Chapter 13 Choosing Rhythms Introduction Choosing the best rhythm to play is something that many people still early on in their journey might struggle with. For some it will come very easily, however it can be tough to figure out. There are some general guidelines we can follow Time signatures Staying in time is crucial and judging and recognising time signatures is a big part of this. Let’s say you were going to join a group of musicians, and they were playing in 4/4 at approximately 100 BPM, most Darbuka players would immediate think Maqsum, and just jump into the rhythm. However, you can only do this if you know that they are playing in 4/4 and at 100 BPM. This is where an understanding of time signatures and your own internal rhythm comes into play. In another example, if you were trying to join musicians who were playing in 3/4, you wouldn’t be able to enter with Maqsum, and you’d require a 3/4 rhythm, like Vals. If they were playing in 10/8, you’d need a 10/8 rhythm! When choosing a rhythm, stop and listen to the time signature of the other players and choose an appropriate rhythm based on the characteristics of time signature. Iqa’ Iqa’ is an important concept in Arabic Music, and most competent practitioners would agree that it definitely deserves its own mention. Iqa’ is the basic (or skeletal) rhythm. The Iqa’ is where the points of emphasis are in the rhythm. For example, if you were to review Darbuka Mastery: The Legendary Darbuka Rhythms, you would find certain notes highlighted, mostly Doum and Tek notes. It’s very important to match the Iqa’ of whatever is being played by other musicians or performers with the rhythm that you will play. If their rhythm has a completely different Iqa’, you will change the shape of the music if you enter with a different Iqa’. Let’s say for example that the Zaffa was being played, a rhythm with a very clear Iqa’, and you try to enter that rhythm with a Maqsum. You’d destroy the Iqa’ of the existing rhythm and this would be problematic. We won’t go too deeply into Iqa’ at this stage, as it is covered within individual sections later on in this chapter. Appropriateness Certain rhythms are more appropriate for certain occasions. Some rhythms are purposed for certain scenarios, and by not playing that rhythm in that scenario you may be stepping on someone’s toes. Let’s say you were doing a wedding gig, and when the bridge entered you didn’t play the traditional wedding beat, the Zaffa. This may be construed badly, and people would wonder why you didn’t play the obvious rhythm at the correct time. Another example of this might be if you were playing at a Zikr (a religious chant) with whirling dervishes present. If there are dervishes and it’s a Zikr, you should definitely be playing Ayub somewhere. It’s just the right rhythm to play at that specific time! If you start with a completely different rhythm when Ayub could possibly be played, the dervishes might be a little upset. Other drummers Playing with other drummers is covered later on in its own section, but when choosing a rhythm to play it’s helpful if there are another drummers present. If there is a rhythm that they wish to play, it’s usually better to stay in their rhythm rather than try to forge a path of your own. Even if your own rhythm sounds better, and you can ornament it much better, it’s best not to tread on their toes unless you’re quite close with them and they know you. Otherwise, you risk confusing those drummers and throwing everyone out of rhythm. Choosing ornaments Concept of toolkit of ornaments
Chapter 14 Soloing Introduction Soloing, a very common musical phenomenon in which a player can express complete individuality in his or her style of playing. Soloing is a common sight across many musical disciplines, and across pretty much every musical instrument. In Arabic Music, soloing is used a lot, however it is primarily used by singers and melodic instrumentalists (such as those playing a violin or oud). In Arabic Music, it is not that common that a percussionist performs a proper solo piece in their own right. In the Turkish style it is very different. The Turkish style utilises a lot of solo techniques and its style is based off a very “selfish” nature of the Darbuka, whereas the Arabic style is more “giving”. In other words, a Turkish Darbuka player is prouder and wishes to show off advanced techniques, whereas an Arabic style player is focused more on bringing out the best in other instruments and holding the rhythm together. While soloing will be covered properly in future books, let’s just look at it from an intermediate perspective so that you can taste some of the basic concepts. Mindset and role shift Soloing on the Darbuka requires a clear change in mindset, as the role of the Darbuka player is moving to a role which they don’t usually take. Not only that, the role is one that is somewhat different for a Darbuka player. For example, a violin is very suited to a solo, by its very nature. The pitch of the violin can capture and audience and create some level of Tarab (see later section on Tarab), and the violin is a continuous melodic instrument, which means it can create a massive spectrum of sounds. This renders the violin an excellent instrument to solo with. The voice, another amazing solo instrument that can transport an audience to a realm beyond. The Darbuka on the other hand doesn’t share these characteristics, and so it relies on exciting techniques and flourishes to keep the solo interesting. This is not the usual role of the Darbuka, as it is primarily used as a supportive instrument in Arabic music that keeps other players in time, while providing the backing beat for the other musicians. For this reason, for the Darbuka player to solo, they must actively go out and compose a solo piece and learn a style of playing that is suited to soloing. A player that is more than confident playing in a band may well struggle to solo without the appropriate training. Soloing requires a complete mindset shift and requires a significantly higher level of mastery than normal. Composing In order to solo, you must first compose a piece of music, it should have a beginning, middle and end, and should always have something happening that keeps the rhythm interesting and exciting. It may be that the piece is centred around a specific tune, which includes many modulations and flourishes, but always returns back to the original rhythm. It may also be that the piece contains many different rhythms in order to keep the piece exciting and