and Rating of
2002'S MIDDLE EASTERN DRUM CD/TAPES
This is a
review of eight of the most popular Middle Eastern Drum recordings
produced this year. The Middle Eastern drum (dumbek or tabla)
is the main focus of each album. Each recording has been rated
by using a comparison scale. I have used an evaluation scale
similar to that which is often used in movie, book, and record
reviews in mainstream publication. Each selection is reviewed
with the same components and standards.
review has been done with my utmost respect towards all
of the musicians and their collections of works that
have been evaluated here.
art, and dance comprise a spectrum that cannot be viewed under
a microscope and dissected. All entertainment is subjective,
and what one person might enjoy or even love about a piece
of music, a story line or a movie may not appeal to another
person in the same way.
I have not
attempted to grade or rank the recordings' worth or merit.
However, I have tried to produce a standardized format on which
to base comparisons of music that carry a common theme. The
Dumbek is the theme the recordings all have in common, and
all of these pieces are based entirely on drum and percussion
orchestration as their main focus.
recordings are those listed below. I have used as a scale rating
a system employing a 1 to 4 "zil" quality and accompanied
each with a review of the overall product. (ed- we replaced
Sierra's stars with zils for your graphical pleasure!)
formats used were these:
of sound mixing/engineering
and Distinction (among all instruments used in tandem for
each musical piece)
level of audience that would most benefit or appreciate the
pieces (i.e. dancer, student, troupes, professionals, drummers
(student or professional), and other musicians
Below average in quality and or recording . Pieces are poorly
presented and stylized. Not enough variation. Average level
of audience interest, but does not sustain throughout the whole
Average musical presentation. Standard rhythm forms are focused
upon and used. Level useful for students with which to learn. Useable
as class instructional music. Some variety.
High level of presentation. Excellent use of sound and mixing.
Clarity and consistency throughout recording. Original and passionate
use of pieces. Rhythm styles are varied and performed with a high
degree of variety and overlay. Useful to professionals for solo
or group music selections in public format. Individuals can feel
the interweaving of complexity and use of other percussion elements
woven in. High caliber level of drumming skills and technique.
Full Set! Masterful use of drum and personal stylizing of
drumming. Ability to
incorporate one rhythmic scale into many overlays and expressions.
Professional sound engineering and quality. Dramatic, use of
more then one or two percussive instruments. Original and artistic
in composition and depth. Soul stirring, imagery evoking, and
Stories": Performed by Armando El Mafufo
El Mafufo is an incredible entertainer and virtuoso of the
Middle Easter percussion. For over 25 yrs. Armando has played
with his partner, Sulyman, in the band called Sirocco. Dancers
from all of Northern California and throughout the Pacific
Northwest anticipate dancing to this energetic and earthy
style of music. Visions of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire
and ethnic/tribal dancing resonate with the dexterity of
recording uses compositions with combinations of darabuka,
def, riq, sagat, dohol, tabla beledi, nagara, metal sounds,
hand clapping, along with foot stomps and finger pops.
Stories" reflects the varied blend of dumbek playing
that has a more earthy and grounded sound particular
to the tribal genre.
hear the stylized Egyptian snapping accented style, but an
individualized form that includes well known rhythms.
This CD is
well formatted for using in class instruction for the steady
pattern of the rhythms he uses in his pieces. You get the solid
base of the count and rhythm. The music flows together well,
in a moderately paced, equal temperament which is beneficial
for any group choreography, but does not hold the challenging
format for a solo dancer.
I did not feel the high energy in this recording that one feels
when Armando is playing in person. The sound quality was average
with a bit of a hollow reverberation in the background. The
accompanying percussive instruments used did not vary from
the pattern being played by the dumbek, leaving a flat monotonous
tone. Though steady for counting beats and detecting patterns,
there was not a remarkable sense of distinction between the
as my favorite, the pieces:
#5 "Fusion": Wonderful variety of 6/8 rhythms, lively and exuberant. Excellent
for group choreography. #8 "Masmoudi": One of my favorite rhythms, underused
in dance music..a unique
blend of percussion sounds, blended with a jungle like-tribal fusion.
La Camisa": This piece is classic Armando Mafufo! Finally we get a taste of
Armando's playing and his incredible joy of drumming; life and the heart of
the artist comes alive.
Fingers /Middle Eastern Tabla" by Various Artists
first disappointment with this recording is that it does
not list the various percussion artists who are playing.
There are liner notes describing the Tabla, its origins,
etc. However, there is no mention of the type of rhythms
used, the specific areas that utilize particular rhythms
or any other pertinent information about the album itself.
