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In Memoriam

May 16, 1940 – September 27, 2016

Meet Harry SaroyanHarry’s love, devotion and contributions to the Middle Eastern arts has made him one of the most influential men in the Belly Dance world. Recipient of numerous awards, including “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Double Crown Productions, “MECDA Hall of Fame,” and an Honored Professional in the “National Register’s Who’s Who,” and his most recent award from “The Chronicles Magazine,” Lifetime of Dedication, Achievement, and Contribution to the Art of the Middle Eastern Dance and Music.

A businessman for over 50 years, Harry was the designer and manufacturer of the largest selection of exquisitely designed finger cymbals, decorative coins and scimitars. A master craftsman and a recording artist, he brought the dancers the ultimate in sound, design and selection with his line of finger cymbals and memorable recordings. He held degrees in business administration, tool design engineering and metallurgy. A consummate of Middle Eastern fine arts and music, Harry produced and directed major Middle Eastern show productions from early ’70s to mid ’80s. He has served as a senior judge for dance competitions and occasionally a contributing writer for dance publications.

He will be deeply missed by his family, friends and the entire bellydance community.

Please share your thoughts about Harry

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38 entries.
Margaret Trousdale Margaret Trousdale from Anaheim, CA (formerly) wrote on August 3, 2017 at 11:22 am:
Harry was an exceptional man. He was above all, a gentleman. Very talented. He was an important member of the Middle Eastern Dance & Culture Association's community. I observed and appreciated that he was kind to greet and meet anyone who came to his booth or said hello to him. He could sing! Strangely he produced only one dance album, a classic even in the 1990's when I came into the scene. He had a sense of beauty, quality, and consistency. Perhaps he was a super achiever? In any case, he blessed us all with his talents. I'm glad to have known him.
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Rasa Vitalia Rasa Vitalia wrote on December 1, 2016 at 10:05 pm:
The joy and kindness and Harry smile will be missed. May he live on in the rhythm and our fingers and in our hearts forever.
Donna Kissling Donna Kissling from Banning wrote on October 11, 2016 at 6:20 am:
Harry I will miss you dearly. My prayers to you Betty and your family. Harry with his smiling face will be missed by many who loved him. I have a story about Harry. When I started belly dancing I bought my first pair of zills from Harry. I also bought my first record album. It was "Oriental Bouquet". I bought the album because of the mermaid on the cover. Who would have ever thought a belly dance album would have a mermaid on the cover. Years later my husband and I would visit Harry and Betty and on our first visit to their home -and there in his living room, was the beautiful mermaid! She was holding up a glass top as a coffee table! I laughed and hugged Harry as he so very proudly showed me his beautiful mermaid that he loved so dearly.
Sadia Sadia from Tokyo wrote on October 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm:
I want to correct one other thing that I wrote. I mistakenly wrote that the qanun player's name as Ibrahim. He is of course the one and only Ishmael, one of the greatest qanun players ever. I don't know why I did that. I only realised it today. I must be more upset than I thought. Not thinking straight. Anyway, Ishmael, I am sorry.
Sadia Sadia from Tokyo wrote on September 30, 2016 at 8:07 pm:
In my earlier post I inadvertently left out Dahlena as one of the star performers at the Celebration of Cabaret show. My apologies to Dahlena. I am still distraught.
Sadia Sadia from Tokyo wrote on September 30, 2016 at 4:07 pm:
Yesterday morning I read of Harry's passing on Facebook. Sobbing throughout the day, I began to wonder if I could perform my restaurant show. Harry, Betty, and I have been friends for almost 30 years, I think i have many great memories of them, especially show which Genie and I did a few years ago with Harry, John B., Souhail Kaspar, Ibrahim, Helena Vlahos, Lee Ali, Cory Zamora, Monica, and Layla. I have been dancing most of my life. I have gotten out of my sick beds to perform for someone 's birthday. I have shoved aside sadness, anger, and depression to help someone celebrate or simply to fulfill a commitment. I have never felt less like dancing than yesterday, but there it was. My restaurant show on Friday night. I messaged Nisreen, one of my students who had met Harry at the show I mentioned earlier asking her to come to the restaurant which she did. I was going to need some way of distracting myself before the show and I wanted the moral support during the show. I chose 3 songs with Harry singing, a drum solo, and two more songs and made my playlist. Listening at home I broke down during Mosafere Azizam. That would never do. But I knew that no matter what I had to dance, and I had to dance to Harry or it wouldn't be right. Costume and makeup ready, I stood before the photo I have of Harry and the mosaic plate he had given me the last time I visited him and Betty in December, and I said softly, "Harry, I'll do my best." Last night I understood the incredible power of music to transform, and for 26 minutes there was joy and celebration in the midst of utter sadness. It was a profound experience. As I moved, when the music was powerful, I thrust my hips with an almost angry energy, and as I played my favorite set of cymbals, another gift from Harry, I played with ecstasy as everyone in the restaurant responded with delight. So much happiness poured out of me as the audience laughed and clapped and smiled. They were a dream audience of mostly Japanese women. Later I told Nisreen they must be Harry's Angels. And yes, tears came rolling down my cheeks during Mosafere Azizam and Wahashtini, but I just let them fall. Afterwards I did something I have never done. I asked the audience to take a photo with me. Most of them complied. I just told them that tonight was a special night and that they had made me very happy. The owner of the restaurant stood on a chair to try to get us all in the picture. Several of them also took their own photos of the group. From somewhere inside me, through the music I gave them happiness, and rightl back at me, they gave me more. This morning I am sobbing again as I write these words but the difference is the emotion, though sad, has not the grief of despair. Something wonderful happened last night which testifies that the spirit lives on. God bless you, Harry Saroyan and the legacy you have given us.
Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance from Atlanta wrote on September 30, 2016 at 2:55 pm:
Sincerest condolences to the family of a master craftsman who touched soo many dancers' lives. One of the very first cymbals we've ever owned and some of us still have to this day. Thank you for your incredible contribution to this art form. Rest in peace.
del bartlett del bartlett from dallas, texas wrote on September 30, 2016 at 1:43 pm:
A gentleman. the brother I never had, just talked to Harry a couple of weeks ago (thank God) He will be missed. Betty, our prayers for you, God will guide you through this journey. Del and Isis
Kristina Kristina from Leitchfield wrote on September 30, 2016 at 1:38 pm:
My internet has been down for 2 days and I just found out about Mr. Saroyan's passing. The weird thing is, I dreamt last night that I was explaining finger cymbals to someone who knew nothing of belly dance and was trying to teach a high school music class to play zills. They were using the cheap ones you find at instrument shops. I was telling them that pretty much the supreme authority on zills where Saroyan and offered to show and play them mine. Rest in peace Master Crafter.
Robert Judge Robert Judge from Yorba Linda, CA. wrote on September 30, 2016 at 1:32 pm:
I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the Saroyan family. I was introduced to Harry as part of a business relationship as a supplier. Over the many years of this relationship I got to know Harry as a person and had the honor of learning about many parts of his life's story. I never knew him to be anything but honorable and gracious. He was from a mold that that one does not find often used. I for one will miss him. Godspeed Harry.
Nancy Hebert Nancy Hebert from New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada wrote on September 30, 2016 at 1:05 pm:
I was introduced to his wonderful cymbals by my teacher, Angelina Thorne of Scarlet Lux - at the time, if you lived in Canada you had to phone an order rather than go through the website. I phoned after business hours expecting to get an answering service and was startled when a soft voice answered "Harry Saroyan speaking.." . We chatted for about 20 minutes; and he phoned me 2 days later to confirm a detail about my order, and we chatted a bit more. A few weeks later he answered again and took my order of a special set for my teacher; he asked me how I felt about what I was learning: he was so happy that there were people like me being taught about Middle Eastern Dance, its music and Harry Saroyan finger cymbals- and loving it. We talked for over 40 minutes about dancing and singing, and doing what you loved, which he admitted sometimes meant long hours at work. When the cymbals arrived there was a handwritten note: " May you and your teacher always enjoy dancing to the music - Harry Saroyan". I feel like I have lost a dear friend
Heidi Baila Heidi Baila from Atlanta wrote on September 30, 2016 at 12:50 pm:
While I was never blessed with the opportunity to meet Mr Saroyan personally he's been a part of my life for a long time. For me the name Harry Saroyan is synonymous with finger cymbals something that brings me great joy in life. He inspired and nurtured an important element of the this wonderful art form and I'm forever grateful for his dedication to quality and service. Love and light to his family and friends.
Atlanta Belly Dance Atlanta Belly Dance from Atlanta, GA wrote on September 30, 2016 at 11:29 am:
Our condolences to the Saroyan family. Harry was a master of his trade and will be dearly missed. Thank you for creating the most beautiful zills that we treasure so much! Thank you for being a reliable business partner for so many years. Thank you for sharing your life with us! The Nazeem Allayl Studios dancers from Atlanta Belly Dance
Laure l D'Arrigo Laure l D'Arrigo from Morgan Hill wrote on September 30, 2016 at 11:25 am:
Oh no! My first sword was a Saroyan, and my favorite zills. The thing I liked best about Mr. Saroyan, though, was his rendition of the song "Cairo". Rest in peace. Love and light to your family.
Jaynellen & the Ladies of DanceCraft Jaynellen & the Ladies of DanceCraft from Brooksville, FL wrote on September 30, 2016 at 8:33 am:
Dearest Harry: You have left us all such an incredible part of who you were. Your legacy lives on for those of us who sing your song with the cymbals on our hands. We will always be dancing in your honor, so grateful for the opportunity to have met you whether it be in person or through our mutual love of this art. You gave so much to it in so many ways. Our lives are forever enriched. May all of the Gods and Goddesses, now angels, in our industry that have gone before you, keep and protect you in their loving arms! Rest in sweet peace, Harry Saroyan! Dearest Family and Close Friends: May the love of the Universe engulf you and keep you close to heart during this time of great transition. Know that you are loved by all whose lives were touched by his presence, vision and kindness. Our hearts go out to all of you.
Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman from San Francisco wrote on September 30, 2016 at 7:31 am:
My condolences to the Saroyan family. Harry was both a friend and a business associate. He was the definition of integrity. A true gentleman.
Monica Peccolo Monica Peccolo from Livorno, Italy wrote on September 30, 2016 at 6:31 am:
Grazie per averci fatto suonare con i suoi strumenti professionali ed esteticamente belli. Grazie per la passione e le competenze che ha messo nel suo lavoro in tutti questi anni, spero che la famiglia possa proseguire questa tradizione. Buon viaggio Mr. Saroyan
Lisa Smith Lisa Smith from Boston, Massachusetts, USA wrote on September 30, 2016 at 3:32 am:
The world was a more beautiful, musical place because Harry was in it. We were lucky to have you for awhile, Harry. Rest easy, and blessings to all who loved you.
Leyanna Nefes Leyanna Nefes from Phillipsburg wrote on September 30, 2016 at 1:59 am:
I am so sad to hear of the passing of such a wonderful man. The purchase of my first set of Saroyan Zills was like that of a child picking out a cherished toy. They are now the only Zills I use and recommend. You will be missed. Light and love.