uses excellent bridge techniques to join the various rhythms together, ensuring that no time signature is lost or broken during rhythm switches. It may be that a piece is composed a duet, with two Darbuka players having a conversation with each other on their instruments, creating a great effect for the audience. These are just some ideas to think about when composing a solo. As mentioned, I won’t go into this in too much detail at the current stage in order to allow you to consolidate the content from this book first and reach a strong intermediate stage, before we go into some very advanced techniques in which we will learn advanced rolls and solo techniques. Importance of rolls I’d like to just finish this section with a note on rolls, and the importance of them in soloing. Rolls help to make a rhythm feel complete and more interesting in its own right. As such, executing strong rolls and normally a few roll variations is critical when ornamenting a solo piece. I consider rolls to be a fairly advanced technique, and I believe most players could do with a year or so mastering more basic techniques before adding significant amounts of rolls to their playing.
Chapter 15 Playing with Music Introduction Let’s talk about how we can best use the Darbuka when playing with other musicians, a topic that I’m sure will be very relevant to your studies. Playing with music and other musicians requires an understanding of certain concepts specific to the Darbuka, and this book on “Excellence in Performance” wouldn’t be complete without a detailed look at playing with musicians. Entering the rhythm Let’s take it from the start, entering a rhythm. Firstly, we should ensure that we’ve selected an appropriate rhythm, following the guidance in the previous section on rhythm selection. Entering the rhythm should be done with care the first few times we play with other musicians. While it is great to have a strong rhythm entry to use, it is very aggressive and announces a Darbuka players presence very openly. Instead, for the first few times you play with new people, it’s better to slowly enter a rhythm to just test the water and get their reaction on it. Usually, one of the other percussionists or the lead instrumentalist/singer will nod to you and let you know that it’s okay to start playing, after which you can start ornamenting more heavily and really getting into it. A very important point I’d say when entering a rhythm, you aren’t familiar with is to play conservatively and watch the other percussionists or lead singer/instrumentalist very closely for a change in rhythm or tempo. You’ll have to dynamically adapt to the environment. Think of it like driving through an unfamiliar town, you wouldn’t just put your foot down and hope for the best, you’d drive slowly and cautiously, watching out for speed cameras, dips in the road you haven’t seen before, etc. I’ll mention a final point mention here, although hopefully you should be past this stage now in your studies. If you make a mistake, power through it and continue onwards, most people probably won’t notice, unless it’s really bad. If it is really bad, it’s usually best to stop playing for a few seconds, reset yourself, re-assess the time signature and ensure that you’re in time, and then re-join the rhythm. I’ve seen a number of beginners make mistakes and they try and play really fast for a few bars to “catch up” with the music. This is a really bad idea and can actually cause the other musicians to speed up. It’s better to just leave the rhythm and then re-join properly if you’ve made a serious blunder. The Iqa’ The Iqa’ is very important in Arabic Music. Oftentimes a song or rhythm will be written based on a certain Iqa’. For example, if you listen to classical Arabic Music you will often be able to hear the Iqa’ just through the points of emphasis in the music, before a percussionist starts playing. In these cases, the rhythms have been written with certain Iqa’aat (plural of Iqa’) in mind. A common example of this is Maqsum’s Iqa’. Maqsum is extremely common in Arabic Music and it’s not uncommon to see many other instrumentalists play the Maqsum Iqa’ on their stringed or bowed instruments as a part of a rhythm. You should always listen to the rhythm closely and see if you can identify any Iqa’aat in the rhythm. If you can hear that the rhythm has been written based on a certain Iqa’, you must use that Iqa’ to play your rhythm. For example, there are numerous songs written based on the 10/8 Sama’i Thaqeel rhythm, arguably the most common song based on this Iqa’ is Lamma Bada Yatathanna. If you try and play Lamma Bada Yatathanna with any other rhythm, I can promise you that you will get angry looks. Bringing out the best in other instruments When you play with other people, you must assess what instruments are in the mix, and dynamically adapt your playing style for this. This is applicable in two primary ways. The first way relies on the concept of Heterophony, which is texture that is created in music as a result of simultaneous performances of slightly different melodies in the same tune. In simple terms, let’s just break this down. Just as you ornament on your Darbuka, so do most other Arabic instrumentalists on their own instruments. Since everyone is ornamenting, there will be times when multiple people ornament something in different ways at exactly the same time. For example, the Arabic Nay (flute) will glissando to a higher pitch while the violin glissandos to a lower pitch. This is called heterophony and is a core part of Arabic Music. The key for the Darbuka player is to not tread on the toes of other musicians by, for example, playing a fancy ornamented flourish while 2 or 3 other instrumentalists are doing a fancy ornament. Instead, tone your instrument down a little and allow those guys to bring out the best in their instruments. Remember that your role is supportive! The second way applies when you play with other drummers. We will cover this in detail in a later section, however the core concept is that you are not competing with other drummers, you are supporting them. If there is a bass Doholla playing, and you’ve got a Darbuka, let the bass Doholla cover all the bassy Doum notes and hold the Iqa’, while you focus on ornamentation. Rhythm selection by location/genre Hopefully along your Darbuka journey you’ll have the chance to play with musicians from all around the world, and from many different cultures, and in many different genres. It’s important to acknowledge and understand who