Tuesday, February 12, 2008
My Wonderful Troupe!
I've found my guys here! Yay!They ROCK! This is going to be such an amazing show! I have one kick ass ric guy, Hane, Mustafa Abbas on dahulla, bass drum and cymbal, Medhat and Bahe on simbati and of course Rami on riq, dof and tabla. Today we met and I started showing them Newbian and Maracatu. It’s different stuff for them, but they all get it, and it sounded soooo great after just the first meeting!
These guys are on time, they dress nice, they don’t ask to smoke cigarettes in the house, and best of all they don’t mind this pink lady telling them what to play! Oh, and did I mention, they are all hot?
The first official rehearsal will be on Saturday. I can’t wait.
I’m composing a new piece which I think is going to be the big hit of the concert. It’s called “Maksum Madness” and for this piece we will all play tabla in unison. The piece is crazy! I think I’ll save it till the end of the show.
My ClassWe got upgraded to a bigger classroom because so many people signed up for my class. Now I’m up to 26 students! I think the word is spreading that they can get college credit for playing tabla!
I’m still in the stage of trying to tame them. Put 26 Egyptians in a boomy room and give them all drums, and good luck trying to run a class! But it’s getting better every day – there is less tapping going on while I’m trying to talk, ect.
I’ve started talking about chakras, channeling and meditation. I even started giving them one yoga posture a day. It does help your drumming to meditate and do yoga, so as far as I’m concerned it’s all related. I get some strange looks, but for the most part, they are interested.
Strange goings on in the hoodFor the last couple days I’ve been seeing some strange things below my balcony.
Yesterday I went downstairs and it looked like someone had spilled an entire bucket of red paint on the tiles in front of one of the stores.
When I looked inside and saw a bunch of men chopping at some flesh on the floor inside, I understood. This was no paint, but BLOOD! It turns out that minutes before I came down the stairs, they had sacrificed some animal right there!
An hour later when I returned there was barely a trace of the violent act.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night barely able to breathe because of the strong smell of meat cooking (and it smelled fresh!) that penetrated my bedroom!
Then today I could barely get out into the street because of piles of fruit in front of the building! And they were bringing in huge speakers! When night fell, I noticed that they had strung colorful lights all over the street. They started blasting music from the speakers, and they set up chairs across from the fruit stand. Families came and sat down to listen to the music and smoke shisha. It was a hafla, right there in the middle of the street in front of my building!
I asked the baker what’s going on and he explained everything to me. All the above weirdness – the sacrifice, the lights, the music, the fruit – was in honor of a new fruit stand. This was the opening night, so the owners threw this party in order to get attention. And I imagine the sacrifice the night before was to bless the place.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Helllo Again, You Dusty City!
ApartmentIn a neighborhood near downtown Cairo is the massive tomb of Saad Zaghlool. Next to the tomb is a lively street with an outdoor market of vegetables, meat, clothes, textiles and household goods. On the market street in between a shawarma joint and a 24 hour bakery there are some stairs going up into an alley. The alley is lined with more vendors, and across from the fish stall there is a door. Inside the door and up the stairs above the Nubian men’s club there is an incredible newly renovated “super lux” three bedroom apartment. This apartment is home for the next two months.
Sometimes when you rent a flat for a couple months in Cairo the apartment is full of dingy old furniture. What I love about this apartment is that it is freshly painted and relatively empty, with a minimal amount of tasteful furniture. Plus there are stained glass windows in every room! Small lights scattered about give the impression of candles. What a classy pad!
And in case of boredom, all you have to do is look out of the window down to the market. About every half hour some screaming argument breaks out right below the balcony. There are certain characters who seem to be involved in every brawl.
I feel very happy, inspired and creative in this apartment. I stay up until 5am decorating fresh dumbek heads with colored markers at the dining room table, studying Arabic, composing and planning the shows. And I’ve turned one of the extra bedrooms into a meditation room!
My walk to school every day is only ten minutes, and I get to pass my favorite juice guys. Also near my house is the beautiful music venue called Makan that houses the women’s zaar trance ceremony. I inquired today to see if I could have the free class there, and am waiting to hear back.
My ClassOnce again I have a nice class. This year, there are many more girls than before, a group of six Egyptian girls who sit together in the back and giggle. Only a few of the students have dumbeks, but I’m hoping they will all have one by the end of the week. THANK GOD my class this year is at 1:30 and not 9:30 like last year. Even so, with jetlag and all, I can barely drag my butt out of bed in time.
My Egypt Health BalanceOn the one hand I’m drinking fresh juices all day long, and eating almost all raw delicious fruits and veggis. On the other hand the air is dusty and polluted, I smoke all kinds of stuff here, and going jogging in Cairo would be ridiculous and counterproductive, so I figure it balances out.
We did bring pet scoby with us and chef Rami has begun the brewing process for the historic first batch of kambucha in Egypt.
And for you raw foods people, how about this – sprouted foul! I’m serious! It’s good!
Auditions for My Own Egyptian Troupe!I’m VERY excited because I’ve started assembling my new Egyptian drumming troupe!
As soon as I landed I started spreading the word that I’m looking for some young bright drummers and who can play stuff that’s not only Egyptian. Today I had two meetings from guys who were recommended to me, and they are both GREAT! The first guy, Mustafa Abbes, was wearing these fancy pointy shoes and picked up everything so fast! I had him play a challenging series of maksum variations and then I showed him my new samai with that part in 14 (3+4+4+3) and he got that as well! So this guy was on time to the meeting, he didn’t ask to smoke cigarettes in my apartment, he said he was on a diet, and he could play in 14. I was like, “Mustafa, are you sure you’re Egyptian?”
The second guy Baha was also great and picked up everything. And he was sooooo enthusiastic and excited!
Oh and did I mention, they are both hot? I even started imagining how I’m gonna dress them up for the show!
Pretty sweet! After meeting those two, I have a feeling this is going to be a kick ass show and I’m really getting psyched!
The first rehearsal will be at Mustafa’s studio next Tuesday.