9.2 Open Arabic ensemble in Jerusalem academy Israel
Observation of the “open music ensemble for Arabic music” by Hagai Bilizky (double bass player, teacher, head of the eastern department at the Jerusalem music academy)
The Jerusalem academy in Israel. 19/5/2019
This is an ensemble open to any student from the music academy that wishes to join. Therefore, the students come from different musical backgrounds and departments. Some from the classical ,jazz, Arabic, education music department, and more..
The class was full of students with a variety of instruments:
3 Flutes, Nai, Saxophone soprano, and alto, bassoon, trumpet, rik percussion, darbuka, guitar, kanoon, 3 ouds and 4 vocalists.
The teacher Hagai played the oud.
On the board he wrote the names and order of the songs, writing who is the lead, where the remaining instruments answer to the melody, solos parts and in what language is each part. It was really interesting to see and hear them playing. I noted which parts needed to be repeated a few times until it was right. Sometimes the singers didn’t get the rhythm right, but after a few repetitions singing their own part it improved..
On the samai (10/8 composition) the arrangement was such that only the Arabic instruments played the melody with the micro tones, and the rest of the western instruments answered to the melody or played the lines when the melody went down. That’s where there are usually no micro tones . And this technique ensured that there was no clash between the instruments.
There were a few instances when all the musicians sang the melody, I noticed that this was important, because even though some of the musicians couldn’t play these micro tones on their instrument, they learnt to sing it.
It was really interesting to see that they all enjoyed the challenge of working with this music. I noticed that although each student stemmed from a different musical background, they all shared an affinity for Arabic music, or a curiosity to play it.
The arrangements were interesting,and enabled each instrument to play the melody in accordance with its musical capacity of each instrument, the call and response used a different range and sound. The rhythms were interesting and a variety of rhythms were used for each song. The songs included a combination between the language’s Hebrew and Arabic. one of the song was called "Dawini Badawak" combining arabic and hebrew.
There were no notes or sheet music. Hagai taught the songs by ear and set the musicians homework to listen to different recordings.
The flute players wrote out their own parts by ear and used this as their sheet music.
The order of the songs was crucial so everyone could know who plays what and how many times the various parts repeat. All the information was written on the board.
Just through my observation of the class I learned a lot about how to teach a new song using unfamiliar and different music from the style and type of music the musicians are familiar with. I learned how to deal with micro tones for instruments who cannot play them. How to make the arrangements interesting and find solutions in the arrangement for the rhythmic and micro tones. I noticed how slowly but surely by only playing from ear after a few repetitions the song began to sound better. I also learned that the only thing that the musicians need is the love for the music, and this will motivate them to keep playing and practicing until they succeed.