you’re playing with and what rhythms will suit their style. Not only will it make you friends and get people to like you, but those rhythms will go best with the music and sound good. In my mind, this comes down to the concept of Ruh’, or soul. If the soul of a piece of music is Arabic, Arabic style rhythms are definitely the way to go, and very Arabic sounding ornaments and playing styles can be used to enhance the Arabic flavour. Alternatively, if the soul of the music is a Western genre, take jazz for example, you would be better off with more of a “swing” beat, and should learn some of these and add these to your repertoire. If you don’t know any, make one up! Just make sure it’s in line with the music. In this particular example of playing with a jazz group, a heavily Arabic rhythm would be very bad idea – even if it fits the time signature. I remember back when I was still a student, a friend of mine invited me to play a live performance at a restaurant in London. When I arrived, the group were a jazz group. “Cool!”, I thought. When we started playing, I was a little stumped as to what rhythm to play, and I somehow ended up in a badly ornamented Karachi rhythm. Honestly, it sounded terrible and it didn’t fit at all. When we finished, I was walking back to my car and I listened to a recording I took and realised that my tune was adding too much of an Arabic flavour to this song which was clearly from a completely different genre. A simple Western beat on my Darbuka would have been more than sufficient. If only I’d realised while I was playing, not afterwards! Another example of this is matching the country of the musicians to the kind of rhythm you are playing. For example, I’ve played with a fair few Greek musicians and Karachi and Cifte Telli go very well. Maqsum might work, but if you can play something you know is perfectly suited to a particular location you should go for it. Malaysian rhythms for examples tend to roll more, so it’s nice to mix it up a little with a slightly different ornamentation style than an Arabic rhythm. Central African rhythms have a different feel to them too, so perhaps leave the traditional Arabic rhythms alone and try something more related to Central Africa. If you can, search for the song they are playing, or the type of music they are playing, on YouTube and try and get a feel for what rhythms they usually like to play. And obviously, with Arabic musicians, it’s usually safe to start most songs with a Maqsum! Subtlety in ornamentation When ornamenting as part of a group of other musicians, it’s important to remember your role within the group. The drummer is typically playing a supportive role, providing a solid beat and helping control the timing, keeping the other musicians in time. As such, it’s important to know when in a rhythm to ornament heavily, and when to tone it down a little. For large parts of a rhythm, it is usually best to be fairly subtle in your ornamentation and keep it fairly quiet. The ornamentation should definitely be there, as playing a basic rhythm is quite amateurish in practice (unless it is being used in specific circumstances like to introduce a rhythm). I would recommend adding a good amount of Ka notes, Rizz notes, supporting Teks, keep a nice simple bridge in place, make sure the Iqa’ notes are clear, but don’t go overboard with the ornaments. Instead, keep it light and subtle, allowing the other musicians to bring out the best in their instruments. This should be maintained until you get to a point in the music where it’s time to ornament heavily, like during a chorus, an instrumental piece, or just before the climax of the music. There are some exceptions to this general rule, like filling gaps. Filling gaps Within a piece of music, there will likely be points where the mix is fairly quiet and there aren’t too many instruments playing. A few examples of this might be: – When the singer stops for a breath – Between two verses of a song – When a fairly long note is being played (like a half note/minim) In this case, there will be a little gap in the rhythm which might be nice to fill with a little flourish on the Darbuka. There are a number of ways that we can fill this gap. An example might be by using a Glissando to follow the direction of the pitch, like when we’ve paused for just a moment before we enter the chorus again with a bang, another great fill is to omit some Doum notes and play a little Tek heavy flourish to build some anticipation before the singer starts again simultaneously with your Doum’s being released back into the rhythm. There are many kinds of fills available, the key thing is to recognise them when they are there and to take advantage of the opportunity by adding something to the rhythm Covering mistakes and dynamic adaptation Another role that a drummer might have is to cover mistakes of other musicians. This is especially the case in Arabic music where there is a generally fluid structure to the song. Some of you might be thinking that this is just applicable in amateur scenarios, but I would disagree; it is said that Umm Kulthum used to say her Riq player is the one that keeps her in line and covers her mistakes. If Umm Kulthum, one of the greatest Arabic musicians ever, might need help from her Riq player in a pinch then you best believe that it’s applicable all the way up to the highest level. The reason that it is particularly relevant in Arabic Music is that there isn’t always a strict structure that the group will play a song too. It’s very common for a singer to decide to repeat a line or two, or to perform a Tafrid (a vocal solo) on a particular verse to really show off some amazing vocal improvisation and ornamentation skills. For this reason, the whole direction of the music might change in an instant, and from my experience it’s usually the percussionist who can react best and most quickly to these changes. The other instrumentalists might have to think for a moment about what scale they need to be in, they might need to retune quickly if they’re playing a Qanun, etc. A percussionist however can usually adapt very quickly to this scenario and bring everyone else into line. The same goes with a mistake – if we are in a 4/4 time signature for example, and the singer misses a beat, the percussionist usually knows that he or she is still in the right time signature and might support the singer to get back into time. Alternatively, if the singer decides to miss a beat on purpose and signals this to the percussionist, the percussionist can also alter