Review: Dombek Technique and Rhythms for Arabic Percussion with Amir Naoum
I got a doumbek. I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, and finally got one. I was excited to start practicing (ok, I am *always* excited about new things, so sue me). I managed to get my hands on a copy of this DVD, popped it in, grabbed my doumbek and prepared myself for practice.
I have got the drum for a week. I have got the DVD for a week too, but I’m already congratulating myself for not buying it new. The DVD has good reviews on Amazon, so what’s wrong? Something very, very simple, and very basic. The instructor is clear and quite likeable, and thankfully that’s not the issue. The “technique” part of the DVD covers Doums, Teks, Kas, there’s a passing mention and explanation about Seks(Slaps), and a slightly longer explanation on Pops with the provision that they are an advanced technique. There are some basic exercises to build up the left hand for Kas and the right technique and sound for Doums and Teks; at least one or two of them are shown on the video below. Now, if you look a bit forwards, when talking about the Baladi Arabic style, or the Saiidi, you’ll notice some pesky “S” on the description… Yes, he is using Slaps for the Arabic rhythm descriptions. He’s hardly ever given you much of a chance to play with them. So if you’ve moved from the basic exercises into the malfouf and ayoub rhythms, which are the first ones described, you’ll be thrown from basic stuff (which will be easy to follow) into variations that use slaps (which you haven’t had a chance to practice at all and therefore will confuse the heck out of you and will sound bad) and straight into syncopated version without even an explanation other than a super-quick flash on screen of what you are expected to do. And of course, you’re most definitely not supposed to throw your hands in the air and give up. There’s no time to catch up, no slow down version to get to grips: you either hit the ground running and go for it, or you fall flat on your drum and weep.
What I liked about this is that there is a LOT of information, and once I am more familiar with the drum and comfortable producing Doums, Teks, Kas and Seks with a reasonable quality and speed, I should be able to use this as a good reference for rhythms and variations. But I don’t think it is really usable as instruction, let alone for “Beginner Level” as is listed on Amazon. It would be the equivalent, in dancing terms, of providing a DVD instructing and drilling on figure 8s, Mayas and Hip Drops, and then including a choreography that uses Hagallas extensively. Good for reference, yes, but not really usable by a beginner until they can find instruction which isn’t covered.
Possible uses, if somehow you can find this used, or gifted or whatever: if you’re still coming to grips with the different sounds, write the exercises at the beginning and do them regularly; find yourself some instruction on Seks, and try to get the right sound for them too. Write down the rhythms and variations, and practice yourself at a lower speed until you are comfortable. But don’t look at this expecting it to be your sole instruction, or for something that you can drill to, because it’s not the case. I do understand that having a mini-encyclopedia of Middle Eastern rhythms is nothing to scoff at, but what’s the point in presenting material for beginners when they are not presenting the tools for those beginners to be able to follow that material? A few more exercises using Seks, and a bit longer explanation on how to get the right sound for it would have gone a LONG way into making this far, FAR more usable.