Reinventing the drum solo?

Eshta

New member
Bear with me, this isn't fully formulated in my head so it may come out quite rambly!

Recently I took a workshop with Sara Farouk (for those of you who don't know Sara, she's a British dancer who moved out to Cairo). During it, she made a very succinct point about drum solos.

I am paraphrasing what she said so hope I'm representing it faithfully, but the essence of it was that the tabla solo section in a dancer's routine is really about showcasing the improvised interaction between the dancer and the drummer. By removing that spontaneous element, and dancing to a pre-recorded drum solo, you kinda lose the point of the drum solo. It becomes something else.

I was reminded of her comment after watching the video Khanjar posted about a youtube clip of two male belly dancers, and many people's comments were "it's mechanical" and that it becomes more about gymnastics than dance.

I think most of us 'get' the magic of watching a live improvised drum solo, when the dancer and the drummer are working together. So I guess my first question is, do you agree with what Sara said?

Second, if what Sara said is true, the pre-recorded drum solo that most of us dance to becomes something else. I guess my next question is: what is that something else, what is the point? Part of me is thinking that if it's not to show of our ability to be spontaneous as a pre-recorded CD inherently isn't spontaneous, surely then the point becomes to show off our 'moves', so actually choreographed drum solos make sense?

I guess I'm putting forward an argument that there are two almost unrelated types of drum solo and each has a different point. What do you think?

Sorry, said it would be rambly, but I'd like to know what you think?
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
So I guess my first question is, do you agree with what Sara said?
In short, yes I agree -- dancing to a live band and dancing to a CD are two different kinds of dancing. So dancing to a CD and dancing with a live drummer are two really different things.

I WISH I had the opportunity to work with a live drummer more, because I know it IS fun and it's a LOT different from creating a choreography and knowing every little tek and hit.

Second, if what Sara said is true, the pre-recorded drum solo that most of us dance to becomes something else. I guess my next question is: what is that something else, what is the point?
Well, in theory the point is tarab. Is tarab possible to canned music? I think so.

Part of me is thinking that if it's not to show of our ability to be spontaneous as a pre-recorded CD inherently isn't spontaneous, surely then the point becomes to show off our 'moves', so actually choreographed drum solos make sense?
I think the point would be to explore the music and try to express it visually. Not so much a showcase of all our clever "moves," but more how can we move that illustrates the "voices" in the music, even if those voices are all percussion voices.

My teacher always says "surprise me" with regard to choreographies. I think it's a great exercise to think about choreographing a CD drum solo and thinking about doing "surprising" things - or things you wouldn't necessarily expect. Maybe pick out a different voice to illustrate sometimes instead of just the lead tabla.

I guess I'm putting forward an argument that there are two almost unrelated types of drum solo and each has a different point. What do you think?
I think it sounds good and makes sense -- but I also think the same sort of thing applies to canned music in general.

Sorry, said it would be rambly, but I'd like to know what you think?
It's not really rambly. You thought it out pretty good. :) I look forward to reading the other comments!
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
I too would love to work with a live drummer more because it is true that the chemistry is much more exciting. Unfortunately, when I only have a CD, then I turn my chemistry on to my audience and hope that they are picking up on the excitement of the tabla. It's very much about the drums, whether you see the drummer or just hear them, many people still get excited about a dancer dancing to a drum solo, and if she's communicating with her audience instead of just being up there and dancing like she's by myself, there should be a lot of energy from that as well.
 

Kashmir

New member
Yes, I agree. But for many of us dancing with live musicians is not an option.

So, what is the point of drum solo without a live drummer? I still think you can dance to it - and do it well. But you must dance the music - not show off. It has to be clean - but heart is also vital. I think where it gets lost is when dancers use it as an opportunity to say "Look at me! Aren't I clever!" - and worse do it forever. :D
 

Aniseteph

New member
I've been to a Sara Farouk workshop where she said the same thing, and it made total sense to me; two different things.

I don't know that that necessarily sends drum solos to recorded music down the choreographed show-off yer moves road, because you could look at it as just another style of music to dance to. I tend to like these ones better, when you hardly notice it's the drum solo, if that makes sense. Too much flashy stuff gets boring for me.

But it's inevitably different to watching a dancer and a live musician interacting and sparking off each other - the sum is greater than the parts. Then again, with a dancer-unfriendly drummer or a dancer who just wants a live backing track you might as well just have the CD on.
 

shiradotnet

New member
Sara's comment could equally be applied to any other taqsim done with a live musician, not just a drum taqsim. Drummers aren't the only musicians a dancer can improvise with, show relationship with, be spontaneous with.

Those dancers who want to show off "tricks" and athleticism will do it no matter what kind of music they are using. This isn't unique to pre-recorded drum solos. They'll do it to live music. If using pre-recorded, they'll do it to gooey, fluid music. They'll do it to folk songs. They'll do it anywhere they can find to insert a trick.

So, what's the point of a pre-recorded drum solo? I would say that it's to use a musical selection that is different from what the audience has heard so far in your show. When used immediately after a slow, gooey piece it will raise the energy level. It will wake people up. It will provide a change of pace. It will show the audience a different facet of music from the Middle East, and therefore correspondingly a different facet of your musical interpretation and dance skills.
 

MissVega

New member
I really enjoy both recorded and live improv. I improv my prerecorded drum solos since the honest truth is I don't like to choreograph and don't like the"pressure" of trying to remember what move I wanted to do next. My theory is always whatever happens happens.

But define "tricks" and athleticism? Isn't all dance athelticism? What seperates a move from a trick? I know in contemporary dance I see a lot of gymnastics with the flipping/aerials etc, but I have yet to see that in bellydance.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
Sara's comment could equally be applied to any other taqsim done with a live musician, not just a drum taqsim. Drummers aren't the only musicians a dancer can improvise with, show relationship with, be spontaneous with.

