Restoring a Nahhat

Music, Oud No Comments

This is a 1955 Georgi Hanna Nahat oud which I inherited about three years ago. It was sitting in a late friend’s storage who had rescued it years earlier from someones garage. I don’t remember the exact story but the oud was severely abused when Mimi found it and she kept it with the hopes of one day restoring it. She passed away before she had a chance to do that (may she rest in peace). Read the rest…

Playing our real best (part 3)

Music No Comments

We’ve talked about the problem. We also talked about the behavioral patterns, habits, and feelings at play that are related to the problem, and now we talk a little about trying to deal with the problem.

First, a cautionary note. Many aspects of this subject are unique to each of us. Like I said earlier these are issues that I dealt with in my own experience as well as ones I encountered with students and colleagues.

So we’ve discussed three types of behaviors causing and or connected with the problem.

The first type was playing mindlessly, focusing on a small (usually technically challenging) part of the piece, or hearing the voices of different critics during the music making process. I lumped those together into one category because I am of the view that they can all be used to improve the music making process. I am also of the view that they are very similar in a few respects. Perhaps if we start from the similarities we can develop strategies for dealing with them. Read the rest…

AOSF Invites you to Audition

Music No Comments

The Arab Orchestra of San Francisco is looking to expand its membership. We will be holding auditions on Sunday March 16th 3-6PM at our regular rehearsal space at La Pena cultural center. Please feel free to forward..

Who we’re looking for

  • Professional string players (no Arabic music experience is required, though it certainly is a plus). OR
  • Advanced string students in a conservatory or university music program (no prior experience in Arabic music need. We train). OR
  • Advanced players of Arabic instruments (oud, qanun, nay, percussion)


  • Confidence and stage presence (everyone plays solos, no exceptions) Read the rest…

On doing our real best (part 2)

Music No Comments

In the previous post we saw how many of us play a piece of music mindlessly, without intentionality or grand design that holds the piece together. We also may only be focusing on specific small details while missing the most important relationships within the piece. In Arabic music (compared to western classical, for example) the problem is compounded because the composition style leaves more details to the performers to decide. When the performer is not consciously aware of all the decisions she has to make, a lot of those decisions go unmade. The result much of the time is dead music, or worse still non-music. Read the rest…

On doing our real best

Music, Oud No Comments

Practicing, studying with a great teacher of our instrument, studying music in general (theory, ear training, analysis), and listening to a lot of good music all the time, are the sure ways to improve the music we make.

Studying, practicing, and listening are activities that bring tremendous benefits to us from the outside. In this essay I would like to explore factors from within and that are within our control at any given moment, that limit our performance abilities.

Here are a few questions that are valid at any stage in our development as musicians.

  1. Are we, at any given moment, playing the best music we can play?
  2. Are we using all the skills that we already have or just a small fraction of them?
  3. If not, how can we at any given moment produce the best music we can produce? Read the rest…

The Enchanting Qanun, and a few other CDs for your listening library

Arabic Music, Music, Oud, Taqasim No Comments

I am listening to ” Le Qanun Enchante’ “under the “Club Du Disque Arabe” label. This is probably the best thing one can do on a gloomy San Francisco morning. The first five tracks sound like the Mediterranean sun. The last two like Cairo summer evenings. Every track a masterpiece.

I was noticing that the post “As The Hard Times Hit” is quite popular. Another reason for listening to that CD. Music is flexing its muscles against the forces of nature and modern life, and it is winning. At least for now..

I continue to break the geographic and chronological order of the repertoire series and would like to recommend a few other CDs for a day like this: Read the rest…

Classical Arabic Music Necessary Listening: Repertoire series part 7

Arabic Music, Music No Comments

The series aims to acquaint the new comer to Arabic music with the Arabic repertoire is it is reflected in the records available for purchase. This distinction is important because Arabic music being an oral tradition, a vast amount of repertoire is not recorded, or is not readily available for purchase. A lot is available, however, to purchase over the web. I have made a conscious decision not to recommend stores on my blog so that it remains non-commercial and for a few other reasons as well. Read the rest…

The Arabic String Section

Arabic Music, Music, Music Theory No Comments

This question comes up fairly regularly: Are Arabic violins tuned differently?

The answer is yes. Here are answers to the most common string section questions. Read the rest…

Classical Arabic Oud Player’s Repertoire (part 6)

Arabic Music, Music, Oud, Taqasim No Comments

Until now, in the first 5 parts in this series we discussed what is called “Urban / Classical twentieth century Egyptian music”. This was one of the central currents in Arabic music and has had an effect on the music in most of the Arab world through out the twentieth century. Today we conclude the Egyptian list. In the coming posts we move east and west from Egypt. Read the rest…

As The Hard Times Hit, Some All-Too-Personal Thoughts

Music No Comments

It is during times like this, when the talk all around is about the hard times to come or that are already here, that many of us question the intelligence of the decision to be a musician. One cannot help but wonder whether it is not smarter to have a “real” job, with a regular paycheck and a sense that what you’re doing is important on a tangible level. Read the rest…

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