Mark & Paul in Tortella

Gilded Serpent presents...
Helm takes Rhythm Diatribes
Workshops to Europe
Making New Musical Inroads in


by Mark and
Ling Shien Bell

The two workshops we did in Barcelona were hosted by Devorah. Devorah originally began her studies with Cassandra in Minnesota , her native state, before moving to Barcelona 15 years ago. She first taught Oriental Dance at the Escola de Musica, a highly reputable school for the arts partially funded by the city.  The school has just re-opened after extensive remodeling and we were able to join the festivities as the School’s swing band played on the small street just in front. 

Devorah opened her own school, Escuela Sarabi di Danza Oriental, and has just finished writing a book on dance, La Danza Oriental, which will be available shortly on her website. She currently has approximately 400 students studying at her school.

The two workshops were conducted in a large room which had a moveable partition, so that, for the first half of each class, Ling Shien was able to teach cymbals in one part to over 20 dancers while Mark was teaching percussion to 12 or so drummers.

The dancers came from all over the area and from different teachers. The drummers mostly had little if any experience playing Middle Eastern music.

We reunited for the second half bringing everyone together to “perform”.  We covered a lot of rhythms including a Macedonian 11/8, a Turkish Rom 9/8, and the standard Arabic rhythms of masmoudi, saidi, et al. Everyone caught on really well and promised to practice. We found the level of the dancing much higher than the knowledge of the music.  Several dancers told Ling Shien that the workshop really helped fill that gap and that they’d come back the next time and bring their friends.

Workshop in Girona

Girona (Gerona)

Ling Shien, Nuria, and local musician at the bar in Tortella
Girona is situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees and has a population of approximately 300,000.  Maria Cresswell hosted the workshop for us and organized the benefit the same evening as well.  Maria is originally from England but moved on to Ireland where she studied Tribal Dance with Dee Cotter of Akasha. Last fall, Maria, her husband, Paul, and two young daughters moved to Spain and now live near the village of Tortella, where one of the principle occupations is manufacturing boxwood kitchen utensils. 

Some dancers traveled to Girona from Barcelona to attend the workshop since they were unable to attend the previous day.  Maria had located a studio where again we were able to split into two groups for the first half. 

One of these dancers, Rosa, showed the whole dance group some beautiful steps for the Saidi/ Fellahi rhythms.

The drummers again had limited exposure to Arabic percussion, but, like everywhere we taught, by the end of the workshop they were playing songs with breaks and tempo and rhythm changes.

Ling, Chandra and Mark

Maria Cresswell is in the forefront of the duo along with Georgia to left. Devorah joined the musicians playing zils.

Munique Neith
That same evening a benefit show for the Tsunami victims was held at the Teatro de Salt, Salt being the neighboring city of Girona. This theater has beautiful acoustics and all involved: dancers, musicians, the sound engineer for the one microphone we used, the lighting engineer who was great, the staff who helped out donated their time.  The theater space also was donated for this event.  The event attracted 230 people and raised 2000 €.  Twelve dancers performed, each with a distinctive style.  While most used recorded music, both Maria and Devorah danced to the live music of Helm with percussionist Chandra Naraine adding riqq and frame drum. 

Chandra and Mark switched roles as Chandra and Devorah performed a drum solo which really showcased their years of performing together. 

We spent the next few days in Tortella with Maria and family. We hiked along the river, crossed ancient bridges in the mountains and visited small towns in the area, the most picturesque being Besalu.

We played in the local bar in Tortella early one evening, our own way of expanding the parameters of Middle Eastern music. 

Ling Shien jammed with a local fellow who played diatonic accordion, sang with Nuria, quite a fun loving resident, harmonizing on the two songs from Spain Ling Shien knows: El Torito Enamorado de la Luna and Moliendo Café.We then flew to France to spend a few days in Paris before heading off to Luxembourg to conduct another workshop.

Rhythm Diatribes 2005 Tour Report

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