MidSummer in Athens Part II — 9/8 Romany Workshop

(continued from Part I)

After a quick break, Christy Fricks introduced the 9/8 musical rhythm, a staple of Turkish Romany dancing, to us. To a Westerner brought up on the standard 4/4 time signature and its variants, 9/8 seems a little, well, odd! If you were counting it out, you would literally count from one to nine at a steady tempo, and then start over immediately. As a drummer, you would most likely play the basic Karsilama (the most familiar of the 9/8 rhythms) as:

Dum (rest) Tek (rest) Dum (rest) Tek Tek Tek

If this doesn’t quite make sense, here is Marla Leigh teaching the Karsilama rhythm on frame drum.

Our first step, of course, was to drill the rhythm by clapping, stationary and then while walking in time with it. With the Karsilama, there’s this little “pause” in your walk on the 7-8-9 which just begs for a hop or skip or SOMETHING. Once you get that, you’ve GOT it. Then we started practicing some of the unique steps and movements of Romany dancing, including “belly throws” where you just let it all hang out and bounce and JIGGLE in time to the music. For us Westerners, that is a hard thing to let ourselves do!

It was obvious that some of the moves were a bit much for the older, less limber members of the class, like me:

Not even going to TRY this!

You can see both me and Andrea standing there watching our classmates try the Romany backbend. For me, at least, getting down wouldn’t have been that much of a problem, but getting back up without losing my balance would be another story!

With this taste of a very different style of dance, we wrapped it up and headed back to familiar territory with the last workshop of the day…(to be continued)