The sound quality is good and clear, and the strong, heavily
accented Egyptian style tabla playing comes roaring out from
the very beginning. The editing is very good in this recording;
the drumming appears to have been played by one musician
alone throughout all of the pieces, but as you start to listen
more closely, you can begin to hear where loops from other
performers have been edited in.
is a very disappointing CD. 90% of the drumming is done
in a 4/4 pattern, or beledi rhythm. Though the artists
are strong and excellent in their playing techniques,
it comes across as a monotonous marathon of fast paced
executions on the dumbek.
want to use this as a practice to see which dancer can outlast
the other, it becomes so fast paced and jazzed up over the
rhythms, that it seems impossible to attempt to accomplish
any credible dancing or shimmy movements.
this is a strong example of Egyptian style cabaret playing
and would be good for drum students to have to hear the stylizing
and incredible overlays that are achieved. It contains every
typical drum shimmy solo pattern I have ever heard!
that I enjoyed more than the others was the 2nd piece, which
started out with what is commonly known as "The Wedding Beat".
This very stylized particular rhythm, which is usually used
in the entrance parades for a wedding party called a "Zeffa",
is not heard much in dance music or recordings. It's a heavily
accented rhythm, and in this presentation the drummer builds
it from its traditional stylizing into a modern interpretation.
this is a useful recording for drum students to hear and learn
the basic formula of "slap down, shimmy solos". I warn you,
if you play this fast and with no breaks in patterning, you
will make enemies of any dancers for whom you (as a drummer)
Journeys": Suhaila Salimpour Presents Ziad
believe that this is an exquisite CD. Ziad is a premier virtuoso
on the dumbek. He takes the level of drumming to a dance-inspiring,
provocative experience. The sound quality and professionalism
of this CD is first rate. The levels of musical instrumentation
and variety are excellently balanced and mixed.
improvisational inspirations are poetic tableaus, weaving
a myriad of story tapestries that engulf the listener,
whether dancer or non-dancer. The pieces presented tell
a story, weave a dream, and take you on a journey. You
cannot be anything less than captivated or inspired.
see drumming transcending the rhythmic steady beat of the music,
to become the music itself, the inspiration and muse for the
dancer's heart and spirit.
in the recording is unique and artistically arranged. It cannot
be copied as a shimmy drum solo pattern, or heard with the
intent of recreating. It is through these pieces that inspiration
from within a person is born, and they begin to have a relationship
with the many shining facets of the composition.
is well balanced musically. The dumbek is not left as a simple
accompanying percussion instrument as in other percussion renderings.
The difficulty in producing a recording that is primarily percussion-based
with no additional instrumentation, is that it can quickly
turn to a monotonous lassitude or a backup drone in musical
pieces. Ziad's format creates balance, harmony and change throughout
with layers upon layers in the compositions. His masterful
drumming technique takes nothing away from the ability to respond
carries the strong form of Egyptian stylizing. Each piece carries
its own uniqueness; at times it is mysterious and mesmerizing;
other times, it is wild, captivating, and engulfing. (I love
especially the intermingling of other elements of sound and
the spirit-wrenching mawaal.) This CD is an entertainer's delight.
only negative criticism is that the Suhaila and Ziad duet piece
continues too long past the time when it would have been best
to end it. It's still a beautiful piece, but because of its
length and repeating similarities in modality, it becomes the
weakest part of the whole recording. The cymbal solo is marvelous,
with incredible patterning, but becomes boring after awhile
with no accompaniment by other instrumentation.
With Samara" - Arabian Tabla Dances
With Samara" is another recording that does not list
the artists who are playing but generalizes them as the ever-popular "various
artists". There are no liner notes included, and no clarification
of what type of rhythms, styles are being presented. Detailed
descriptive notes are not necessary to make or break a recording,
but I find that if you isolate a presentation to a specific
instrument only, some detail should be included for those
who would like to know more about the rhythms, origins (if
it is region specific) or at least, a feeling that the total
product was produced with real people working together, instead
of looping pieces of music out of random sources to produce
another new CD.
is Cabaret Egyptian style drumming. It is extremely fast
paced; at times the main melody or count is floated over
so quickly, that it loses its impact.
definitely a pick for those who welcome marathon dancing! However,
it is not a production for dancers. It presents orchestrated
pieces with other musicians and instruments. The drummer plays
a heavy, sharp, drill-paced tempo. None of the pieces seem
to highlight a point in order to showcase the dancer. This
is not a CD for the amateur or non-professional dancer, and
I suspect that it would not appeal to the general public.
