Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Drum Solo Construction

This past week I taught a drum solo workshop in Orlando, and I had a great time creating a workshop based on “how to construct a drum solo.” I know from personal experience, creating a drum solo that is memorable, show-stopping, and awe-inspiring is a daunting task. What I did notice while researching drum solos, however, is that most Middle Eastern drum solos have common elements if made for a belly dancer, more specifically they will probably have the following elements: Entrance, Answer and call, Pop/slap, Beledi resolution, Shimmy section (could also be finale), Finale punch line.

Entrance – introduces the dancer, the percussionist(s), and sets the tone for the rest of the piece. Could be a recurring rhythms such as ayoub or malfouf, a unique rhythm set that spaces between each riff, or a simple roll to warm the percussionists fingers.

Answer and call – a “power of four set” where the percussionist introduces a riff, and another percussionist (maybe the dancer utilizing zills) answers. Dancers could utilize this section with intricate isolations and musical interpretation.

Pop/ slap – literally referring to the pop and slap technique on the doumbek, these “power of four” sets gives a different texture to the rhythms and riffs the percussionist is presenting. The dancer should in turn give a different texture to her movement with level changes, directional faces, and internal isolations i.e. percussive belly rolls.

Beledi resolution – usually by this point of the drum solo both you and the percussionist have almost pulled all of your “tricks”. The percussionist then starts a basic beledi rhythm as a break for everyone including the audience. Middle Eastern audiences will clap in catharsis and familiarity to this rhythm. The dancer should relax at this point and conserve her energy for the build up to the finale, doing simple or folkloric steps. Awalim has used this break as an opportunity to use ATS in our choreography.

Shimmy section – exactly what it says, the part that everyone waits for. The percussionist will utilize rolls in which 95% of the time the dancer will answer with hip shimmies. Be creative with however you want to interpret those rolls; if you have a mean belly flutter, by all means, dazzle us! I know I was when Zoe Jakes pulled this technique at the latest BellyDance SuperStares show with percussionist Issam Houshan.

Finale – finales are the absolute peak of your drum solo, whether the last section builds or speeds in tempo with a traditional fellahi, or goes crazy with a million poly rhythms: make sure you save your highest point to be your final point. If you have lead your audience as you should with a drum solo, they should jump out of their seat when you end on this high note.

So, what are the pieces I pulled this information from? The following pieces:
Amer’s Drum Solo: Arabesque Dance Company
Naima’s Hip: Hossam Ramzy
Cat’s Meow: Susu Pampanin and the Cairo Cats
Rejoicing in Upper Egypt: Musicians of the Nile
Missr!: Raquy and the Cavemen

More “classic” drum solos can be found from the following albums:
Raquy Danziger – Naked, Jordan
Hossam Ramzy – Sabla Tolo Vol. 1,2,3
Issam Housham – The Dancing Drum
Susu Pampanin– Dancing Drums
Carmine Guida – Shake ‘Em Up Belly Dance Drum Solos
Sohail Kaspar - The "Magic" of John Bilezikjian
Mary Ellen Donald – Gems