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Drum Attack

Drum Attack

Belly Dance Drum Solos by Tony Chamoun (plus 2 drums solos from his Nourhan Sharif CD)

CD Review by Amina Goodyear
posted July 12, 2009

Tony Chamoun is a Lebanese American from Boston, MA. This CD has 10 tracks and each track is named after a dancer.  I recognize some but not all the names and believe that these drum solos are mostly named after prominent East Coast dancers. The CD is very well mixed and recorded and all the individual percussion instruments either jump out or hold their own as background in the manner that the drummer saw fit.

  1. Shadia – 3:22
    This piece is short with the duf or bendir acting as the ard (base) with the tabla playing over it for about a minute of it. The rhythm changes are a little too abrupt to make this a fun dance unless it is completely counted out and choreographed. To me, it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t have good natural progressions for a dancer.
  2. Nourhan – 8:25
    This starts with the rhythm bambi which is the first underlying rhythm that keeps changing until it eventually changes to a maqsoum beat. There is one section in the middle that sounds like the galloping horse that was used for the Lebanese dancers Nadia Gamal and Amani which is followed by the undulating rolls that made these two Lebanese dancers choo choo with body waves. This is followed by the Iraqi chobi rhythm that gradually becomes another rhythm while the
    familiar, old stand-by maqsoum keeps entering into the rhythm with a tar solo that keeps answering the tabla. Throughout this piece, the tar and tabla have interesting conversations with very clear distinct sounds. I don’t find this particularly interesting as a dance piece. It is more a piece for a drummer to enjoy and think about how the percussion gently moves from one rhythm to another.
  3.  Lola – 1:24
    This very short piece is ideal for using in class. After the 15 second intro it is basically a maqsoum drum solo base with some tabla rifs thrown in. It ends with a drum roll. Good for using a class and seeing how each dancer responds to the drum.
  4. Najmat – 6:18
    A maqsoum duf floor with the tabla playing short rifs and accents turns this into a drum solo that goes nowhere. I would say this is good for a drum teacher to use as examples of different drum rifs…Or “OK class, I (the teacher) will play maqsoum on the duf and we’ll go around the room and in turn each of you students will play 4 measures of something just like you heard on this CD." I guess it would be OK to practice to dance to this, but it would be a better practice track if each rif were done 4 x and that is not the case.  The drumming seems to be random. After almost five minutes of this “going nowhere” the tempo changes ever so slightly into a maqsoum saidi but the next couple of minutes is a repeat of the first 5 minutes until finally it is maqsoum saeria and the tempo picks up enough to end.
  5. Katia – 4:25
    I really don’t understand this piece. Just when it seems to be getting into a groove, it jumps to something that just doesn’t feel like a “natural to dance to” transition.  The rhythm in this piece ultimately reminds me of when I was a kid playing cowboys and Indians and we did our Indian war dances to rhythms similar to this.
  6. Johara – 7:10
    Back in the 70’s there was record, Delta Festival,(vinyl), and in the 80’s a cassette “Addomma Wettekka” which was later re-released on CD, of music put out by the Egyptian drummer Khamis Henkesh. It was modern and it very disco-like. In fact,  one of the cuts was called “El Disco Hal Hadisco”. Besides El Disco, there were two other cuts, “Dokdok Abu Daka” aka “DoDo Abu Daah” and “Henkesh fi Belad el Ferenga”. These songs all featured a very disco, jazzy synthesizer sound with tabla.  When I heard track #6, “Johara”, I was reminded of Henkish’s music. This is not the same as Henkish’s but I wonder if Tony was influenced. Or, maybe, as a friend pointed out – Henkesh was playing tabla to disco music which was popular then, and Tony was playing tabla to club music which is popular now. After 5 minutes the synthesizer music stops and it becomes just a tabla drum solo that starts without a rhythm baseline and gradually welcomes the duf playing various versions of maqsoum saidi until the finale. This section could be danced to.
  7. Phaedra – 3:12
    This is a very nice tar/tabla/bongo piece. For me it works better as a listening piece than as a dance piece because I don’t like the abrupt end, but it does build and for the most part is pretty good for dancing.
  8. Shakira – 4:48
    Although the cymbals have been prevalent throughout this CD, this track finally features the cymbals in the opening section.  This lively track featuring the bongos definitely is a fun piece and brings to mind carnaval or Samba Brazil with the bass drum and pandeira batteria sounds. With so many Brazilian dancers loving bellydance, I am sure this cut is very popular and in a non-traditional Middle Eastern way, is very danceable.
  9. Houwaida – 8:01
    This piece has an interesting tar/tabla version of the “Standard Arabic Drum Solo” that Setrak made so famous in his early records in the 70’s.  I think that it is probably the most danceable piece in the CD. It has a beginning, a middle and an end.  Good repetitions and structure in the beginning, nice variety in the middle and a build-up with all the usual known drum rifs for the end. There are lots of  opportunities for the dancer to play with the rhythms including the Brazilian beats which seem to be an integral part of many Arabic drum solos.  Besides the familiarity of many of the drum rifs and the nice repetitions (to enable the dancer to do something), the tabla has a nice contrasting sound between the dums and the teks.
  10. DeAnna – 1:35
    This piece, to me, doesn’t have enough changes to make it useful as a performance piece, but it’s nice repetitions make it a good class practice piece.

Nourhan and Tony CDIn conclusion – I feel this is mostly a  drummer’s for drummers CD and not really a “Belly Dance Drum Solos” CD. Out of 10 tracks, I would recommend track # 9 as being the only Arabic bellydance drum solo track, with track #8 coming in second as a Brazilian bellydance drum solo piece. I would, though, recommend both drum solos in the following CD by the same artist.

Nourhan Sharif in “Raqs Sharqi” by Tony Chamoun

Includes 2 Drum Solos composed and played by Tony Chamoun that are very danceable and interesting. Various percussion instruments are played.  Although it sounds like a “percussion ensemble”,  according to the liner notes it seems that Tony Chamoun layered all the tracks himself.

Track 4 “Tabla Solo” (3:07) is a predictable and fun drum solo in the style of “Standard Arabic Drum Solo” (think Setrak)
starting with 3 repeats and an ending, followed by interesting rhythm progressions and changes with endings and finally an upbeat drum roll end.

Track 8 “Al Tabla Jamila” (8:37) is a nice medium tempo Saidi style drum solo. It has very clear riffs played on top of the rolling Saidi rhythm that just make the hips and body want to play and accent. Besides the tabla accents, about half way into the piece, bongos come in to help change the tempo and flavor and when the tabla comes back with some great rolls and little accents, the rhythm and feeling subtly changes into a driving chobi background with the tabla still playing over the rhythm. Again the background percussion rhythm changes – this time into an ayoub with the tabla still continuously playing riffs and accents until the piece crescendos to an abrupt finish.

Zil rating
2.5 for Tony’s whole Drum Attack CD
2.5 zil rating

3.5 for the 2 drum solos in the 2nd CD called Nourhan Sharif in Raqs Sharqi
3.5 zil rating


Return to intro for Heartbeat of the Dance: Review of 4+ Drum Solo CDs by Amina Goodyear

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