Friday, February 16, 2007


Feb 15: Dumbek Fever Sweeps Cairo

I thought people and New York had dumbek fever! But I’ve never seen such dumbek fever as I’m witnessing here in Cairo!

Me and Natalia Perlaza Junior. Hey, who’s that on my drum head?

My class at the University keeps getting bigger and bigger. Every day more people ask me if they can come sit in even though they’re not registered!

My students adorable, and they are so into the dumbek! They stay after class to practice. I can’t get them to leave! One of my students came up to me after the class today and said, “Thanks so much, Ya Doktor! Most people come to University with books, but we get to come to University with tablas!”

The free class is getting bigger too. The first week I had 2 people, the second week I had about 10 people and a bunch of people I don’t know called to ask about the class next week! Every week I need to find a bigger place to hold it! Because of this, it has the quality of some kind of clandestine meeting – I don’t reveal the location of the class until the last minute!

I also have a private dumbek student and a kemenche student as well!

2nd Free Class – Downtown Cairo at Nader’s apartment.

I must say, I love the structure of having a class four mornings a weeks! I have a 20 minute walk through a lovely area of Cairo, past some beautiful mosques, parks, markets, etc. The people I meet on the way know me by now and they all say hi to me. Every day I stop at the juice place and have an orange juice on the way to school. Then I have a carrot juice at the same place on the way back. I get home with a carrot mustache on my face and Rami makes breakfast while I edit my book in the sun on the balcony. After breakfast I go back to bed.

I had a meeting with some people from TV stations yesterday. They are planning to cover the show and do some interviews beforehand.

Tonight we went to a concert of Bedouin music on an outdoor stage on the Nile. The percussion section was hilarious. It was a dumbek player, one guy playing a rusty gas tank and another guy who had an Israeli army artillery box with Hebrew on it and was playing on it with drum sticks! The gas tank sounded amazing! It has a great bass sound and the artillery box was almost like a riq!

The three of them reminded me of me, Rami and Carmine at the Figaro!

Monday, February 12, 2007


Feb 9th: Fish Offering, Concert Planning and New Dumbek Design!

Meeting with Said!

We went to Said’s yesterday and had a meeting about our concert!

Rami, Dominique (the guy studying tabla from Canada) and I got to his place at midnight and he wasn’t there yet, so we got to practice really loud in his practice studio for a couple hours before he arrived.

Saiid made up for being so late by bringing us about 30 medium sized grilled fish wrapped in paper. This is like at 2:00am! He put all 30 fish on top of the wrapping on the table and left the room. All for just the three of us! There was nothing else in the meal but the fish and some pita. Not even any silverware! It was a bit overwhelming, but they were delicious (I even tasted a little!).

After the meal we went up to the “office” and talked about our plan for the show. I won’t give it away, but it’s going to be amazing.

I told him about my students who are coming and he said that he needs to hear each of them play before he allows them to perform in the concert!

He told us that Orbit TV has been rerunning footage from our last show again and again for the past two years, and that the show created a huge buzz!

I haven’t hung out with Said in two years and the difference in my Arabic skills is noticeable! We had much better communication – I could understand almost everything he said, and I could express most of what I wanted to say. I still have lots of work to do with the language, but it was satisfying to see that all the studying is paying off and that I don’t feel like such an idiot as I did last time.

New Raquy Dumbek by Gwaret Al Fan

We met with Nasser from Gwaret al Fan and he’s all excited about a new idea for a Raquy Dumbek made out of wood and silver!

I love the regular mother of pearl ones that he’s been making for me, but I’m open to new ideas, so he’s getting a couple ready for me to see and then I’ll decide if I like it or not. His idea is that if I like it, we will make the show in Cairo the “coming out” party for the new designer drum. He’s already made a bunch of the new Raquy drum heads – and they look amazing! Soon hundreds of people will be hitting my picture!

Yom Agaza ( day off) !

The view from my balcony!

