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Arabic rhythms

If you are new to Arabic music then you might want to get familiar with a few of the rhythms on this page. These rhythms are most commonly played  on Arabic 'Tabla' (Darabouka - Doumbek) Req, and Arabic hand drums etc.  A good way to get started is to look at these first four rhythms which are often used in conjunction with one another in a lot of middle eastern music and belly dance drumming.  These four rhythms are also an excellent skeletal structure to develop a solo over as a percussionist.  This page is more about the rhythms than the detailed specifics of darabouka technique but, there will be a page on that coming soon.

CHIFTITELLI.  This is usually used for the 'Taqsim' section of a piece which is where the soloist will develop and improvise on the scales and melodies of the piece.  This is similar to the 'Alap' section at the beginning of a lot of Indian music.

AUDIO  

MAQSOUM.  Here the rhythm picks up into a more 'strolling' style.

AUDIO  

AYOUB or MALFOUF. This is where the real excitement and energy of the rhythm is generated.

AUDIO
 

This next rhythm is often used for the middle eight section of the piece.

AUDIO  

There are also lots of other Middle Eastern rhythms.  Here are a few.

FELLAHI.  Related to Malfouf.  A fast and driving 2/4 groove.

AUDIO  

SAIDI.  Actually, the first bar of this example is Saidi but Arabic percussionists sometimes omit the dum stroke on the first beat of the second bar to create an interesting variation.

AUDIO  

FAST CHIFTITELLI.  Another driving rhythm but this time in 4/4 rather than 2/4.

BALLADI.  A regal 'walking pace' style of rhythm.  This also works well if you play it as a two bar groove and omit the dum on the first beat of the second bar.

AUDIO  

KARSILAMAS. Characteristic Turkish/Greek 9/8 comprising of a 'slow 3' and a 'quick 3'

AUDIO  

COPANITSER. Bulgarian, but really in the mood of odd meter Arabic grooves.  This rhythm is divided 4+3+4 and has a really great feel.

AUDIO  

Embelishing Arabic rhythms

Arabic rhythms can be developed on Darabouka in a very logical way, going from 'open' to 'closed' by slowly filling in between the main beats of the skeletal structure of the rhythm.  Here we have the basic structure of a standard Arabic groove with the right hand only.

AUDIO OF ALL EMBELLISHMENT LEVELS   

Next, on an eighth note level only, we fill in the three spaces with the left hand as shown below.

Next up, we make each of the new additions into a sixteenths 'RL' instead of the single left hand note.  This is really starting to add the characteristic feel to the groove.

Then we fill in all the off beat sixteenths with the left hand.  This gives us the 'closed' version of the groove. The hands will now be playing 'RLRL' throughout.

Following on from there we get into the 'decorative' embellishments where little ruffs and rolls are added to the groove using individual fingers of the left hand.  Some Arabic traditions involve the use of all three fingers (excluding pinkie) whilst others only employ the first and ring finger.  I prefer this later option.


 

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