we hear the standard 5 major drum solo pieces that have been
played for over 20 yrs. If you are looking for something to
put into your musical routine, there is a large selection from
which to pick for solo shimmy pieces, but none have many accents
or breaks throughout the routine. On the positive side, you
would be prepared to dance to any Egyptian drummer's solo style
after practicing with this recording.
quality is basically one modality; it is loud and the bass
is one piece I enjoyed more than of all of them; it is song
#7: "Badawiyya's Teasing". The beginning is a strong 4/4 rhythm;
it is excellent and often used in Raks Al Assaya ( the Cane
Dance). It has a good heavy up-beat beledi rhythm with variety
and is a good arrangement.
Talk" by Reda Darwish
Darwish is one of our foremost, unsurpassed current musician/drummers.
He is well known for his incredible artistry with the dumbek.
Reda became a musician extraordinaire in his native Egypt, playing
for the best Egyptian dancers and musicians. It has become our
fortune to have Reda
Darwish as a permanent entertainer and import
store owner in the San Francisco Bay Area. With the formidability
of his playing skills and notoriety, one would think of Reda
as being someone inaccessible in person. This is far from the
reality. Reda is the most outgoing and giving person in this
often ego-driven field whom I have ever met. He is compassionate,
down to earth, gregarious, and funny. His passion is his music
and the drum. With his musical passion, he has played with many
bands, at festivals such as Rakkasah, simply for the enjoyment
of the music and the camaraderie. He is a dancer's drummer, a
drummer who instantly brings any group of musicians with whom
he plays to the level of competency that is an audience's inspiration.
"Drum Talk" is
a lively, fantastical presentation. It is imbued with artistry
and musical passion. Each piece is unique and flawless. With
this music the dancer and music enthusiast join together to
enjoy a rich blend of excellent sound, professional editing
and balancing qualities that take different instrumentation,
moods, vocals and overlay them in perfection.
all the drum CDs that I have heard and reviewed, Reda's
is the only one that has taken the poetry, beats, musical
styles, and heart from all over the Middle East and Africa
to create a multi-cultural ambassador for the finest
of them all.
kept unique and in it's own tradition, yet composed by Reda
it becomes a piece of art. Each piece reflects the life-blood
and spirit of the desert people. As you listen to each rendition,
you begin to see in the beauty of the uniqueness, the reflection
of oneness that binds it all together: the soul, the heart,
and the joy of music and dance.
be transported to the desert, with the Bedouins, North African's,
nomads, Nubians, Arabic villages and classical diffusion. Every
piece is timed well, to get the full body of the music and
drumming without drawing out or ending too soon. Each flows
into the other as the different bodies of water eventually
weave their way through Africa to become the great Nile.
is superb and goes beyond one style. Every piece has a feeling,
a life of its own, with variety, excitement, alluring and driving!
One moment, you feel as if you are in a marketplace in North
Africa, while in the next moment, you are transported to a
fusion of world beat music and whirling Sirocco-driven winds.
Reda takes percussion, the dumbek, tabla, def, and brings each
aspect of its own life into sound, representing the heartbeat
of the soul, dance, and Mother Earth. Each sound of the hand
upon the drum skin is clean, crisp; even when played at a fast
tempo, you can still feel the patterns.
will capture your spirit and bring your dance alive! Whether
you are using this for listening or performance, you will be
deeply touched by the music. It is the closest you will get
to experiencing the people's music from their part of the world,
whether in the marketplace, in a Bedouin tent, or a faithful
praying with a wrenching mawaal. The voices are professional
in their beautiful and haunting singing styles. There are many
pieces that carry woman's voices in beautiful harmony and styling.
all the CDs, "Drum Talk" has the most diversity, passion, and
quality of all I have heard. I think that whether you are a
dancer, student, drummer, world beat music fan, or lover of
passionate, living music, you will be inspired by this CD.
Tolo: Journeys into Pure Egyptian Percussion" by Hossam Ramsey
Ramzy is one of the world's current leading tabla players and
recording artists from Egypt. He has not only surpassed other
musicians in his field with classical and traditional tabla playing,
he has also become the 20th /21st centuries' most recorded tabla
player. His compositions are conceptions born from a passion
for hearing and understanding the magic soul of music and art.
He is well known as playing with contemporary artists from non-Arabic
nations. His accomplishments have included recording with Peter
Gabriel, Robert Plant/Jjmmy Page, Pavarotti, , Cheb Khaled ,
Gypsy Kings and on recording tracts for major motion pictures.
