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

A Review of

Sadika's Tunes

by Mimi Spencer

 

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Summary

This book provides sheet music for 13 Middle Eastern songs. Six of these can be played on Western instruments such as the piano because they do not use quarter tones. The other seven do utilize quarter tones and therefore would need to be played on an instrument capable of producing quarter tones.
Sadika's Tunes Book Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

Sadika's Tunes

Author

Mimi Spencer

ISBN

None

Publisher

Self-published

Category

Sheet music, music education

Rating

StarStarStar for dancers
StarStarStarStar for musicians

 

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Description

This book's primary audience is musicians who are learning to play Middle Eastern music. It assumes the musician has some basic fundamental knowledge of Middle Eastern music already, such as knowing the maqamat and rhythms. It contains sheet music for 13 Middle Eastern songs. Six of these use only semitones (half steps), and therefore can be played on Western instruments such as pianos. The other seven use quarter tones and therefore should be played only on instruments that can accommodate this requirement.

The book contains only minimal background information about Middle Eastern music theory. It focuses primarily on providing the sheet music.

Lyrics seem to be almost an afterthought. In some cases, such as "Garoon Garoon", lyrics are included in the original language for part of the song, but they don't cover the complete song and there is no translation into English. In other cases, such as "Al Ataba Ghazzaz," the original song has lyrics but no lyrics are included in this book, not even the original source language. This is probably fine for musicians who prefer not to sing, but it can be frustrating for musicians who sing and for dancers who want to know what the songs are about.

For most of the songs included, the book identifies the song's origins, other cultures that it may have appeared in beyond its original one, the maqam used to play it, and the recommended percussion rhythm to accompany it.

A one-page glossary at the end contains definitions for some musical terms.

 

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Songs Included

These six songs do not use quarter tones and can be played on Western instruments.

Song Title

Nationality

Comments

Al Ataba Ghazzaz Egyptian  
Aziza Egyptian  
Erev Shel Shoshanim Israeli  
Garoon Garoon Armenian Contains lyrics in Armenian for only the chorus; no English translation
La Rosa Enflorece (Los Bilbilicos) Ladino Contains lyrics in Spanish; no English translation
Nassam Alayna al-Hawa Lebanese Includes English translation

 

The following seven songs do use quarter tones and therefore cannot be played on many Western instruments such as piano.

Song Title

Nationality

Comments

Baladi Ya Baladi Egyptian Contains Arabic lyrics but no translation
El Henna Egyptian Instrumental piece, therefore lyrics not applicable
Hani Egyptian  
Hijaz Finale Arabic Instrumental piece, therefore lyrics not applicable
Mavi Mavi Turkish Contains some Turkish lyrics but no translation
Saba Samir Egyptian  
Ya Bahiyya Egyptian  

 

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Is It Right for You?

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You are looking for sheet music for the songs it contains.
  • You would like a bit of background information about the songs it contains.

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

  • You don't have access to a musical instrument that can play quarter tones.
  • You're looking for a source of translations to song lyrics.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked:

  • Provides historical and cultural background for most of the songs: who composed them, which country they come from, etc.
  • Identifies which maqam each song is in, which assists beginning musicians in deepening their knowledge of how to play Middle Eastern music.
  • Recommends drum rhythms to play with each song, which assists beginning bands in adding each song to their repertoire.

What I Didn't Like:

  • Contains sheet music for only 13 songs.
  • Includes translation for only one song, minimal lyrics even in the source languages.
  • The Ladino (Spanish Jew) song seems out of place.

 

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Conclusion

From my perspective as a dancer, this book isn't as valuable to me as Mimi's other books. I particularly prefer the two that contain lyrics translations. I find the background this book provides on each song's origin to be helpful in deepening my knowledge of the Middle Eastern musical repertoire, but I would be able to dance effectively to the songs without havng that knowledge.

From a musician's perspective, this book contains some songs that are a must-know for musicians who play for dancers, such as "Aziza", although other songs seem like odd choices to include.

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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 seek more in-depth instruction from her on Middle Eastern music while she was alive.

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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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