George Dimitri Sawa | The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun

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The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun

by George Dimitri Sawa

17th-century instrumental pieces from the Ottoman court, Egyptian Sufi sacred dances, and early 20th-century Egyptian Dances performed on an early 20th-century qanun (psaltery) without levers and traditional percussion instruments. JUNO 2009 NOMINEE.
Genre: World: Belly Dancing
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Dulab Huzam
1:07 $0.99
2. Raqset el-Hawanem
4:50 $0.99
3. A Tribute to Mohammad Ali Street Composers
4:41 $0.99
4. Peshrev Rast Sherif
4:26 $0.99
5. Egyptian Sufi Sacred Dances
7:42 $0.99
6. Peshrev Rast Qadim
5:33 $0.99
7. Dakhlet el-'Awalem
6:33 $0.99
8. Peshrev Rast
4:00 $0.99
9. Raqsa Suznak
5:08 $0.99
10. Khamsa Sa'idi
7:21 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
George Sawa was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He studied voice, theory, and qanun at the Higher Institute of Arabic Music, where his qanun teachers were Muhammad al-Sa‘douni (a student of Mustapha Bey Reda), Milad Mansour (a student of ‘Abdel-Hamid al-Addabi), Amin Fahmi and Mustapha Kamel. After immigrating to Canada, he studied ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto, and obtained his doctorate in historical Arabic musicology at the Department of Middle East and Islamic Studies. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on medieval, modern, and religious music of the Middle East at the University of Toronto and at York University, where he recently held the Noor Visiting Professorhip.
George is the author of Music Performance Practice in the Early Abbasid Era, 132-320 AH/750-932 AD (Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, 1989; rpt. by The Institute of Mediaeval Music, Ottawa, 2004). His second book, Theories of Rhythms in Arabic Writings, 750-950 AD (Institute of Mediaeval Music) is forthcoming. He has published many articles on Arabic music in refereed journals and encyclopedias, and is frequently invited to give papers, presentations, lectures and concerts in the Middle East, North America, and Europe. He has recorded with Maureen Forrester, Raffi, Bram Morrisson and R. Murray Schafer. He composed two chants for R. Murray Schafer’s The Litany of Ra (1983) and also performed in its Canadian and Dutch productions. George has been the musical director for several productions of the Toronto based Arabesque Dance Academy. He is the recipient of many Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grants, a Canada Research Fellowship, and Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council grants. In 2005 he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture for his research in Arabic music history, and has most recently been honored with the award of excellence in the Arts and Culture category by the Canadian Arab Federation.

Raymond B. Sarweh was born in Damascus, Syria, into a well known family of professional musicians. He studied percussion with ‘Abdel-Men‘em Isma‘il, and theory with his brothers Selim and Emile Sarweh, obtaining his Arabic music degree from the Damascus Conservatory of Music. Before immigrating to Canada, he performed in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, with many famous Arab singers and dancers. After coming to Canada, he created the first professional Arabic music band in Toronto and performed extensively in many Canadian cities, as well as in the USA and Latin America. Acknowledged as a virtuoso tambourine performer, as well as a singer, lutenist and composer, Raymond has performed with The Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble at many Toronto venues including the Royal Ontario Museum, CBC, Harbourfront, and the Music Garden.

Suzanne Meyers Sawa was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a degree in piano performance from Wittenberg University in Ohio, and Masters degrees in both musicology and library science from the University of Toronto, where she is currently Assistant Librarian at the Faculty of Music Library. She has studied classical Arabic at the University of Toronto, and Arabic percussion in Egypt and also with Raymond Sarweh in Toronto. A member of the Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble since the early 1980’s, Suzanne has also performed in the Canadian and Dutch productions of R. Murray Schafer’s The Litany of RA. She has given numerous papers on Arabic music at international conferences, and has published on Arabic women musicians in the early Islamic period, for both The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and The Encyclopedia of Islam (third edition). She is presently at work on a book of annotated translations (from medieval Arabic sources) of stories about women musicians.



to write a review

Muhammad A Hassan

The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun
There is nothing like the Qanun, to make you feel, as it was in the beginning of one's life. George Sawa is a National Treasure of Canada. He obviously has gone to considerable effort to preserve and refine the unique sounds of the classical music of the original modern age of the 11th century Middle East and yet advance it through the ages so it resonates for us all today with equal power and grace. Thanks Prof Sawa

george sawa

Comments from Dancers and Dance Instructors

“I am still dancing to your CD. I love it. Each time I listen to it, I find new nuances in the music. It is fantastic and I would recommend it to any dancer.” (Bozenka, Florida, USA, winner of the prestigious title Miss America Of The Bellydance in 2000, and Golden Crown Winner of the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Dance Festival in Egypt in 2006).

