Volume 1: The Henkesh Brothers
CD Reviewed by Amina Goodyear
posted July 12, 2009
Khamis Henkesh was the first drummer of the Henkesh Brothers to be well known in America. Through dance and musician friends we heard that he was considered to be one of the top drummers in Egypt. But it was mostly through his records and later cassettes that came to us in the late 1970s and 1980s that we were able to know him and his drumming. Since stories of his drumming preceded his albums, it was a thrill to finally be able to purchase and own some of his music. And great music it was and still is.
His albums were not just one drum solo after another. They were not only very Egyptian in sound; they were also very Western in composition and utilized not only the finest drumming and traditional arrangements, but also some of the most innovative and original electronic sounds of the time. The ‘70s introduced the electric guitar and the electric keyboard and synthesizer to Arabic music and Khamis was right there with Omar Khorshid (electric guitar) and Hani Mahana (org) inventing new sounds to be melded in with the traditional acoustical Arabic sounds.
This was the decade of change and Khamis was a visionary.
Several years ago Yasmin, now of Washington D.C., created Sands of Time-Soul of Beled Music to share the wonderful sounds of Egypt with her students and with other lovers of Arabic music. This was the beginning of many musical collaborations with her friends Sayed and Khamis Henkesh. As I had become a fan of master drummer Khamis Henkesh, I was ready for whatever else he had to offer. I clearly remember reading about Yasmin’s collaborations with the Henkesh family and the planned CDs and I anxiously waited for their release. I must admit that I am definitely a fan of hers and of all her CDs as they have always been more than I wished for. Pulse of the Sphinx is a fine example of this. And with Pulse of the Sphinx I was introduced to more members of the Henkesh family, producer Sayed and drummers Ramadan and Reda.
Pulse of the Sphinx is not just a drum CD, it is a lesson in Egyptian thought, mentality, reasoning, dancing, music and, of course, drumming. Yasmin is an educator who subtly uses entertaining as her vehicle.
I don’t want to write and analyze this CD track by track as I have the three preceding CDs because it is too Egyptian to analyze.
- Tracks 1-10 – Played by Ramadan and Reda Henkesh. These are not necessarily to be used a drum solos; they are more like drum studies or exercises – use of the base underlying rhythm for each of the first 10 tracks with adequately repetitious riffs overlaying each theme or rhythm – but they do include intro riffs and some sort endings. There is lots of repetition of each rhythm introduced so that the listener/drummer/dancer has a chance to fully immerse in it and make it part of him/her. Each track demonstrates what typical riffs go with each rhythm and also how the rhythm can meander naturally into another rhythm. As if by accident, but in reality not at all by accident, but actually by Egyptian rhythmic intent. Uses various sounding tablas, dufs and bendirs, riq, cymbals and probably more.
- Track 11 – By Khamis Henkesh. This is a live drum solo. The live recording unfortunately is not as clear and crisp as a studio recording, but it definitely has the sound and excitement of a live drum solo that is obviously interacting with the dancer and the audience.
- Track 12 – A familiar zar-like ending that can be tagged onto and edited into your routine. Short and sweet.
- Track 13 – Reda and Ramadan identify and demonstrate several of the most common drum rhythms, their accompanying sounds and where and how they are played in the song. This can also be a lesson in the Arabic language. Fortunately for us, Yasmin provides translations in her accompanying encyclopedic booklet.
- Track 14 –19 – By Reda and Ramadan. These tracks are exactly what they say they are –drill. Perfect for practicing and drilling drum or dance technique. Also shows how and what riffs can be used.
- Track 20 – A familiar zar-like ending that can be tagged onto and edited into your routine. Long enough to build a lot of excitement.
Yasmin’s liner notes are the most complete notes. They are actually short articles full of information and show her love of sharing. Every dancer or drummer should buy this CD for the liner notes alone as they provide so much…much needed information.
3.75 for Henkesh’s Pulse of the Sphinx
Ready for more?
- 4-27-07 Rhythms of Oriental Dance, Starring Nesma and Khamis Henkesh,
Nesma and Khamis’s discussion of the complexity of Arabic music and dance is both appealing and easy to grasp.
- 7-24-07 The Zar, Trance Music for Women
produced by Yasmin of Serpentine.org. “Once a spirit is called, it must be appeased. Then it will always be there.” And it will have to be periodically dealt with.
- 3-27-08 To Buy or Not to Buy – A Guide to Mass Market Belly Dance Instructional DVDs
Most producers ask or hire others to write glowing reviews. You will often see the same people reviewing a producer’s entire line of product. Those are suspect. Look for the one-off comments. They will give a better overview, along with anything less than 5 stars.
- 12-5-07 The Devil’s Details, Show Ethics for Professionals Part 4 – What NOT To Do
Show up drunk or stoned. No more needs to be said.
- 7-16-07 Music Copyright Law for Belly Dancers (or for any Performing Artist)
From Hollywood blockbuster movies down to clips on YouTube the law is the same and it applies to anyone who uses someone else’s music for their own purposes.
- 6-27-06 Om Kalthoum, The Voice of Egypt
She was without contest the most well-known singer of the Arab world. She was also the most influential woman of her time in the Middle East.