the time signature and force the other musicians to follow suit. As such, the percussionist is well suited to adapt dynamically to any changes in time in the music. This is in the percussionist’s traditional role of rhythm controller (Dabit al Iqa’) Signalling Another important role of the percussionist is to signal other musicians to get into time with a new time signature or rhythm. It might be coming to a point in the music or performance that we need to change the rhythm into one with a different Iqa’, and the percussion in his role as rhythm controller will be responsible for signalling this to the other musicians. An example of how they might signal this would be to reduce the rhythm to a very basic version, perhaps only playing the Iqa’ beats, before heavily accentuating the Doum and Tek of the new rhythm, announcing it clearly. They might also finish the previous rhythm with a slight rhythm exit before playing a 1 bar flourish, and then announcing the new rhythm. Signals are also used at the beginning of a song or piece, in which the percussionist plays 2 or 4 Tek notes to set the tempo before the music starts. All of this comes back to the role of the percussionist as the rhythm controller. Managing tempo Another role of the percussionist is in managing the tempo of the music. This is particularly important in Arabic Music where tempo is not constant through a whole a piece, and often varies significantly, sometimes varying within an individual cycle. Pieces of music can speed up and slow down. If they do either of these things, the tempo of the music needs to be adjusted and the responsibility falls on the percussionist to ensure this. For example, a rhythm can slow down the tempo when transitioning into a different section of a song – known as tasdir (making a calculated change to the rhythm). The percussionist might slightly slow down the tempo at the end of a section, before resuming the normal tempo in a new rhythm at the start of the new section. The rhythm might also be sped up, such as when approaching the end of a Raqs Sharqi (belly dance) performance, where the rhythm is accelerated in order to bring the performance to a dramatic close. Finally, there is a related point which should be mentioned here regarding setting the Iqa’ beats perfectly in their expected timings. A common example of this is the Ayub rhythm, played Doum (space) kaDoum Tek. The Ka that is played in this rhythm is actually not in time with where the musical notation would expect it to be, in that it is not played as an eighth note before a Doum is played as a quarter note. Instead, the Ka is actually played much closer to the Doum, the actual way this is supposed to be played. As such, the percussionist has to accurately represent this in the rhythm so that any other instrumentalists who are ornamenting based on the Iqa’ can time their ornaments appropriately. While this is not an example of managing tempo per say, it is related to the general advice given in this section. Supporting Tarab In the Arabic Music genre, we often have a specific aim of musical performance; the creation of Tarab. Tarab is the creation of musical pleasure and joy. The word Tarab itself can be translated as “a state of enchantment or ecstasy” and is the main goal of most Arabic Music. Tarab then, is state which we are trying to get the audience into, where they feel that they are one with the music. There are certain types of music that are best suited to inspire Tarab amongst an audience, for example music that involves a Mutrib (lead singer), whose job it is to use the amazing rhythm created by the instrumentalists in order to bring out this ecstatic state in the audience. Typically, it is the voice, which is best suited to create Tarab, however some melodic instruments can too, like the violin. These instruments though cannot usually inspire as much Tarab as the voice can, and so often when we refer to a Mutrib (literally, a creator of Tarab) we are talking about a singer. There are a number of other ways to create Tarab without a lead singer/instrumentalist, for example by playing a tune which is very popular and familiar to the audience. A tune like this will instantly get their attention and put them in a good state. For example, certain wedding songs, Sufi songs, traditional Arabic songs etc. can “transport” the state of a listener, perhaps back to when they first heard the song, inspiring a feeling of familiarity and longing in them. You don’t necessarily need a Mutrib in order to do this, though it is very useful to have one. The role of the percussionist is to support the creation of Tarab by allowing the Mutrib the freedom to solo and create a beautiful rhythm. The percussionist should adapt the drum rhythm that is being played to be as free and as unrestrictive as possible. For example, instead of playing Maqsum in 4/4, the percussionist should play Wahdi in 4/4, as Wahdi is less restrictive than Maqsum. Similarly, instead of playing D–T-DDT– for Sama’i Thaqeel, an adapted rhythm can be played which allows more freedom, D——D–. This allows the Mutrib to be free to solo and explore a Maqam or rhythm to its fullest extent. Another point when supporting a Mutrib is to pay very close attention to the tempo. The Mutrib may well adjust the tempo numerous times throughout the piece, and a highly skilled percussionist will be able to follow each syllable of the singer very closely to ensure that any small changes in tempo are accounted for. Typically, the other instrumentalists will follow the tempo set by the percussionist, so the percussionist is the bridge between the Mutrib and the other instrumentalists. Furthermore, if the Mutrib knows that there is a highly skilled percussionist who is able to adjust tempo dynamically, they will be freer to explore a Maqam, and create more Tarab. It is therefore a virtuous cycle. Finally, pay very close attention to the strength of your rhythm when supporting a Mutrib, and specifically pay close attention to your ornaments. If you play too strongly, you run the risk of restricting the Mutrib in their efforts to create Tarab and may end up spoiling the rhythm by taking focus away from the Mutrib. Remember that any little mistake that catches the audience’s attention will detract from the Tarab that is being created. If you play too weakly, on the other hand, you won’t be able to retain control of the other instrumentalists and be that bridge between the Mutrib and instrumentalists that the Mutrib needs in order to create strong Tarab. For this reason, it is imperative to pay close attention to your rhythm that you are playing. Remember that this will test your ability as a percussionist, and you must be very meticulous in your choice of rhythm and ornaments when supporting a Mutrib.
