Useful tips on how to play Darbuka-Doumbek for belly dancers. Darbuka- The belly dance drum
1. Create a rough guide: Depending on the occasion, location, culture, and general situation, creating a mind map is an easy way to simplify life in presentations. It is like this; you are doing a concert in a turkish restaurant, you have to entertain for 15 minutes with just one drummer and one dancer. First you need to figure out how you want to get into space, that is, with a bang? Or maybe a simple, soft veil piece?
How long will the entrance rhythm play before moving on to the next main pattern? What is the crowd’s favorite beat that night? I mentioned it was a Turkish restaurant so Kasilima comes to mind! When the lead drum solo is happening, can the dancer play zills to back it up a bit? Could the audience applaud? On time !? How is it going to end? Maybe with a fast 2/4 beat and a twist for the dancer followed by a final rizz (rush / roll) so he can walk away!
Having a really open plan can help toughen up the performance so that it looks more professional and has some guiding lights to tie the beginning to the end. There’s still plenty of room to improvise, but you have a rough guide anyway.
At some concerts, especially restaurants and weddings, you never know what to expect. For this reason, you must be flexible during performance, but still with a basic plan between drummer and dancer. It always gives you that advantage!
2. KISS the dancer! Not so my friends! So, keep it simple and stupid. It’s a cheesy old marketing saying that many of you have heard before I’m sure. Well, if you want to get asked again for another gig with the dancer (and I bet a million dollars the dancer booked the performance!), Then the KISS formula will serve you well. Yes, you have thunder and yes, you can beat Hossam Ramzy on a bad day, but the dancer doesn’t care about that at all. The dancer wants rhythm and clear drum fills. Less is more my friends. Remember also that a dancer (unlike us) needs to breathe. This can be difficult to do when there is no room in the music for a dancer to sit still for a moment and regain their composure.
3. Watch the dancer and NOT the floor: I am the first to be guilty of this criminal act. I once saw a video of me performing for a dancer on stage. In fact, we had worked out a few things that she would also dance to during the drum solo and that meant I didn’t have to look at her at all. When I saw the video, I cringed. He seemed very disinterested in what was happening and I completely missed something the dancer was trying to do at the time! How can you play for a dancer and not watch what is happening? You can not! Remember, you are actually having a conversation and talking to her (or him). You’re saying we’re here, I’m doing this for a moment and then I’ll play here for a while. This is the last one and then I’ll go there, you know what I’m doing? That is fantastic! Now let’s move on to this idea.
You are saying all this and much more, all with your eyes and your drum. It’s also worth knowing if all eyes are on the dancer or you! Remember: it is a good idea when playing for belly dancers to see your drum as a Belly Dancing drum more than a darbuka!
4. Get a vocabulary: Knowing what to play for certain belly dance techniques is essential. To do this, you will need a lot of different shades up your sleeve. Being able to roll fast is great, but can you do it for your upper and lower body? Can you play a fast roll and then go straight back to the beat without missing a beat? Have a collection of puc or pop shades to use? Can you play a fast roll and then imply another rhythm with your right hand on top of this roll? Well, maybe that’s forgetting the KISS formula a bit, but it’s still great.
5. Repeat your ideas: One of the oldest tricks in the book is to repeat your ideas four times. These ideas can be developed each time, but essentially the same idea is repeated. The room will usually have a small change to mark the end of one idea and then the next one will begin. Playing this way will allow the dancer to hear what your idea is, create something, develop that “something” and then really put it together for the last two times he touches it.
6. Who invited Aladdin? Speaking as a drummer from the western world, we can sometimes go overboard in the dressing room. In my years of performing with musicians from the Middle East, the only people who go to their performances dressed as Aladdin are the musicians from the West! If you go to a Lebanese wedding or a Turkish club and see the musicians, they don’t actually wear those things. Dressing like this is good for corporate concerts that have a theme party. Any other concert and it will seem a bit out of touch with reality in the eyes of many people. Elegant-looking pants, a flawless black shirt, and perhaps a patterned vest is much more appropriate. Women can generally wear fancier outfits without looking as silly as us gentlemen. Food for thought!
7. Every dancer is unique: As you will soon notice, each dancer has their own unique style. This is something to keep in mind when playing together. What worked last night won’t necessarily work tonight. Some belly dancers are small and like to dance fast and jump to the nearest table! Others prefer solid beats so they can go through all the choreography they can know. A dancer with a more voluptuous body may appreciate the relaxed but interesting drum fills. It’s all part of being able to build a really comfortable report to each other and congratulate each other as a dancer and musician.
The following helpful tips will be included in the second article on Playing for a Belly Dancer: ‘The belly dance drum.
Take care and happy drumming.