Tonight I’ll be rehearsing with one of my other bands, Ahel El Nagam (yes, the website is very much in need of updating–I’ll get to that when I have a chance-hah!). We bill ourselves as Louisville’s Classical Arabic Band as most of our repertoire consists of, well, Classical Egyptian tunes as well as a number of folk and traditional tunes from Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, Andalusia, Israel and other countries and regions from the Middle East. Ahel El Nagam means, roughly, “People of the Tune.”
The group formed sometime in the middle of 2007 and I believe my first performance with them was sometime during the Spring of 2008. At it’s formation the group was four members strong with an instrumentation that ranged from oud, tabla (Egyptian tabla), flute/bellydance, electric sitar/mandolin. The first couple of shows I played with them (with cello) we had a five member group.
Sadly, we’ve slowly lost “full time” members as folks move on, or move out of the area, or whatever. The majority of the shows we’ve played the past couple of years have been pretty much what you see in the photo above, me on tabla (or cello) and Denise on oud (or tabla/riqq). We’d both been far too busy the past few months to rehearse much less play a show, though with some upcoming gigs in the works we’re getting together for the first time since last fall (I believe).
What’s really wonderful about playing with the group is just the repertoire we get to do. So much wonderful music from that part of the world (well, from any part of the world for that matter) and it’s a joy to get to explore it. Here’s an excerpt of us playing at Zorba’s Greek and Middle Eastern Restaurant in Zionsville, Indiana–a classical Arab-Andalusian tune called Lamma Bada Yatathana:
Notice the rhythm is in a 10 beat pattern. This is called a samaii thaqil which is a standard rhythm for songs in the muwashahat genre. Another reason I really enjoy the music are because of the odd time signatures–rhythmic modes as they are sometimes referred to–that we don’t often find in most Western music.
What is also remarkable that in this day and age that there are far more avenues to do that exploration–even in the what we affectionately refer to as “Kentuckiana” (to be fair, there are actually quite a number of Arabic/Mediterranean groups in the Louisville area where a few years ago it had the fastest growing ethnic population in the US–twice the national average).