Chapter 16 Playing with Performers Introduction A common place you’ll find a Darbuka is a supportive instrument to a Raqs Sharqi (belly dance) performance. In these situations, the Darbuka can be played just by itself as the sole instrumental backing, it can be played as part of a percussive backing group (often including a Doholla, Riq and Katim), or it can be played with a larger group of musicians including various melodic instruments. The Darbuka usually plays an important role in the Raqs Sharqi performance, moreso than its usual supportive role. The performer and the Darbuka player should be perfectly in sync as they both base their performance and technique from the Iqa’, which the Darbuka player plays on his/her instrument and the performer dances to. \ Talk about line dances, wedding processions, wedding dances, folk dances. Iqa’ The Iqa’ is very important in a Raqs Sharqi performance, and many performers will go out of their way to learn various Iqa’aat to ensure they have a solid understanding of the main notes and beats. They will typically practice a lot to Iqa’ based backing tracks, and as such it forms a crucial part of their training and resultant performance. This is one of the main reasons that the Darbuka pairs so nicely with the Raqs Sharqi, as both are Iqa’ based. This should clearly reflect in your playing style when supporting a Raqs Sharqi performance – your rhythm should be very much Iqa’ based and you should make efforts to clearly bring out the best of the Iqa’ you’re on. A general rule of thumb is to not do anything too fancy that leaves the Iqa’ without the performer being aware. For example, if you were playing in Maqsum, your Iqa’ is Doum Doum (space) Doum Doum (space) Tek (space). If you were to modulate this with a couple of bars of Wahdi, it would still fit the time signature, but the performer might have had something prepared that would have paired well with Maqsum’s Iqa’. Hence, your modulating into Wahdi might sound fine and good on the Darbuka but might ruin the performers ornamentation with the Maqsum Iqa’. Pauses/gaps Similar to playing with music, the Raqs Sharqi performance will usually have a fair number of pauses as the performer moves from one manoeuvre into another. As such, it is a perfect time for you to insert an ornamented flourish, without affecting the performers rhythm. You can add the same kinds of flourish that we would add in a musical piece, however I would like to mention that the Pac technique at different pitches works really well with Raqs Sharqi, as the sharp and pitched sound allows the performer to add a little shoulder snap or equivalent manoeuvre to their performance. Dynamic changes and adaptations Similar to playing with a vocalist, you must be very alert when playing with a performer, as your performances go hand in hand. If you were to wander off your rhythm by even a little, the performer might have to rethink the whole set of following manoeuvres, which could throw them off. For example, if the performer though that your next rhythm was going to be Cifte Telli, they would prepare something specifically for the 8/4 Cifte Telli time signature and rhythm. If you then went into Malfuf, they would have to scrap the 8/4 performance and rethink of something 2/4. Now, while most performers are capable enough to dynamically adjust their performance if the rhythm is not as expected, it’s best to stick to an agreed direction and ensure that you do whatever you can to support them in their performance. As is discussed later on in this section, you’re the primary entertainer, the performer is, so let them do their job. Announcement Similar to signalling when playing with music, announcement is very important with playing with a performer. There are some differences though, which is why we call it announcement rather than signalling. It comes down to the role of the Darbuka player in this performance, which is also partly a controlling role, helping keep everything going. Firstly, the Darbuka player usually announces the entry of the performer or announces the performers main section starting. This means that when the Darbuka player starts playing, something is about to happen. This power should be used wisely, as you should ensure not to start the playing too prematurely, before the performer has finished the traditional entry piece (a short piece at the beginning of the performance that is more of a sway than a dance). Once the entry is finished, then the Darbuka should start properly, often with a Maqsum rhythm. Furthermore, the Darbuka player should announce and time any changes to the Iqa’, by following the same signalling rules as when playing with musicians. Slow down the rhythm into just the basic Iqa’, before breaking into the new Iqa’ with accented Doum and Tek notes. This helps announce to the audience that something is going to happen, and also help you keep in time with the performer. Rule of fours When playing with performers, we can still ornament, and ornament very nicely. However, we should remember that the performer is relying a lot on our playing to base the performance off, so we should try and help the performer as much as possible with our ornaments. This is where the rule of fours comes in. This rule is that if we want to ornament something, we should repeat the same ornament four times in order to give the performer some time to shape the performance around this ornament. For example, let’s say the first time we decide to ornament with a glissando at the end of Maqsum, the performer will hear and acknowledge the glissando. The second time, the performance will be coming up with a manoeuvre that uses the glissando, and the third and fourth times the performer will do something amazing based off this glissando. We then repeat that with a different ornamentation. The resultant effect is that the audience is impressed that the performance is so intricately crafted, and the performer is more comfortable as there is enough time to adapt the performance properly to the ornamentation. Covering mistakes Typically, most mistakes in a Raqs Sharqi performance can be passed off as part of the performance, unless they’re really bad, so this point isn’t massively important. However, do note that the performer might slip up, and it really