I’ve been looking forward to this workshop since before it was actually being offered with her busy touring schedule. Perseverance paid off and the schedule was finally updated to include Atlanta as a stop for not only a show, but also a workshop. Raquy is possibly one of the most accessible professional dumbek teachers in America, but she doesn’t stop there. She also teaches at the American University in Cairo, Egypt during the winter. I say she’s so accessible because it seems that her passion for drumming and Middle Eastern music in general is completely selfless. Her interests are in others’ exploration. She’s written two dumbek training books which include a wealth of information, rhythms, video, and musical compositions. I picked up her second book, Dumbek Fever II, an advanced edition at the workshop. She teaches workshops all over this country and others (including her Catskills retreat offered during the summers), and she teaches the university coarse on dumbek in Egypt. How much more dedicated to teaching your skill can you get? Oh! She also leaves juicy tidbits on her website giving hints and tips for various techniques via video. All of this, and her pricing for the education is always very reasonable. You might call Raquy the philanthropic percussionist.
The workshop itself was very enjoyable, though short for my needs and wants. It always takes me a little time to warm up the hands in the first place – the dumbek especially requires particular dexterity in the joints. I also need time to warm up to the circumstances; fellow attendees, the instructor, and getting acclimated properly to listen and pay attention. I had some concerns because I was told originally that the workshop covered skill levels from beginning to advanced. I couldn’t imagine how she was going to be able to pull off that gamut. Nobody in the class was particularly advanced, and I’m guessing that’s typically the scenario. Still, she was quick to move from introductory drills into more complicated rhythms and technique. When she reached a level at which some students were unable to keep up, they would just stop and listen. I think it worked well for everyone to get what they needed from the class. Personally, I was interested in picking up on some of Raquy’s subtler movements and musculature to produce her myriad of different sounds and melodies. Some I could see without aid, and some she simply announced to the class for everyone’s benefit. What’s funny about these classes is that you go in with some experience on your belt. You feel like you play moderately and that you have a good foundation in the basic rhythms (Maqsum, Masmoudi, Ciftitelli, Ayoob, etc.). However, someone needs only teach you a new way of hitting your drum or simply some new ways to fill the rhythm and you’re suddenly sent back to kindergarten. I felt like a noob sometimes plunking around on a plastic bucket. It would be cool to have these workshops for around 3 hours with a 1-hour “intermission” in which the attendees can play out something they feel confident about and do some networking. That would be a good way for those who wish to pull their confidence back up and energize themselves for the second hour. In retrospect, I should have simply just started a circle up outside immediately following the class. Bah! Lessons learned for next time.
If any other Raquy students (or students of the dumbek in general) find there way here, give me a shout. I’d love to meet with some people in and around the area. And selfishly speaking, I need some more drummers for my drum circles and the performance group, Alchemy Drumming & Dance.