He is considered by many as unparalleled in his field and combines
classical Tabla with innovative styling.
this recording as a dancer's dream. All of the solo pieces
are designed for dancers and are titled after favorite Middle
Eastern dancers that Hossam admires. This production is a dedication
to Egyptian women's solo dance performances. His pieces are
named for a particular dancer and the composition written around
her style of dancing. Some famous examples are: Naima Akeef,
Taheyya Karioka and Lucy.
recording and mixing is professional and clear. He has included
incredible liner notes with his packaging. Each piece is named
and a description given of how the piece reflects that dancer's
particular style of dance. He also includes a very detailed
description of each type of rhythm he plays during the pieces,
their time signature, and musical composition. This enables
the drummers, drum students, and musicians to understand thoroughly
the mix being created in the piece. It's another important
step in a dancer's knowledge level to begin to recognize the
variety of rhythms, their names, and their counting measure.
Many dancers have very little understanding of the music to
which they dance. Here is a wonderful opportunity for all artists
to learn the subtleties in his versions of rhythms and distinguish
the different elements.
This CD combines an excellent use of other percussion instruments, rounding
out and accentuating the pieces.
points, you forget that there is no other instrumentation
used here except the percussion. It is fully captured
and melodic. Each beat is clear, crisp, precise and fluid.
The essence of the pieces are enhanced with their emphasizing
patterns, nuance and accenting.
drumming is beyond belief; it carries patterns so smooth, yet
extremely layered in command and complexity. The patterns are
recognizable, but they carry an extra sharp edge that brings
a brilliance of clarity and complexity at the same time.
Any of the
pieces listed here are excellent for use in professional dancing.
Some are whimsical, mischievous, while others are passionate
and driving. There is definitely an arrangement here that would
compliment a dancer's own particular style instead of the dancer's
working her style around a standard piece of music that anyone
#2 "Kholkhal Taheyya" (Taheyya's Anklet) written for Taheyya
Karioka, is one of my favorites. It has dynamic changes in
patterns throughout the piece with a heavy riff , which accents
and drives the whole feeling.
Hossam Ramzy has brought us a unique and unparalleled recording
masterpiece. If you love Middle Eastern music, and the passionate
quality of the dumbek or tabla, this is a must for you to own.
You will become lost in the sheer magic of its sound!
Me Ya Gamal! Hot Tabla Solos": Dance with Fifi Abdo
I looked at the selections on this CD, I was very interested
and excited to hear what would be presented on the recording.
The titles included several very specific rhythms that are not
always used in cabaret dancing, but are used in the more traditional
areas of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and for particular dance styles.
It was wonderful to see such a selection to use, especially since
I have specialized in the more ethno-regional type of dancing.
I thought, "How wonderful; here is a CD that offers the first
variety of traditional rhythms from which I can choose." Most
recordings like these are limited to one particular stylizing
of that region and not a combination from throughout the Arabian
nations. This would be perfect to have for the dancer who knows
what a Saidi dance is and the particular rhythm used for it,
and the same for Hagalla, Ayyoub, and Khalligi.
I heard the pieces, I became confused. None of the rhythms
used, were in any way shape or form familiar to the grouping
of style to which it referred.
I am not an ethno-musicologist, but from my lengthy experience
I can definitely recognize the rhythms used for specific dance
styles indigenous for a particular region. This was not the
case with "Shake Me Ya Gamal"! It is misleading in its classification
of patterns of drum styles particular to a type of rhythm and
piece was labeled as a Saidi piece. Most of you who know the
Saidi rhythm will recognize its classical structure in the
music from Upper Egypt, and the famous composer Metkal Kenawi.
This was not any Saidi rhythm I had ever heard, unless it was
being played so fast that it got lost in translation from its
original heavy folkloric/ beledi style of the Saidi people.
a tune said to represent the music used for the Hagalla Dance.
I taught and performed the Hagalla for many years before it
became as well known as it is now. Yes, the pattern contained
a 2/4 beat, but was a jazzed-up version with many riffs on
the teks and lots of floating through the primary count. Hagalla
or any country style rendition relies a lot on a decidedly
heavy, strong beat and rhythmic count that is constant. This
piece was hard to tell apart from a regular 2/4 rhythm .and
Hagalla has its specific pattern that this in no way resembles!
As a matter
of fact most of the pieces, regardless of what style they were
labeled, seemed to rely on a basic 2/4 rhythm or 4/4 Beledi.