helps them if the Darbuka player makes it easy for them to recover. Let’s say you were doing a complex ornamentation and a mistake was made, the best thing to do is to fall back into the basic Iqa’ and allow the performer to just reset and realign to the basic Iqa’. If you see the performer struggling, always return to the Iqa’, as this is where the performer will be most confident. Another scenario might be ornamenting in a slightly harder Iqa’. Let’s say you were in a 7/8 Dawr Hindi, or a 10/8 Sama’i, you might be ornamenting, and the performer might make a mistake or get thrown off, for whatever reason. Try and return to the original Iqa’, and if that doesn’t work, signal and then break into a really easy Iqa’ like Maqsum. Remember that you’re working in partnership so you should do whatever you can to make it easy for the performer. The role of the Darbuka player I feel that this is something a lot of beginner & intermediate players need to really internalise, their role in specific scenarios. It’s not uncommon for a less experienced Darbuka player to get really into his/her ornamentation and end up either changing the rhythm, changing the tempo, or something worse. The responsibility level is high for the percussionist, and they need to be very respectful, rather than arrogant. Arrogance can come across in music very clearly, even though no words are being spoken. The Darbuka player’s role in a Raqs Sharqi performance is a supporting role, in which the Darbuka player is very much responsible for helping keep the performance in time and keep it going in the right direction. However, the Darbuka player is not the person entertaining the audience, the performer is. As such, the Darbuka player doesn’t need to do anything particularly fancy, or any really crazy ornamentation or any really loud rhythms. Nor does the Darbuka player need to include 20 different rhythms in one performance. It is better to play 3 or 4 well-crafted and rehearsed rhythms to a high level of quality, at a tempo where everyone is comfortable and using ornaments which are very good, but not so complicated that people get confused and wonder where the rhythm’s gone. You should remember this at the front of your mind when playing in a Raqs Sharqi performance, as this mindset will allow you to go far.
Chapter 17 Playing with Other Drummers Introduction The last section on interaction and playing with other people is regarding how to play when there are another drummers present. There are certain unspoken rules on interaction, and general tips and tricks that will allow your performance skills to skyrocket. Let’s take a look. Holding the Mizaan with multiple Darbuka players Mizaan is an Arabic word for scale, or rank. In music, when we refer to the Mizaan, we are referring to the time signature. The time signature helps us define beats and keep multiple musicians and performers in time. When we play Darbuka, we have a concept that is referred to as “holding the Mizaan”. Honestly, I have used this phrase a lot with my teachers and with my students, but I haven’t heard it used commonly amongst other Darbuka players so I’m not sure if it is a universally used phrase, or just amongst certain groups of Arabic percussionists. Regardless, the concept is still very relevant to all Arabic percussionists. The concept is fairly simple, when there are multiple percussionists, generally there is one person who is “holding the Mizaan” or playing just the basic Iqa’ notes on their instrument. Let’s say there was a bass Doholla player, or a Katim player present, they would likely be the player holding the Mizaan, while the other percussionist(s) would ornament. This is to allow the sound to come through in the best and most organised way as possible. Adab (respect) It comes down to the concept of Adab (respect), whereby if there are various drummers playing, they can’t all ornament at the same time. If they did, the results would normally be catastrophic, unless it was done very well (see following section on heterophony). Let’s say there were 2 Darbuka players, both playing solo Darbukas (not common – usually 2 Darbuka players mean 1 person playing bass Doholla and the other playing solo Darbuka). Both solo Darbuka players would not be able to ornament properly throughout an entire piece, as their ornamentations would invariably be different and would result in a very confusing sound from the percussion section. In this scenario, we have to have Adab amongst the two Darbuka players and agree a structure for playing in harmony. For example, if there were 2 soloist Darbuka players, we could do a call and response exercise, which is a popular technique in which two instrumentalists have a “conversation” with their instruments. One player performs some kind of flourish, known as the call, and the other player performs a similar but slightly different flourish in return, known as the response. In this way, both players can showcase their abilities without treading on each other’s toes and spoiling the music. However, for this to happen both players need to show Adab and not be arrogant in their playing. Badly conducted percussion sections can really damage a performance. Heterophony There is an interesting concept that exists in Arabic music which seems to directly contradict the previous section on having two players ornamenting at the same time. This concept is known as heterophony, the idea of a single melody being ornamented simultaneously by multiple players. Heterophony exists across Arabic Music and is generally considered to be an inherent feature of the genre. Heterophony does exist with the percussion section, and it is relevant to the Darbuka player, however it usually refers to the heterophony between various different percussion instruments, not the same instrument. For example, if a Darbuka player and a Riq player were to ornament simultaneously, they would have to ornament in such a way that brings out the best in each other’s instruments. Typically, they would try to align on various things such as Doum’s, bridge techniques, mood, complexity of ornamentation, etc. The resultant effect should be quite powerful, both percussionists playing and ornamenting together in harmony. This kind of simultaneous ornamentation is key characteristic of Arabic Music; however, it does not normally apply to multiple players ornamenting the same instrument. For this reason, to see 2 solo Darbuka players or 2 solo Riq players is very rare. Playing with a Riq A Riq is a small frame drum with 5 sets of