The Gilded Serpent  

Armando's Drumming Dazzls the Dancer

Review of "Uncle Mafufo's Riqs & Defs: a practical approach to Middle Eastern Frame Drums"

by Claire

Imagine having your favorite uncle come visit for an hour. Imagine that he is an expert percussionist willing to guide you through some tricky Middle Eastern rhythms. Imagine that you pick-up a frame drum and play with style and panache! Well, imagine no more; this can truly be your experience viewing Uncle Mafufo's new Riqs & Defs video. And how wonderful that Uncle Mafufo is none other than Armando, who brings 30 years worth of expertise to this well produced "how to" video. With CD's, tapes, and innumerable performances both as Sirocco and as a soloist, Armando brings a wealth of know-how to this latest production. His support of Middle Eastern dancers and musicians over the years is manifest in his forthright, unselfconscious manner and a genuine love of the material.

There is an old Arabic proverb, "To some music is meat, to others it is medicine." Uncle Mafufo's Riqs & Defs has both the substance of very practical instruction mixed with inspiring creativity as tonic. This video is compelling and poetic, a perfect addition to anyone's library.It has detailed, but never dry, instruction for learning both the Egyptian tambourine "Riq" and the Arabic frame drum "Def". The lessons are encouraging for beginners and juicy enough for more experienced musicians.

Armando is so personable and engaging that the video feels live, like a jam session right in your living room.

The hour-long video is divided into two halves, the first for learning Riq and the second for learning Def. The two parts work together in creating a generous body of music with which to play along. In both sections, Armando explains how to hold the instrument, the hand placement and finger techniques for basic strokes. The rhythms are repeated in the same order for both Riq and Def, a well crafted device for comparison. Some of the most popular dance rhythms using various tempos are described with tips for playing and practicing. This tape covers Ayoob/Longa, Malfoof/Kaligi, Maksoom/Beledi/Sahidi and Darig.

There is a convenient chart on the back cover outlining each rhythm in counts as well as dum-tec-ca. Using resounding dums, an occasional slap, and impressive rolls, the music flows from the tambourine and frame drum in breathtaking clarity and power.
The camera work is solid, generally focused on Armando's face and hands. There are no visual distractions so you can clearly see what he is playing and explaining. The helpful hints such as counting, or an emphasis on certain accents, or where to put an embellishment, come at just the right times and provide a little extra push to keep you on track. Learning a new instrument can be a daunting proposition. Finding the
inclination to practice can be frustrating. This new video makes it easy.

Armando is comforting as well as comfortable with his knowledge and his charm and blithesome humor are great motivators.

This video is a terrific tool for both dancers and musicians wanting to increase their fundamental understanding of Middle Eastern music and the nuances of rhythm.

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