Those dancers who want to show off "tricks" and athleticism will do it no matter what kind of music they are using. This isn't unique to pre-recorded drum solos. They'll do it to live music. If using pre-recorded, they'll do it to gooey, fluid music. They'll do it to folk songs. They'll do it anywhere they can find to insert a trick.

So, what's the point of a pre-recorded drum solo? I would say that it's to use a musical selection that is different from what the audience has heard so far in your show. When used immediately after a slow, gooey piece it will raise the energy level. It will wake people up. It will provide a change of pace. It will show the audience a different facet of music from the Middle East, and therefore correspondingly a different facet of your musical interpretation and dance skills.
:clap::clap::clap: RIGHT ON! It seems like to be more brilliant in the dance you do see more athleticism. Whatever happened to just dancing?
 

ChristinaKapp

New member
Tricks and Athleticism

I have the same question as Miss Vega. I love seeing the limits and control that good dancers have. I don't see it as showing off but merely showing the ability of connecting your body to the music. I've watched some terribly boring belly dance shows where there weren't enough variety and interesting movements and I feel that 'tricks' and ability are what keep it fun, beautiful and intriquing.
 

missanime

New member
Hi Eshtar :)

Altho I cant answer your question (I just started lol), I *definitely* had to say that this is the best most clear description of what a "taqsim" is! Lol. Seriously. Before that it was simply defined as some sort of vague improv, or the arabic music type.

Sigh.....!

Ok sorry for my short hijack lol.
 
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Yame

New member
During a full-set, live music belly dance show, there are a lot of parts other than the drum solo where the dancer connects with the musician(s).

In fact, often there is that exchange throughout the entire performance, even when the dancer is doing her entrance or interacting with the audience. The band (if it is a good band, and having a good day, lol) watches what the dancer is doing and plays accordingly, while the dancer responds to the music.

In that sense, as others have said, it is not just the drum solo that is different when it is live vs. recorded. All ME music is. So if we stop dancing to recorded drum solos just because it's not the same as the live, improv experience, then we might as well stop dancing altogether unless we have live music available!

So I dance to recorded drum solos for the same reason I dance to any recorded music: because live music isn't available. If I want to do a full show, and I don't have live music, why would I NOT put a drum solo in there? Or, even if it's not a full show. Even if it's a short performance, why would it not be valid to use a drum solo? People like drum solos--canned or not--because they tend to be lively, fun, because it's a chance to show our technical ability in a way that even people who don't "get" Middle Eastern music can see... or maybe because we want some variation... for the same reasons sometimes we feel like dancing to shaabi, or saidi, or a baladi progression. Because we don't want to dance to classical Arabic music every single time.
 

da Sage

New member
I'd like to share a completely improvised drum/dance/zill number by a local dancer and drummer:

YouTube - Cindy & Charlie 2007

The energy in the room was amazing. I am a huge fan of this couple, as well as live music in general.

I think that recorded music is the only possible substitute for live music (drum solos or not). Not every dancer has the connections or the money to secure live musicians. Also, getting live musicians to adhere to the creative restrictions required by group or individual choreography is...time-consuming and iffy at best. So as dancers we have to embrace recorded music. I'm OK with that.
 
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Eshta

New member
Hmm, some good and interesting points raised, thanks ladies!

I still have some more leading questions!

In response to Shira's comment - that the drum taqsim is no other different than any other instrumental taqsim - I do agree with you in principle. But in terms of the Western market, it's highly unusual to see a dancer perform just to say a qanun solo. Certainly drum solo CDs are more popular than CDs with instrumental taqsims.

And yes, pretty much ALL mideastern music performed in the west has to be pre-recorded and that doesn't mean for us not to dance to it. But you have to admit it changes the way we do dance to it, no? For example, we are more "choreographed" in general terms, and I do think a large part of that is we know that the music is not going to change no matter how many times we listen to it! I also note that dancers who are not used to live music find it harder to understand the interaction in the music between the different instruments etc when you don't get to see it.

I'm not saying we shouldn't do it, but I guess I'm saying it's inherently different from what it was originally intended to be - ie, to really spotlight and emphasise the magic that arises from that interaction between musician and dancer. So given that it IS inherently different, does that mean that we can do something really clever with it, kind of thing?

Bah, my tired brain, the points I'm trying to make are swimming around but I can't quite seem to get the net around them! I'll try again after some sleeps!
 

Suzanne Azhaar

Active member
Sans opportunity to dance to a live band at the moment.

I think of it as a positive. The more varied prerecorded drum solos you practice and dance to, the easier it will be when a live band opportunity does arise. The comfort level will be engrained and one can feel free to rock the house.
 

Yame

New member
The more varied prerecorded drum solos you practice and dance to, the easier it will be when a live band opportunity does arise. The comfort level will be engrained and one can feel free to rock the house.
Also a good point, which most of us missed. Recorded drum solos are the best way--if you don't have a live drummer nearby-- to practice for a live drum solo!
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
You can also buy a LOT of drum solo music and just have the player spit out a random one here and there. I do that -- and because I have so many, I only know the music on a few of them really well. For the rest...well, it's sort of like having a live drummer, only you can't interact with him. But playing with music you don't know is a good way to develop improv skills, I would think.
 

Yame

New member
You can also buy a LOT of drum solo music and just have the player spit out a random one here and there. I do that -- and because I have so many, I only know the music on a few of them really well. For the rest...well, it's sort of like having a live drummer, only you can't interact with him. But playing with music you don't know is a good way to develop improv skills, I would think.
Yes, with any sort of music. I like to go on radiomaqam.com and just dance to whatever is playing... whether I've heard it before or not.
 
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