cymbals along the frame. The Riq is a very common sight in Arabic music, as it holds a prestigious rank as a member of the Takht, the inner ensemble of Arabic Music. The Takht instruments are those which the traditional Arabic ensemble had to have in order for it to be complete, and these instruments were most accurately able to reproduce an Arabic Maqam (poetic meter), or in the case of the Riq, most accurately able to reproduce the Iqa’. As such, the Riq is a key component of Arabic Music. Given the Riq’s prestigious position as a member of the Takht, the Riq can very often take the title of Dabit al Iqa’ (rhythm controller). The advice that has been given throughout this book regarding the role of the Darbuka player can, in most cases, be applied directly to the Riq also, and if there is both a Riq and Darbuka playing together in a group, they will have to decide between themselves which of them is the Dabit al Iqa’, for they cannot both be. For this reason, there has to be a close agreement between the Darbuka player and the Riq player as to who is the lead percussionist, the person keeping everything together and the person who controls the Iqa’. If, for example, the Dabit Al Iqa’ is the Riq, the Darbuka player must follow any change in Iqa’ or tempo that the Riq sets. The Darbuka player should not try to wrestle control away from the Riq. Similarly, if the Darbuka is the Dabit Al Iqa’, the Riq must follow the Darbuka player. The Darbuka player should also note the change in mood resultant of the Riq’s playing position. The Riq has two primary modes; the first mode plays heavily on the skin to create a more mellow and calmer mood, and the second mode plays heavily on the primary set of cymbals to create a faster and more up upbeat mood. The audience is normally conditioned to feel more excited when the cymbals play, and to calm down when the cymbals stop. It is common for the Riq player to also switch the holding position of the Riq when moving between modes, as both modes require their own positioning to hold the drum. The Darbuka player should note this and adjust his rhythm and ornamentation, accordingly, ensuring that both the Riq and the Darbuka are comfortably in sync. Playing with a Doholla/Katim While the Doholla and Katim are both very different instruments, they both share a similar purpose in a mix of musicians. This point is subjective, because the Doholla could easily be the sole percussion in a mix of musicians, whereas the Katim is normally played only as a supporting instrument, but when there is a Darbuka present, both the Doholla and Katim usually share the same role. The role of these two instruments in a mix is to usually hold the Mizaan and to play the basic Iqa’ (sometimes with some slight ornamentation from the Doholla). Both these instruments create clear and distinct sounds, rendering them as excellent backing instruments. The Doholla creates a deep and strong Doum, much stronger than the Darbuka, and creates a clear and ringing Tek sound, much stronger than the Darbuka also. The Katim on the other hand is a heavy, sturdy version of a traditional frame drum that’s played in the “freehand” frame drum style – i.e. held between the legs of a seated percussionist. The Katim, translated as the silencer/muffler, is struck with the entire hand to create a strong sound to play the basic Iqa’ with. Both of these instruments are therefore perfect for playing this basic Iqa’ and allowing the Darbuka player more freedom to ornament and explore variations of whatever Iqa’ has been set. A big advantage to the Darbuka player when there is a Doholla/Riq present is that the Darbuka no longer needs to hold or play and of the Iqa’ notes, i.e. the primary Doum or Tek strokes. Instead, the Darbuka player can focus on wild and crazy ornamentations that might go fairly far away from the Iqa’ that has been set. As long as the time signature is appropriate managed by the Darbuka player, they are free to do whatever they please. A point to note regarding this arrangement is that the Darbuka still usually maintains its role as Dabit al Iqa’ when the Doholla/Katim are present. Usually, the Doholla/Katim will stop playing for a measure or two to allow the Darbuka player to signal appropriately and control the time signature, before re-entering the new time signature with a strong Iqa’ based rhythm using both the Darbuka and Doholla/Katim. Another point to note is that the ornamentation technique of omission can be greatly enhanced when there is a Doholla or Katim in the mix, as any omission from these instruments creates a clear and dramatic effect. Coupled with simultaneous omission on the part of the Darbuka can result in a very strong and dramatic effect once the omitted notes are re-introduced. Playing with a Daff When there is a Daff in the mix, the resultant effect can be very similar to the effect of their being a Doholla or Katim in the mix. Very often, the Daff has the role of playing a basic Iqa’ to support the Darbuka player, and the Daff is strong in this role with it’s clear and markedly different bass sound compared to the Darbuka. The reason I want to point the Daff out separately is that often, the Daff can play a slightly different and more supportive role in a mix where there is already a Darbuka player present. The Daff player can add various ornaments and flourishes in the background which can sometimes be completely unrelated to the Iqa’ and the rhythm that is being played but can add a lot to the rhythm. This is very popular in both the Qasida and Muwashshah poetry vocal forms (traditional vocal forms which are usually very traditional sounding with oft-repeated lines and verses). The Daff might play a slow role that appears from time to time in the background of a rhythm, just to add some flavour and an extra dimension. The Darbuka player doesn’t really need to act on this, they can typically continue as per their normal rhythm and just be aware that there may be a Daff doing something like this in the background. Two-player Darbuka rhythms When there are two Darbuka players playing simultaneously, they must ensure not to obstruct each other’s rhythm, as previously mentioned. A potential opportunity for them is the call and response form, however they might also consider playing a set of different rhythms simultaneously that all fit together to create a great sound. Note that this isn’t massively common in the Arabic Darbuka world, however it is very prevalent in other percussive disciplines. For example, there are drums and rhythms used in Malaysian and Indonesian music that are designed for at least 3 people to play, otherwise the rhythm is incomplete. Each player plays a different part of the beat and when they all play simultaneously it fits together to create an awesome and powerful rhythm. Interestingly, Indonesia is home to one of the largest Darbuka communities in the world, and it is not uncommon to watch an Indonesian performance and see a constructed rhythm that includes many drummers all playing different rhythms simultaneously. In both the Arabic and Turkish style disciplines, however, this is less common. Some examples of two player Darbuka rhythms are as follows:
