25 ESSENTIAL RHYTHMS for Arabic Drum

25 Essential Rhythms CD

A CD REVIEW in the Gilded Serpent by Kajira Djoumahna

"Twenty-five essential rhythms?" you may ask yourself, especially if you are a dancer. At first that may sound like a lot. Then give another listen to your collection of music from the various places in the Mideast that you've been so diligently collecting these past few years... and after you do, put this CD on. You may be surprised, as I was, to hear that all 25 of the rhythms presented on this CD are familiar, or at least recognizable to you. And if they aren't, just give yourself time, pay attention and you will be bound to hear them played somewhere along your journey of dance and music. So, since there are at least this many rhythms that we can agree are essential to the serious drummer and dancer, we now know where to find them all on one album!

And drummers, this is really, really an essential addition to your library! No drummer-to-be should be without one to study. Take it from the one who knows, Manny Fingers, when he says on the liner, "This information results from my 20 years of research into Middle Eastern folk rhythms. These 25 rhythms are what I consider essential knowledge for a drummer interested in Middle Eastern rhythms. Think of these as an introduction to the vast multitude of exciting Middle Eastern and world rhythms. Learning these will help you understand others you may encounter."

This solo creation of Armando el Mafufo's (of the group Sirocco) is even an improvement over his last in this ilk, "Zills and Drums," which was geared more for finger cymbals than drums and contains 9 of the most common rhythms we as dancers hear. This recording is very clear in its instruction and suitable for any level drummer or dancer. It keeps to the basic structure without as many variations as the other recording, and the tempos are kept to a more relaxed pace. I found this caused me to have to review less while playing my cymbals along to this album. In case you're wondering if that lessens the value for those who just wish to listen and dance, I don't think it does - at least not significantly. My reasoning here is that this album sounds magnificent! I am playing it rather loudly on my home stereo system and it has wonderful depth and texture of sound. It's mixed very well, the bass drum resounds powerfully while the lighter sounds are crisp and outstanding. This makes it easy to hear what's going on. And makes it entertaining to just plain listen to and learn from without exerting any conscious effort. I am a huge fan of CDs as opposed to cassettes, and the sound on this album reinforces that belief for me. Also, because this album is on CD, you get all the other benefits, including instantaneous track finding.

Another factor that lessened reviewing for me was that Armando talks the rhythmic sounds themselves verbally before he plays them, and rich liner notes provide the reader with written patterns that include the accents and sounds, and their counts below that. First Uncle Mafufo speaks the name of the rhythm, including alternate names when appropriate, and then we get to hear them pronounced in "drumspeak," ie. in "Dun, tec and ca" syllables. We are encouraged (and this does make a difference!) to verbally say out loud with Uncle Mafufo the syllables before we play them. I found that by saying them while reading them I was able to pick up the less familiar of these rhythms much faster than by using only one or two of the above methods alone.

What's more, Armando has written a guide into the liner for the drummer to follow with the spoken syllables. It utilizes the system of capital letters to denote accents; 'Dun' for the bass sound using your dominant hand; 'tec' for the rim sound, dominant hand; and 'ca' for the rim sound made with the opposing hand. (A note from me to the zil player: these do not necessarily correspond to the hands you'll be using while zilling, and you may wish to play variations of the basic drum rhythm once you get it down as usual.)

He explains that "the fastest way I found to assimilate these rhythms is to tap out the time and say the rhythm aloud. And, of course, listen to a lot of music."

Your drum and dance education deserves some time spent with this
invaluable CD.