Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Cairo, February 28

Lesson, Lessons, Lessons!

4 am Jam Session at Saiid's Studio

I’ve just been banished from Rami’s riq lesson- I’ve been taking over
his lessons.  His teacher is way cool – his name is Ashram Isam. He
used to play with his cat Mahumd Hammuda (who’s passed away) and he has
the coolest chops on the riq and on the dumbek!  He showed me this
amazing two finger slap and all this other stuff.  Every time there’s a
pause in the lesson I make him show me stuff on the dumbek (I just
can’t help it) and then we get carried away.  Rami’s getting really
annoyed that I butt into his lessons, so today I’ll try to stay away.

Today is lessons, lessons, lesson! I love it – our teachers come to our
house all  dressed up. Today Ashram is wearing a suit and tie.
Yesterday Fikry my rababa teacher had this snazzy galabeia on.  All day
with have lessons in our luxury apartment and after midnight we go sit
with Saiid until the morning.

Rami's Riq Lesson

I’m listening to Rami’s lesson and his teacher is chanting the rhythm
to him like this: Bom, britak, britak briitak, britak, bra ta
On the dumbek its different – he says, Bom, ripalak, ripalak, ripalak ect.

The lessons are supposed to be one hour but they always last at least
three hours.  Plenty of cigarette and tea breaks. Yesterday my rababa
teacher had to stop the lesson twice in order to pray!  I never know
what to do with myself when all of a sudden he starts prostrating and
praying. Also any time the Moazin starts singing outside to call people
to prayer we have to stop playing.

We’ve been waking up at around 1 or 2pm and spending our afternoons
going over the tapes and videos of our lessons. Yesterday we didn’t
make it out to breakfast until 7:30pm! We’re actually on American time.
 The girls will have no problem adjusting to our schedule.

I’m having intensive rababa lessons every day now because tomorrow I’ll
be filmed playing with my teacher for Egyptian TV, channel one!  It’s
this talk show called Samir Sabry – kindof like Opra Winfry in the
states.  It’s going to be aired Thursday night in Egypt and afterwards
all over the Middle East by satellite.  I’ll try to get someone to
record it.  He said I’ll also be interviewed and I hope I’ll get to
play the dumbek as well.  I guess this Samir guy speaks English well.

Ashram just took a cigarette break and is telling us about Ibrahim
Malfify - the greatest riq player in Egypt who played with Um Kol Tum.
He died in ‘61 and was Ashram’s teacher.

Now the lesson is over and Ashram will play a Mahhmud Hammuda style
solo on the dumbek for us to film! Yay!  By the way, Mahmud Hammuda is
a legendary tabla player who passed away a few years ago.  So far I’ve
met three different great drummers who say, “Mahmud Hammuda was like my
father”.  He must have been quite a personatliy. I wish I had met him.

Ashraf Channeling the Spirit of Mahmud Hamuda

There’s so much new material – I’m a little overwhelmed.

By the way, for those of you who are squeamish about cleanliness in
foreign countries, I’ve been drinking tap water, eating at local dives,
and I’ve never felt better.  Also every bathroom I’ve visited has been
very clean.  From what I’ve heard this is partially due to the strict
Muslim laws on cleanliness. People pray several times a day and must
wash themselves beforehand.

I also discovered the word in Arabic for vegan – its “Siamy”.  I guess
there is a sect of Christians here who become vegan for lent (around
one month) every year, so people really understand the concept when I
use that word. At the same time I discovered that fatira dough is
vegan, so now I can join Rami in his 6am fatira binges every night (the
fatira stand near our house is open 24 hours a day and is very tempting
after entire nights of playing music).

Gotta go practice!

Raquy,PLEASE PLEASE check out this website,


It features videos of top drummers in the world. Saiid's video is first and it's the best one. Check out the amazingly, almost SHOCKING, fast hands of Numan Elyer. Please get your video clip posted at that site, I already sent the administrator 2 e-mails linking him to your site but he hasn't added anything, maybe he needs your permission. Good luck and enjoy every secong in Egypt.

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