This course will focus on the Arabic violin through the lens of three masters from Egypt: Sami el-Shawwa, the most famous violinist at the turn of the 20th century, Ahmed al-Hifnawi, the lead violinist for Umm Kulthum's orchestra in the mid 20th-century, and Abdo Dagher, known in the late 20th and early 21st century as “King of the Taqsim.” Each of these violinists influenced an entire generation with their iconic playing.
The course will combine a mix of listening and playing. We will isolate compositional and improvisational melodies from each of these players and copy them, focusing on ornamentation, style, and melodic vocabulary. While we will look at a few compositions played by each of these violinists, we won’t focus on learning entire pieces. Rather, we will hone in on individual phrases and learn a few for each violinist, in an attempt to isolate the differences and similarities in their styles.
We will cover maqam in the context of the improvisations and compositions we study; some familiarity with the maqam system is recommended but not required. Students should be comfortable on their instruments, and with using alternate tunings, or at least willing to try one. Most Arabic violinists tune GDGD, but Sami al-Shawwa and Abdo Dagher both tuned GDGC (as does instructor Sami Abu Shumays). Viola, cello, and bass players are also welcome in the course, as is anyone who has an interest in listening to and comparing these styles. Additionally, students may find that gaining a familiarity with Sami's teaching style through his YouTube series will be helpful.