Chapter 18 Confidence in Performance Introduction A key concept that any musician (but especially a percussionist) must understand is confidence in performance. Any piece of music will be severely let down if the musicians aren’t confident in themselves and what tune they are playing. Vocals are a perfect and easily identifiable example of when confidence is critical. If a vocalist doesn’t put enough energy into a performance, the vocals will sound weak and shaky. It can be heard clearly by any listener and it doesn’t come across well. Confidence of the Darbuka player The Darbuka player has a clear responsibility in many musical situations that it can be found in. In a piece of music, it is the Dabit al Iqa’, in a Raqs Sharqi performance it is the close ally of the performer and in a vocal solo it is the bridge between the other musicians and the Mutrib (soloist). This high level of responsibility requires that the Darbuka player be of a high level of confidence (and competence) in order to meet this responsibility. It is an interesting position, because a percussion generally has less musical training than rhythmic instrumentalist, however the role of percussionist can be very critical. The Darbuka player is also playing one of the loudest instruments in a mix, and an instrument which creates some very sharp and powerful notes such as the Tek and Slap. The Darbuka player is responsible for signalling and announcing, which means that other musicians might even stop for a space of time to allow the Darbuka player to signal something. Furthermore, the Darbuka playing technique is based on ornamentation, which means that the Darbuka player is rarely just playing a simple accompaniment, but rather playing a fairly difficult and complex rhythm with a lot of ornaments. For all of these reasons the Darbuka player must maintain a heightened level of maturity and confidence. The player should enter a rhythm with confidence, signal with confidence, and ornament with confidence. The Darbuka should maintain a strong demeanour, not fazed by other musicians’ mistakes or inadequacies. If a violin player is tugging into a different tempo when using staccato, the Darbuka player should not be pulled and should maintain his or her tempo, unless the conductor, lead instrumentalist or vocalist says otherwise. Without confidence, the rhythm will fall apart, and the other instrumentalists won’t have a benchmark to cling to. Closing Well done, congratulations and bravo! You’ve made it to the end of this book, and I just want to say that it’s really impressive to have done so. In this book, we covered: – A guide to what ornamentation is – Various ornamentation techniques – Combining ornaments to create awesome rhythms – How to choose rhythms to play – The role of the Darbuka player in relation to other musicians/performers – General advice on how to be an excellent Darbuka player in practice! If you’ve read through the book, have practiced the techniques and have spent at least a few months applying them in practice, you should be in a very strong position. I would estimate that at your current level of ability, you would be at the beginner stage of being able to play orchestrally or with a group. You would also likely be maybe just at the state where you can play with a Raqs Sharqi performance too. That’s no small feat. It’s important to note that while we haven’t covered everything, we have covered pretty much everything you’d need to know to effectively use the Darbuka in its traditional Arabic role as a supporting instrument. Most players who were playing with modern music genres (like pop), and most traditional orchestral players would not learn more techniques than what we have covered in this book. The only difference would be that they have learnt to apply these techniques very well in practice. If you listen to some old orchestral pieces by Umm Kulthum, for example Alf Leila Wa Leila, or perhaps listen to some popular Arabic Pop songs, for example Boshret Kheir by Hussain Al Jassmi, you will find that they rely mostly on the techniques we have already covered, though they are applied at a very high level of mastery and speed. The only technique which is left to cover from the really core set is the Darbuka roll, however I would strongly recommend mastering the covered techniques first before applying rolls. Rolls are notoriously difficult and should be played at very high speeds. If you are used to applying the covered techniques at high speeds, it will be easy to pick up rolls in the future. I’d also like to invite you purchase a Malik Instruments Darbuka. Malik Instruments Darbukas are of the highest quality, and I have personally purchased Darbukas from almost all major sellers and suppliers to try and find the best quality Darbukas that are around and ensure that Malik Instruments sells only the highest tier. If you want to ensure that your instrument is capable of performing any Darbuka technique and is ready to be used on a big stage in front of the masses, do yourself a favour and get a fantastic Darbuka from Malik Instruments. I’d also like to recommend a book called “Inside Arabic Music”, by Johnny Farraj and Abu Shumays. It is an incredible primer in Arabic Music that is written well in the English Language, and I’m happy to recommend this book strongly to all aspiring Darbuka players to gain a stronger understanding of the Arabic Music world in general. Finally, if you have any questions or wish to interact generally with myself and the Malik Instruments team, do join the Malik Instruments Darbuka Lounge Facebook group, a group where we will post all the latest developments here at Malik Instruments and where you can ask any Darbuka questions you have. That’s it from me for the time being, thank you so much for reading and I look forward to seeing you in the next book of the Darbuka Mastery series!