Book Review

Doumbec Delight
by Mary Ellen Donald 

Drum teachers for the doumbec are scarce; instructional material for playing the doumbec is even scarcer.  Doumbec Delight is the first comprehensive presentation of Middle Eastern drumming.  It is beautifully illustrated by Brad Johnson, contains over a hundred pages, and is spiral-bound for your convenience in studying.  Throughout the book Mary Ellen interweaves four main themes – basic music theory, drum techniques, Middle Eastern rhythms, and the creative process.  In a clear and concise manner she teaches the student to read musical notations.  Using these notations, Mary Ellen presents seven Middle Eastern rhythms in both simple and complicated forms: 2/4 baladi, chifte-telli, karsilamas 9/8, 6/8, masmoudi, and 7/8 time.  Also she describes the basic doum and tek strokes, the snap, rolls, and various other doumbec techniques.  Throughout the book Mary Ellen makes it clear that her aim is not that a student memorize her examples, but that a student use her examples as stepping stones to his or her own imagination.  She constantly challenges the student to create his or her own rhythmical variations. 

For most of her life Mary Ellen has been involved in some form of musical endeavor.  More recently, she has studied belly dancing with Bert Balladine for six years and has played doumbec for seven years, one of which studying with Vince Delgado.  She has been teaching the doumbec for nearly two years.  Mary Ellen loves to teach: as she puts it, in the foreword of Doumbec Delight, “I feel challenged by the exacting task of making sense to another person.”  Her concern for making sense to others is evidenced by her coming out with a second edition of the book, refining and expanding her explanations and musical illustrations.  (To those who purchased the first edition she is giving a fifteen-page supplement free of charge).  Going one step further, Mary Ellen has produced two ninety-minute cassette tapes to accompany the book so that students might hear her play most of the examples she presents in the text. 

Doumbec Delight has something to offer for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced drummer and for other musicians as well.  In case you are wondering what the book and drumming might have to offer you, I would like to share my personal experiences.  Playing the drum while dancing brings more variety to my dance performance.  Playing the drum for my dance classes brings me two advantages: 1. The ability to set a tempo appropriate for my students; 2. The ability to make the rhythms sound more pronounced – thus easier for students to grasp and remember.  In closing I would like to heartily recommend Doumbec Delight and playing the drum to those of you who wish to heighten to your dance performance through rhythmical variations.

Mary Ellen Books
P.O. Box 7589
San Francisco, CA  94120 

by Naila
Vol. 3, No.3, 1976 

Habibi Publications
P.O. Box 90936
Santa Barbara, CA  93190-0936


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