S.A.R.A. “Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan”

S.A.R.A. "Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan"

So tonight I will be going to the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts to see S.A.R.A. (Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan).  This show will be exciting as I’ve spent so much time the past couple of years learning about the Uzbek doira through the career of Abbos Kosimov and he is actually a member of this ensemble!

Four of Asia’s most acclaimed musicians come together for a fusion of cultures and art forms to create SARA, featuring Salar Nader, who thrilled local audiences in Actors Theatre’s production of The Kite Runner, and Homayoun Sakhi, master of the rubâb (the national lute of Afghanistan). Drawing on centuries’ old heritages from throughout Central and South Asia, SARA explores musical styles both ancient and completely modern.

I had no idea this group existed until seeing some of the advertisements for this show recently.  This is going to be a nice prelude to my show tomorrow night with Raks Makam where I’ll be playing a doira solo with dancers.  This is a part of a tour with members of the Bellydance Superstars called Club Bellydance which features local acts in the first half of the show.

I never thought I would get a chance to Kosimov so soon–this will definitely be a treat, as will the show tomorrow night.  And just getting a chance to hear classical Afghani music will be a pleasure as there are so many similarities to South Asian classical music but I’ve never had a chance to hear the former live.

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on learning drum solos and how to speak “percussionese”

Raks Makam (from l. to r.) Jessica Hamilton, Jon Silpayamanant, Jo Hadley

So today, after several exhausting days with little sleep but much exciting activities (see my previous post for some details) I went to rehearse with Raks Makam for our upcoming performance this Friday.  My brain is still a little bit fried and with little sleep I was making more mistakes than I think I would normally.  Granted, the Uzbek doira is still a relatively new instrument to me and I don’t have one of the best instruments but mostly it’s my skill level (and the mitigating physical circumstances) that got in the way.

I almost want to say this instrument is far more difficult than, say, the Egyptian tabla which I also play regularly in a couple of groups but I’m not entirely sure that’s ever a useful type of comparison to make.

What I will say that the standard rhythmic patterns are very different than what you might find in the Middle East (or in any other region for that matter) and even the inter-Central Asian countries differ to a significant degree.  There’s tons more finger work and as many patterns in three beat measures at duple/quadruple beat measures, if not more, than what you might find in the Middle East.  And the phrasing–that’s the kicker–as many in multiples of three as not!

The piece I’m learning is called “Doira Dars” which almost literally translates as “Doira Study” or what classical trained musicians might call a “Doira Etude.”  And it is just that–an exercise for drummers that uses many of the basic rhythms found in the art dance music of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

But it’s not just a study piece for drummers–it is designed as a training or warm-up piece for dancers as well. By going through the rhythmic patterns–roughly 12 or 14 depending on how the Uzbeks would count them; and about a handful of different shokh (transitions); and the intro and ending–a dancer will have an opportunity to use a great number the moves in the repertoire of the dance.   Now, 12 (or 14 depending) different rhythmic patterns may not seem like a huge amount but keep in mind that many of the (non-native) Middle Eastern drummers here in the US will rarely learn more than 10 different rhythms for the entirety of the repertoire they might play.  Unless we’re talking about the art music, e.g. Ottoman classical music which has several dozens of rhythmic modes used for the repertoire.

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