Each sounded similar to the selection before it. Basically
every thing sounded alike to me.
music the rhythm's emphasis and patterning on accents creates
the differences in style and is highly important. The heavy
consistency of the regional pattern in drumming is the most
important aspect of these dance and regional styles. The tabla
plays a very strong role, as the beat is the piece to designate
the particular style. This was not demonstrated in this production.
they had a piece labeled as Khaleegy. This is the popular Gulf
Coast or Saudi style of music. It has a very strong, rhythm,
where the drum is predominant in all the musical pieces. In
Khaleegy, you know its origins from the minute the drumming
begins regardless of which piece of music is played with it.
Without this known pattern, it is no longer Khaleegy or Saudi
it would be disastrous for anyone who did not know the
true regional style of dances and rhythms used for that
style to try and use any of these "labeled" pieces for
those particular dances. It is misleading and ill-advised
to follow this format with what is presented. That is
not to say that the drumming was bad; just incorrect
as far as its labeling and reference.
be a good CD to use for beginning drum students' practice,
since the percussion beats are clear and steady. There are
some semi-useful pieces to use in a dance selection.
aware that this is not the style of music it says it is representing!
Because it is a similar heavy 4/4 count beat and variation
throughout, it might be good for practicing. It has wonderful
liner notes on the origins of each particular piece that are
correct and very interesting in how the pieces evolved. However,
don't expect the actual recording to reflect the accuracy of
the liner acknowledgments.
Pampanin Hands of Time: Belly Dance Drum Music"
Pampanin is a master of all types of percussion instruments and
styles of music; and her incredible talent is especially evident
in her work in Middle Eastern drumming. Susu is well known for
her virtuosity in Arabic drumming and is one of the few female
Middle Eastern drummers highly respected by the Arabic professional
music community. Additionally, she is proficient in Salsa, Latin,
African and many other types of fusion and individual composition
of drum styles.
recording is an all percussion anthology in which each piece
was composed by Susu, personally. She is also the only musician
on this album. She plays all of the different percussion instruments
used and then they have been finally mixed together to create
each piece. That alone is quite an endeavor and the result
is an incredible sound quality and mixing modulus. The engineering
on this CD is very professionally mastered and well balanced
the Dahola (large Bass Tabla), Tabla (Doumbek), Deff, Tabla
Balady, Riq, Sagat, Muzhar, Bendir, Cajon as well as other
percussion instruments throughout the entire mix.
CD, Susu is allowed to freely improvise, create and artistically
produce her own compositions.
sound is great, and from the minute the recording begins
to the last song, the dancer can't keep still. The fiery
and passionate energy of Susu's style is evident throughout.
It also reflects her incredible virtuosity.
musicians who transcend their instrument and the melodies,
to meld and become one with the entire piece and each component...that
is Susu. These are hot combinations of patterns and strong
rhythms that pull you into the music and feelings of connection
to the piece to which you are listening and relating.
is still the strong, driving Egyptian style of playing, yet
intermingling with elements of other percussion styling to
create signature pieces. The drumming flows from an inner connectedness,
that makes it driving in a set, flowing together. The improvisation
and unique blending of styles makes it a CD not just for drawing
upon a new reservoir of challenge to a dancer's interpretation,
but to the listener also.
a formidable combination that includes lots of breaks, accents,
style, and rhythm changes throughout. This forms a dynamic
one of a kind set, where each piece carries its own charisma,
sometimes haunting, fiery, passionate, and synchronistically
#7 "Mood for Six": Breaking out of the standard formats, we hear unusual yet
powerful combinations set together to create a mood.it utilizes the chiftitelli
rhythm out of the context of a slow taxim, creating a river of motion, where
she then breaks into the wedding beat and into a masmoudi. Incredible!!!
#10 "Nine O'clock Sharp": Heavily charged, winding through a myriad of emotional
feelings in the music changes. It is unstoppable in its energy.
#11 "Tranceformation": My absolute favorite! It is invocative of the Sirocco
desert wind, mysterious, engulfing, trance-like and haunting.
The quality of this CD is superb. It is almost impossible to believe that only
one person is playing in the sets; that is how flawlessly the components are
arranged and mixed together. This is a powerful and passionate journey for
Susu and the dancer!
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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
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his brother, Jalaleddin Takesh was a kanoonist and restaurant owner.
We asked him to recall some of his experiences
for our North Beach Memories series.
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When the musicians came from Egypt we promoted this type
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We are a versatile
group. One night I play blues, the next jazz, then I become part
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Drummer's Advice to Beginning Dancers -
by Kirk Templeton
your rhythms! I have drummed for bellydance classes where the instructor
not only couldn't clap baladi but didn't even know what it was..."
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