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A Review of

Basic Rhythms for Arabic Drum
(Revised Edition)

by Uncle Mafufo


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Overall Rating: StarStarStarStarStar (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)

Armando Mafufo provides basic instruction in playing 15 different rhythms on the tabla (doubec). He opens with a review of basic technique: how to hold the drum and how to strike it to produce the different tones. Then he moves on to teaching each of the rhythms. Uncle Mafufo VHS Tape Cover Basic Rhythms for Arabic Drum DVD Cover


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What Users Think

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The above poll includes responses submitted since July 5, 2003.

Note: Shira has a policy against video producers asking their students, family, and friends to pad the votes, or campaigning for favorable votes through their web sites. Click here for detailed information about the policy.


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Fact Sheet

Subject Matter Middle Eastern rhythms and technique for playing Middle Eastern drum (doumbec/tabla)
Recommended Drumming Skill Level Beginner
Overall Rating StarStarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 58:08 minutes
Time Devoted to Instruction 57:22 minutes (99%)
Time Devoted to "Other" 0:46 minutes (1%)


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Armando Mafufo teaches basic Middle Eastern rhythms and how to play them on the Arabic drum commonly known as a tabla or doumbec. His intended audience is beginning and early intermediate drummers, but dancers who want a better understanding of Middle Eastern rhythms will also find this video helpful. Although this video doesn't teach finger cymbals, its explanation of rhythms can assist finger cymbal students with understanding the rhythms and dancers can practice by playing along with the drumming.

The video begins with a demonstration of full-speed drumming by Armando for about 1 1/2 minutes. He then offers some opening comments.

The first major instructional section is titled "Dumbek Basic Techniques." In this portion of the video, Armando begins at the very beginning and shows how to hold the drum, and exactly how to hit it to achieve the various sounds such as the deep "doom" sound and the higher-pitched "tek". Armando comes across as very comfortable and natural, as if he were sitting right there in the room offering a private lesson. He anticipates various mistakes that beginning drum students might make and provides tips on how to avoid them. Altogether, this section covers about 10 minutes.

Once Armando finishes reviewing the basic techniques for playing the drum, he then moves on to the primary "meat" of the video, the rhythm instruction. He divides the rhythms into categories according to how many beats each has per measure, as follows:

  • 2-Beat. This section teaches Ayyoub, Karachi, Malfoof, and Saudi/Khaleegi. It lasts about 10 minutes.
  • 4-Beat. This section teaches Maksoom, Sahidi, Beledi, and Wahed Tawila. It lasts about 14 minutes.
  • 8-Beat. This section teaches Masmoodi Kabir and Chiftetelli. It lasts about 9 minutes.
  • 6-Beat. This section teaches Zebula/Darig, a North African rhythm. It lasts about 7 minutes.
  • 9-Beat. This section teaches Turkish Karsilama and Romany Sulukule. It lasts about 14 minutes.

Armando introduces each rhythm with a written chart that shows how to count it and which drum strokes to use at each point in the counting. He speaks the "one and two and three and four and" counting out loud, then taps that steady count with a pointer while speaking the drum strokes used to play it. After speaking the rhythm, he then picks up the drum and plays it, slowly at first, then progressively faster. The diagrams used on the charts are repeated on the back cover of the video, where they can be conveniently referenced.

Initially, Armando plays the basic rhythm very simply, but then he moves into many variations of it while maintaining the beat. If you're a beginning drummer, you can continue playing the simple version even as Armando wanders off into his variations, which will offer you valuable practice in holding steady to what you need to play even while other musicians are doing something else. Over time, as you master the simple version of the rhythm, you can start learning Armando's variations, one at a time. Intermediate drummers can use Armando's many variations of each rhythm as inspiration to add diversity to their own drumming.

When I was a beginning dance student, I used Armando's instructional cassettes to learn basic rhythms, and I found his practice of speaking the words "doom", "tek", and "ca" to be very helpful. Again, on this video, I appreciate how he vocally speaks each rhythm before playing it. Adding to that, I find his use of a chart that visually diagrams each rhythm to be very useful in understanding how the rhythm is layered on top of basic counting. His use of multiple explanations for each rhythm will help reach people with different styles of learning.

