Monday, March 02, 2009


Last Two Weeks in Istanbul

My Fabulous Teacher Bunyamin

About six years ago I got an album by a group called Harem which is a Turkish percussion ensemble. I remember being blown away by this music, and I got a lot of new inspiration and ideas for my own compositions. I had a fantasy that I would go to Turkey and find those guys and play with them.

After a week of studying with Binyamin, he was showing me some of his videos, and guess what? That is his band! My fantasy came true!

I’ve been practicing with Bunyamin day and night! I’m learning a whole new style!
If somebody had asked me before I came here “Is your style more Egyptian or Turkish” I would have said “half and half”. But now that I’m studying the Turkish style from the real deal, I realize that my technique was 90% Egyptian with a tiny hint of Turkish. The Turkish style takes A LOT of practice! These guys practice between five and ten hours a day! The speed is incredible. I feel like I’m starting to get it, but I need much more practice. Bunyamin says that in one year I’ll have it if I practice five hours a day. Ein Sh’alla.

Our practicing has several elements. We spend a lot of time on technique, we do some listening to Indian music (many Turkish drummsers get inspiration from Indian music) and we make recordings together since his practice studio is also a recording studio! Listening back to your own playing is a great way to see what needs to improve!

Also, Bunyamins studio seems to be the hang out for all the most amazing drummers! Hamdi Aketai, Suat, and many others hang there and I get to jam with all of them! I love the jams because I can take the new moves I’m learning and put them in context!

By the way, those of you who have heard any Tarkan albums, that’s Bunyamin playing dumbek! He has toured with Tarkan all over the world!


I was just thinking that I would love to find a real sufi trance ceremony with whilring dervishes, and I was getting a carrot juice, and I met violinist Aydin who told me that tonight he’s playing in a ceremony and that he will give me a ride! It was a magical ceremony, and the violinist was out of this world. Since then I’m giving him yoga lessons in exchange for makam lessons (Turkish modes).


Omar Farouk Tekbilek played a free concert in the Topkopi Palace! It was the most beautiful place for a show I’ve ever seen! We got to hang out with him after the show!

David Kucherman in Istanbul!

David Kucherman the incredible riq player from Germany came to Istanbul for our last week there. He’s thinking of moving there so he came to check out the scene. It was wonderful to have him there. He also took a lesson from Bunyamin and some Turkish clarinet lessons.

Mehmet Akatay

David told me there’s this guy in Istanbul who is perhaps the greatest riq player in the world. What he didn’t tell me was that he was sooooo cute! The guy came to our house to give David a lesson when I happened to be home and it was love at first sight! We spent the whole day together and may end up eloping and forming a riq and dumbek duet!

Off to Cairo

So we put away the Turkish dictionaries, got out our Arabic dictionaries, packed our bags and now we are in the airport waiting to fly to Egypt. We were only here a month but we made so many incredible connections! I can’t count how many times I heard “Ben Seni Seviyorum” (I love you) today from our new Turkish friends! This month in Istanbul exceeded all of my expectations (which were high to begin with). I’m so inspired!

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