Loay and ZaidGilded Serpent presents...
Loay Dahbour:
Kuwaiti Drum Pro

Interview by Yosifah Rose

Loay Dahbour has done his homework, but he is feeling guilty for not having had time to pick up his tabla (doumbek) for two days. He came to my home studio in Martinez, California on February 1, 2006 to teach ten eager Bellydancers how to dance to live drum solos. Accompanying him on percussion were Zaid Ali and Nathan Craver on riqq and duff.

In addition to teaching us about drum solos, Loay also took some time to share with us his valuable insights as a musician after working for the past thirteen years with hundreds of San Francisco Bay Area Bellydancers. During his two-hour workshop, Loay taught us a great deal of useful information. After the workshop, I took a few minutes to interview him to learn more about the man behind the drum:

Loay Dahbour is a professional drummer who specializes in Middle Eastern music. As a young boy, the first time that he saw a live drummer outside of a café, he knew that drumming was what he wanted to do. The fact that he has achieved this dream speaks to his passion, his resourcefulness, and his commitment to his music.

He was born and raised in Kuwait by very conservative parents. His father was a professional photographer, and he planned for Loay to join him in the family business.  Their parents expected Loay and his brothers to work with their father in his photography studio after school every afternoon. Loay saved his pocket change, and he bought his first drum without telling anyone in his family. Then, through a friend of a friend, he found himself a drumming teacher. Going to lessons involved more subterfuge. He had to convince his father that he had to stay late at school.

Practicing was more problematic: He convinced one of his sympathetic older sisters to allow him to practice his drumming in her car — parked far away from their house and hidden from where his parents might see or hear him play.

He managed to keep his drumming a secret for a long time, but eventually his mother found out. She, too, kept his secret, but she urged him to beware of his father finding out. Then one evening while Loay was sitting in the living room watching TV with his family, he unconsciously began to drum out Arabic rhythms on his stomach. His father came and stood over him and asked him, "Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?" Through his charm and a good deal of luck, Loay managed to avoided his father’s wrath and keep his treasured drum! He continued to study and practice his drumming, but out of respect for his parents’ wishes, he never performed his music while he was living in Kuwait.

Loay graduated from High School in Kuwait, and soon after, moved to Jordan for eight months. Two of his older brothers were attending college in the United States, and Loay came and joined them in San Francisco thirteen years ago.

Within months of arriving, he played his first gig: a sold out New Year’s Eve party with over three hundred guests. He said that he was perspiring from nervousness when he and the band began to play, but he soon forgot his anxiety as he became absorbed in the music. Loay has been making a name for himself within the Arabic music community and the Bellydance community ever since.

Loay feels that he has been very fortunate to have had the help and mentoring of many kind individuals, too numerous to name here. Additionally, Loay credits his teachers with helping him to grow musically. In the San Francisco area, he has studied with master instructors Elias Lammam , Tony Lammam ,and Reda Darwish. Additionally, he credits his regular performances as drummer with the Georges Lammam Ensemble with helping him to continue to grow in his depth of understanding and performing Arabic music.

Loay works hard to continue to improve his musicianship. He feels that any artist—whether a musician, a dancer, a painter, or a writer, must continue to study and grow – or they will stagnant and backslide. While his first love is classical Arabic music, he recently began listening to American jazz music and exploring playing jazz with the new band Sababa. The idea of blending Arabic’s rhythms and maqams (modal scales) with Western jazz’s cool and free flowing sensibilities excites him musically.

Loay has achieved his dream of being a professional drummer. He is that and more. He is a talented, articulate, and clear-minded musician and instructor! During his two-hour workshop, he showed us the importance of doing our homework! As Middle Eastern dancers, we must study the Arabic rhythms, and become fluent in them.

Dancing to live drum solos involves a conversation between the drummer and the dancer. This conversation cannot begin to take place if the drummer and the dancer do not speak the same rhythmic language!

Loay plans to teach more workshops, for both drummers and dancers. He has a great deal to offer, and I look forward to hearing more from him.

  • Loay is currently performing in the San Francisco Bay Area.
    Loay Dahbour plays regularly with the Georges Lammam Ensemble. They will be appearing weekly at Panchamama beginning in mid-March 2006
    Loay, Hussain Dixon, and Nazir Latouf are currently playing on Fridays from 9-11:30 ish at Yaya's at 2424 VanNess, SF.
  • Yosifah will be hosting another similiar workshop Wednesday evening, March 1st, 2006 with Elias Lammam titled: Accordion Baladi: Why, What, and How to Dance It! Contact Yosifah at yosifah@yosifah.com

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