The rhythms that Armando selects to teach on this video are those commonly used in traditional folk music from throughout the Middle East and North Africa, with the majority chosen from those used in Arabic music. Even if you intend to focus exclusively on Egyptian music, this video will offer plenty to learn on rhythms used in Egyptian music such as Maksoom, Beledi, Masmoodi Kabir, Malfoof, Sahidi, and Wahed Tawila.

The lighting and sound quality are excellent. The camera angles are intelligently chosen, showing exactly what they should. They shift frequently enough to avoid monotony, but linger long enough on the important shots.


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Is It Right for You?

You Will Probably Enjoy This Video If...

  • You are a beginner at playing the doumbec and you would like to use a video to help you learn how to play the basic rhythms common to Arabic and Turkish music.
  • You're looking for a video to assist you with home practice between drumming classes.
  • You're an intermediate drummer who can play basic rhythms but would like ideas on how to embellish them with variations.
  • You're a dancer who would like instruction in common Middle Eastern rhythms to help you grow in your understanding of them and ability to dance proficiently to them.
  • You're a dancer learning how to play finger cymbals and you would like clearly-explained descriptions of each rhythm to help you understand how it is accented so you can play along with it more effectively.

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

  • You're already experienced at playing basic Middle Eastern rhythms with a variety of embellishments, and you're looking for a more advanced level of instruction.


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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked:

  • Armando's warm personality comes through and he makes the instruction fun to work with.
  • Each rhythm is explained multiple ways: with written diagrams, counting, speaking the rhythm, and playing it. I particularly appreciate the fact that Armando speaks each rhythm using the words doom and tec before playing it. This really helps me grasp what the rhythm is doing.
  • The explanations are clear and easy to understand.
  • The video is useful for dancers as well as for drumming students.
  • Diagrams showing each rhythm are printed on the case as well as used in the video, which serves as a handy reference.
  • The camera work is excellent. It varies enough to avoid monotony but lingers when I want it to, and the zooms focus on exactly what it should.
  • The production quality, lighting, and sound are excellent.
  • Armando anticipates possible problem areas and spends extra time clarifying those points.

What I Didn't Like:

  • A couple of the rhythms are a bit obscure, not frequently used with belly dancing.


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Rhythms Included

  • 2/4 Rhythms. Ayyoub, Karachi, malfoof, Saudi/Khaleegy
  • 4/4 Rhythms. Maqsoum, Saidi, beledi, wahed tawila
  • 6/8 Rhythms. Zebula/Darig
  • 8/4 Rhythms. Masmoudi kabir, chiftetelli
  • 9/8 Rhythms. Karsilama, Sulukule/Romany 9

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In Conclusion

This video provides a solid introduction to many basic rhythms commonly used in Middle Eastern music. Although it also includes a couple of obscure rhythms such as Karachi that I've rarely seen used, that doesn't really bother me. I would definitely recommend this video for beginning drummers who would like assistance in studying rhythms and intermediate drummers who would like ideas on how to embellish them.

The rhythms selected for this video offer a sampling of assorted rhythms throughout the Middle East and North Africa. People who care solely about Egyptian music will probably find the 6/8 and 9/8 rhythms on this video to be superfluous, though sometimes Egyptian songs make use of rhythms from other regions. The sections on 2/4, 4/4, and 8/4 rhythms offer solid building blocks for learning to play Egyptian music, so the video delivers strong value even for Egyptian-focused drummers.


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Reviews of Other Videos By This Instructor

If you'd like to read my reviews of other videos featuring Armando, choose from the list below:


If you'd like to read my reviews of music CD's on which Armando is one of the artists, choose from the list below:


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I first discovered the music of Sirocco (the band that Armando plays percussion for) around 1985 when one of my dance teachers used their music in class and dragged me to watch her perform with them as her live musicians. Since then, I have danced to them live myself on various occasions, bought many of their recordings, and met them at dance events. I always enjoy speaking with Armando and his wife Hanya when I see them. They gave me a complimentary copy of this video to review for my web site.


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To Buy It

Fojaco Productions
P.O.Box 24
Capitola, CA 95010

Phone: (+1) (831) 475-3591
Fax: (+1) (831) 475-3591

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