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Fight Blahs with a Band
Ibrahim Farrah's Certainty Principle: Be there.
In an article entitled Fight Tape Blahs! Form a Band in a 1989 edition of Middle Eastern Dancer magazine, Mary Ellen Donald advises dancers to cure the dance blahs by, yes, forming a band.
She advises setting standards of conduct from the beginning. Musicians must commit to:
Ms. Donald encourages beginning bands to concentrate on percussion alone, since that would be easier to cultivate while providing musical energy for performances. She suggested a combination of drum, tambourine, finger cymbals, and a plucked instrument, the tar.
When the time comes to add melody, she recommends you seek out folks who play violin, guitar, flute, or keyboard. Violin is the only Western instrument that is capable of producing the quarter-tones distinctive to ME music.
For folkloric music, Ms Donald recommends flute, obo or violin. For cabaret, violin, guitar, accordion or keyboard.
Organizing a Percussion-Only BandMatt Stonehouse of Fingers of Fury encourages bands to plan around a full spectrum of sound. "... when only darbukas are used in an ensemble, so much is missing. We need to think about dynamics, texture, colour and contrast."
Organizing a Percussive SetMary Ellen, writing again in Middle Eastern Dancer magazine:
Playing for Dancers
One-Night Stand: Ozel on jump-starting a Western band into Middle-Eastern Music
Ozel's famous book, The Belly Dancer In You, published in 1976, devotes a few pages to the complex problem of obtaining live MED music from a Western band.
Her advice is to know your routine thoroughly -- "Then you can deal with the orchestra. The idea is: MELODY." And to this end she supplies a complete dance set written out on six pages of staff paper, including guitar chords, and ending with a Karshilama.
The practicality of incorporating a karshilama into a set by a Western music band is questionable, since in her chapter on zill playing she states that the 9/8 tempo is difficult for American musicians to play simply because they have never heard it before. "When I have a Karshilama song, I always have to practice for hours with the band so they can get the hang of it." There is also no notation of what rhythms the musicians should be playing with the songs (other than the Karshilama). My guess is that Ozel got the band as close as possible to the right melodies and then provided the rhythm with very strong zill playing.
Your Competition: a CD Player
"If dance is the visual representation of music, the most significant change in the way we dance today, as opposed to forty years ago, has evolved through our music. During the sixties most ethnic supper clubs had live music. With call-response between musicians and dancers, one's performance could vary between exhilarating or disastrous, and without it, the dance could be monotonous; but it was always personal. At the time, the music might be from a mediocre family band or a virtuoso direct from the Middle East. Many of the musicians then were Armenians, Turks or Greeks. The small selection of Middle Eastern LPs available had sound quality too poor to use for performances. Now there are fewer nightclubs, and many professional dancers perform at restaurants without stages or lighting and without live music; still, they enjoy something that is equally valuable, the chance to dance to music of their own choice.
"Today, a lot of musicians are drawn to synthesized sounds and remixed fusion, and a new generation of dancers finds that sound exciting; however, we now have the opportunity to dance to any instrumentation from any era whether it be raqs sharqi or raqs shaabi - reproduced in high quality sound."
Golden Rules For Ensemble Playing
And now, a little humor mixed with a lot of hard experience.
Maura Enright, Proprietor
Author: Maura Enright
©2012 - 2016 by Maura Enright
Last updated on 2016.05.14
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