Today was my first day off from school! What a luxury! I slept till 2:00pm, went down to the outdoor ahawa on my street and read my book! Then we came back home and Rami made a delicious lunch of salad, cauliflower, green beans and rice! YUM! The veggis here are so delicious it’s hard to believe they’re real! All we have scheduled today is a lesson with Fikry my rababa teacher at night.

My University Class

My class is going great! It totally filled up! They called me from the department yesterday to ask if I would accept a 16th student even though the limit is fifteen students, so I said “Yalla – why not?” I got through the first week of school smoothly. The class is so fun – it goes by so fast everyday!

I had everyone buy a copy of “Dumbek Fever” as the textbook for the class!

The first quiz is gonna be the Time Exercise next week. Everyone will have to do the Time Exercise up to four and then go back down to one next Thursday, and I will grade them on it. Hee hee.

It’s gonna take me a while to get used to them calling me “Ya Doktor”! Every time they call me that I look behind me to see who they’re talking to!

Guess what? In the University in Egypt the janitor will make you coffee! Yesterday I was so tired when I got to class, so I got the janitor and said, “Mahmood – would you please make me a double coffee?” and he brought it to me in the class! Sweet!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Back in Egypt

Here I am back in Egypt! It’s really starting to feel like a second home!


This time we found an apartment right away. It took about 20 minutes! Our Boab from last year hooked us up and took us to this place in Moonira. It’s HUGE – our friends call it “The Palace”. It has sequinned gilded elephants all over the place and an amazing balcony overlooking a very unique old building. The bedroom has this awesome 70’s decor with furniture that looks like an old automobile! The neighborhood is wonderful. The entire street corner on both sides is an outdoor shisha café that makes great coffee and there is a sook (market) right around the corner with fresh produce.

The place is a fifteen minute walk to the University, which brings me to my next subject:

My University Class!

I can’t believe it's actually happening! I have about 12 students enrolled in the class. Most of them are Egyptian and there are two girls from the states on a semester abroad. Not all of them have drums yet, but conveniently there are little tables attached to the chairs, so the ones without drums are banging on the tables! There’s a great vibe in the class, everyone is enjoying it very much, and there are several that are showing signs of serious dumbek fever! I’m thinking of giving them a “Pop” quiz! Ha ha, get it? “Pop” quiz?

The biggest challenge for me with this class is the time. It meets four times a week at 9:30am!!!!! That means that I have to get up at 8:30am!!!!! I really don’t want this to cramp my nightlife in Cairo, so here’s what I’ve been doing:

Go to bed at 4am
Get up at 8:30am
Teach my class
Go back to bed at noon
Sleep until 3 or 4pm

It’s a little weird, but it’s working so far.

Free Class in Cairo!

Remember how I usually give a free class on Mondays in New York? Well I thought, why not in Cairo!

There are two guys here, one from Canada and one from Prague, who have basically dropped everything else in their lives in order to come to Egypt and study the dumbek. So they came over on Monday and we had a free class! And I will do it every Monday – I’m just looking for a bigger place to have it!

Fikry, Said and Halim El Dabah

So far I’ve seen these three. We went to Fikry’s folkloric orchestra rehearsal, and I got to jam with them a little and hang out with him. I’m going over to his house tomorrow for a lesson.
We got to hang out with Said a bit before a show he was having. He was better dressed than ever! It was great to see him and we’ll go over to his place later tonight.

Also my buddy, the 85 year old Egyptian composer Halim El Dabah who lives in Ohio was giving a lecture in the classroom next to mine after my class, so I surprised him and we jammed, him on the piano and me on the dumbek for the assembly.

Our First Show in Cairo

Last night it was the birthday of this guy Hisham who is a huge fan of my music, so his friend Nader organized a house concert in a beautiful apartment in downtown Cairo. It was weird for me to have all these people there that I’ve never met before who listen to my music all the time, and were actually requesting specific songs!

All in all, I’ve been seeing some incredible inspiring music shows, eating lots of tomatoes and artichokes, smoking shisha, practicing my Arabic and enjoying the sunshine. It’s good to be back.

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