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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

A Review of

Gems Instrumental Pieces

by Mimi Spencer

 

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Summary

This book contains sheet music and background information for 23 songs from the eastern Mediterranean region. The songs it features are ones that are frequently used for belly dance performances.

In addition to the information on the individual songs, it also contains some general information regarding Middle Eastern music.

Gems Instrumental Pieces Book Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

Gems Instrumental Pieces

Author

Mimi Spencer

ISBN

None

Publisher

Self-published

Category

Sheet music, music education

Rating

StarStarStar for dancers
StarStarStarStarStar for musicians

 

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Description

This book is a valuable educational resource on Middle Eastern music for both musicians and dancers. It is a companion to a collection of musical recordings called Gems of the Middle East that Mimi Spencer made with Mary Ellen Donald which are reviewed elsewhere on this web site.

For 23 songs, it offers sheet music, including a recommendation of which rhythm to use for each. In addition, Mimi includes introductory comments for each song indicating who wrote it, which artist popularized it, and other valuable background information. This background information is what makes it especially useful for dancers.

Several appendices include excellent supporting information about Middle Eastern music. They include:

  • Index to which of Mimi Spencer's books (including this one) contain sheet music and lyrics for each song in the 3-part Gems of the Middle East recordings that Mimi recorded with Mary Ellen Donald.
  • Maqam scales
  • Basic rhythm patterns
  • Glossary of musical terms
  • Bibliography
  • Discography of sources and other recordings of interest
  • Suggested vendors and web sites
  • About the author

If you're a musician who plans to use the sheet music to learn how to play these songs, please read the Introduction carefully. Mimi includes an explanation of the notation system she has used, and it's important to read that in order to understand how to interpret it.

 

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Songs Included

 

Song Title

Nationality

Lailet Hob Egyptian
Toutah Egyptian
Alf Lailah wa Lailah Egyptian
Hijaz Baladi Egyptian
Ya Sitti Ya Khityarah
(Perom Pom Pom)
Spanish/Lebanese
Ahwak Egyptian
Nibtidi Mneen al-Hikaya Egyptian
Bint al-Balad Egyptian
Tamrihinna Egyptian
Cleopatra Egyptian
Mazamir Egyptian
Spectacular Rhythms Finale Lebanese
Tafta Hindi Arabic
Akhud Habibi D'Ana Yamma Egyptian
Sahara City Egyptian
Fakkaruni Finale Egyptian
Anta Omri Egyptian
La Gardienne des Cles Lebanese
Ya 'Ain Mawlaytin Lebanese
al-'Albi Ya'shaq Kulli Gamil Egyptian
Princess of Cairo Egyptian
Longa Riyadh Egyptian
'Andah 'Alaik Egyptian
 

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Is It Right for You?

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You are looking for sheet music for Egyptian classical songs.

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You're looking for sheet music for songs from Turkey and the Levant.
  • You're looking for a book that will offer song lyrics and translations for them.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked:

  • The songs selected to be included are well-chosen. These are not obscure pieces, but rather well-known ones that are quite appropriate to include if you're studying the music of the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Because the book is a companion to a set of musical recordings created by Mimi and Mary Ellen, a dance student can use the book and recordings together to learn more about Middle Eastern music.
  • It contains sheet music to help musicians add these songs to their repertoire.
  • It provides tips on the Table of Contents page suggesting which part of a dancer's routine each song might be suitable for (entrance, slow, finale, etc.)
  • For a musician, the plastic spiral binding would probably be convenient because it allows the book to lie open on the desired page while playing.

What I Didn't Like:

  • As a non-musician, I find the plastic spiral binding to be a bit inconvenient because I can't tell which book is this one by looking at the spines on my book shelf -- all I see is plastic spiral binding of several books side by side. I have to pull them out to see which book is which. I also find the plastic binding to be annoyingly bulky.

 

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Conclusion

I strongly recommend this book because of the rich education it provides in Middle Eastern music, particularly Egyptian. It would be a valuable resource for anyone who wants to know more about music from this part of the world. I wasn't familiar with all these songs before they were released in the Gems of the Middle East series of music, but most like "Ya Sitti Ya Khityarah" and "Anta Omri" are classics that I've heard played many times.

For a musician, the benefits are obvious - the sheet music will allow musicians to expand their repertoire.

For a dancer, the benefits are more subtle. By learning background information about the songs, she'll be empowered to make knowledgeable choices when preparing to perform for an ethnic audience - she can include a Lebanese song or two for Lebanese clients, etc. This book will also help her learn to predict which songs a given band may be likely to know when she is working with live music - for example, if she knows that she will be working with a band who specializes in Egyptian music for an upcoming gig, the book will help her identify songs that an Egyptian-style band can reasonably be expected to know. It will also make her more educated in general about Middle Eastern music so she can work more knowledgeably as a performer and teacher.

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Disclosures

I have taken a couple of workshops on introduction to Middle Eastern music from Mimi Spencer, and found her to be very knowledgeable. I regret that I didn't have the opportunity to get to know her better before she died.

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To Buy It

Mary Ellen Books
P.O. Box 411562
San Francisco, CA 94141-1562
U.S.A.

Telephone: (+1) (510) 654-DRUM
or (+1) (510) 654-3786
Email: me@maryellendonald.com

Web Site: www.maryellendonald.com


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