Don’t Miss a Beat at Al-Bustan’s Camp!


Music is commonly known as a universal language. Umm Kulthum’s music is no exception. Although  her songs are more than 40 years old, they still speak to listeners, young and old, today. Her songs speak of love, longing, and homeland, and still evoke deep emotions in listeners just as they did when she first sang them.

Hafez leads the youngest campers in singing “Ghanni-li” 

Learning music in a group setting, through singing and playing an instrument, gives students an opportunity to learn about themselves and be part of a team.  Hafez Javier Kotain, long-time teaching artist at Al-Bustan Camp, is teaching campers more about themselves through his passion for music. Hafez began studying the doumbek in Syria at the age of seven and first performed on stage at age nine.

In percussion this summer, campers are learning the names of notes and names of various instruments.  They are learning how to read sheet music for Arab percussion and how to understand the ‘rhythm tree,’ a diagram that breaks down the speed of the different notes. Not only are the campers acquiring knowledge of Arabic and drumming, they also are learning general music etiquette such as proper posture – with and without the drum or doumbek – and how to take care of their instrument.  
In singing class, campers are learning a medley of Umm Kulthum songs that consists of “Anta Omri,” “Ghanni-li,” and  “Habibi Yes’id Aw’atu.”  When Hafez teaches the campers these songs, he teaches them correct Arabic diction and the meaning of the lyrics. The campers have lyric sheets in Arabic with translation and transliteration in order for them to fully grasp and understand the meaning. Keyboard player Joseph Mamari visited the camp yesterday to accompany the campers and help them get the right pitch.
Hafez teaching teen campers the doumbek

Although the campers have been working hard with Hafez, there is always time for their favorite game – freeze dance!  Hafez plays the doumbek for them as they dance around the room, re-enforcing their sense of rhythm and the beats they have learned while still allowing them to let loose, use up some of their boundless energy, and, most importantly, have fun.

For the rest of this week, campers will spend most of their time preparing for the culminating performance this Friday, July 12, 6-7:30pm.  Make sure you don’t miss it, because we know that it’s going to be great!


Zeanah Rumman-Obeid, Drexel student interning at Al-Bustan

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