“Your CD is wonderful, all dancers and music lovers should have a copy of it.” (Habeeba Hobeika, a native of Alexandria, Egypt, dancer and director of Habeeba’s Dance Studio and Egyptian Dance Ensemble, Toronto, Ontario, Canada).

“It is wonderful to finally have your musical eloquence on a CD for all to enjoy. Your contagious love of music shines through in every track.” (Yasmina Ramzy, Director, Arabesque Dance Company).

“I received the cd.....and I absolutely LOVE it! Thank you sooo much. I am so happy that you are sharing this wonderful music with the world. Somehow you were blessed with an unfair amount of talent!” (Marilou Calce, Arabesque Dance Company, Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

“I want to compliment you on your CD, it is lovely music, and I'm so glad you put it together, complete with information about the pieces.” (Ranya Renee, dancer, New York).

“The music on this CD brings me to a different level, calms my mind and soul, and creates wide free space inside me for new ideas to come in.” (Saida of Poland, winner of the 2008 Stockholm Belly Dance Festival).

“I wish I can find the right words to describe this amazing CD! I went through many emotions while I was listening to certain tracks like Raqset el-Hawanem. It took me back to my days living in Egypt when I was a little girl. Of course the Qanun playing is superb. The track I know I will dance to is The Tribute to Mohammad Ali Street Composers. I felt this track from very deep within me. I almost felt like crying. I also like the Khamsa Sa‘idi track because I am always partial to real Upper Egyptian music. Another track I also love is Raqsa Suznak. Track Peshrev Rast makes me want to just relax and chill out! Sometimes I think may be I like this old traditional music because of my age, then again I remember how Amir (the Egyptian dancer) reacted to your playing. It makes me realize that this music is timeless and appealing to all ages.” (Nervine Kerbes, Egyptian dancer and instructor, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada).

“I love your CD by the way! I listened to it last night….the music is so beautiful to me! I may be younger, but I have always loved the older more traditional Arabic music, as opposed to the modern/pop music. I do like some of the modern stuff, but there is something very organic, rich and pure about the music on your CD. I am very glad that you have put this CD together.” (Serena Kerbes, Egyptian dancer, Calgary, Alberta).

“I love your music very much George. You are a wonderful artist.” (Mayyadah, dancer and instructor, Pforzheim, Germany).

“It is wonderful, George. I look forward to seeing you in person to shake the golden hands that made this CD.” (Momo Kadous, Egyptian dancer and instructor, Frankfurt, Germany).

“I listen to this CD all day. It is more than excellent and takes me back to the old days. It is very educational, and we need more CDs.” (Mohamed Sadek, Egyptian drummer and dance instructor, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada).

Comments from Musicians and Historians

“What a lovely selection of pieces from various traditions. This old qanun is so resonant, and your beautiful technique makes it sing. Suzanne’s and Raymond’s percussion is so tight and precise it is altogether a pleasure. We need more.” (Prof. Abraham Marcus, University of Texas, Austin).

“You have produced a wonderful CD! It can indeed serve as an introduction to Ottoman and Egyptian music and their differences in the modal and rhythmic systems. Your qanun, George, has a beautiful sound, and Suzanne has a real Egyptian, not to say Gipsy, temper. The recording is excellent and the booklet gives sufficient and precise information for laymen and interested professionals. Thus the CD has equally an artistic and pedagogical value which is rare on the musical market. We can only congratulate you on this exemplary recording and are glad to have it and can profit from it.” (Dr. Eckhard Nerbauer, Institute for the History of Arabic and Islamic Sciences, J. W. Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany).

“The fascination of the ‘Thousand and One Nights’ is in this dazzling performance, a magic carpet ride from beginning to end.” (R. Murray Schafer, Canadian composer).