, you know this one. This is the song that cartoons on television inevitably play every time they feature either a belly dancer or a snake charmer.
The piece originally was purportedly written by Sol Bloom, a showman (and later, a U.S. Congressman) who was the entertainment director of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It included an attraction called “A Street in Cairo” which featured snake charmers, camel rides and a belly dancer known as Little Egypt.
The first five notes of the song are similar to the beginning of a 1719 French song named “Colin prend sa hotte”, which in turn resembles note for note an Algerian or Arabic song titled “Kradoutja”. The piece was also used as a basis for several songs in the early 20th century: “Hoolah! Hoolah!”, “Dance of the Midway”, “Coochi-Coochi Polka”, “Danse Du Ventre”, “Kutchi Kutchi”. Even famous composer Irving Berlin reportedly used the popular melody in his song, “Harem Nights”.
Over the years, people have put a variety of their own comedic lyrics to this familiar song, like the famous “There's a place in France where the ladies wear no pants”. Some of these lyrics may have been inspired by the French music hall dancers of the time, who were known for the French Can-can.
It's also a nice tune to play on the piccolo.