Home Reviews - Book Reviews Art of Middle Eastern Rhythm - Kobi Hagoel
Art of Middle Eastern Rhythm - Kobi Hagoel

The Art of Middle Eastern Rhythm - Kobi Hagoel

136 pages - illustrated - with 6 instructional CDs

Written in English, Hebrew, French, German, Spanish

Price $72

Available from

Art of Middle Eastern Rhythm - Kobi HagoelKobi's website

Kobi's E-mail

First Edition 2003 - Hardback

OR-TAV Music Publications

ISMN 67500-002-3

ISBN 965-505-029-7



Imagine that... grow up in a Israel, a region at the most easterly point of the Mediterranean Sea. A meeting place of cultures and passions; where East meets west and North meets South, a region where the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa blend; grow up surrounded by myriad diverse influences and styles that engender in you a passion for the rich timbre and potency of the musics and rhythms of this inter-continental melting pot;

...through all the tensions of this region during your lifetime your passion for your art remains unabated and over more than a decade, you spend countless hours researching and practising your instruments; uncovering their history, examining and recording traditional techniques and variations; dream of gathering this information together into one single volume that you can share with the world in order that those who follow your passions and direction need not also follow in your research footsteps to gather all the information together.

Imagine no more.


Review Introduction

Art of Middle Eastern Rhythm - Kobi HagoelKobi Hagoel has assembled and presented an incredible, ..let me say that again, INCREDIBLE... array of information directly related to the playing of goblet and frame drums, the main instrument groups of this region to include the styles of over a thousand mile radius . Whilst there are myriad designs, structural variations and distinct sounds from both these drum genera, many of the main techniques used are common to each other and in many cases are directly transferable.

Starting from the basic premise that all rhythm is universal, Kobi sets the reader out on a progressive learning journey starting from the explanation of the geographic roots of the rhythms and the diaspora of the instruments. This diaspora, due to the internet and modern travel methods is now truly global.For demonstrating the rhythms Kobi has selected the Darbuka/Doumbek and Persian Zarb (tonbak) from the Goblet drum family and the Daf from the frame drums.

The first instructional chapter of the book, deals with holding and striking the drums, each technique is accompanied by clearly demonstrative images (left). In this section Kobi usefully extends the range of drums and techniques to include the riqq, a small frame drum with heavy brass jingles. The explanation of the techniques in this section includes the most common and basic ways of interacting with each drum but also gives more advanced techniques and tips which will be of considerable interest to intermediate and advanced players.

Art of Middle Eastern Rhythm - Kobi HagoelFor each of the 474 (yes 474) rhythms and variations in the book Kobi provides a single-line system of easily-followed notation using an integration of western and arabic symbols, a detailed explanation of the notation system used is given. Although understanding & learning the rhythms can be done using the CDs alone, the reading of transcribed rhythm greatly increases your ability to access and use them without having to carry around and search through audio Cds.

Each rhythm has a written source, commentary & explanation and on the accompanying CD is recited in the oral tradition as well as being expertly demonstrated. It is clear that a click track was used to record these, a must for effective technical practise. The learning system is progressive in that it starts with simple patterns and moves on becoming increasingly complex as it progresses.

Rhythmic Sections (where it's at!)

Art of Middle Eastern Rhythm - Kobi HagoelThe rhythmic sections are the main body of the book and are laid out in a progressive nature from the most simple to the most complicated

  • The first 52 rhythms are single meter warm ups and practise rhythms useful for beginning and progressing players,
  • Patterns #53 - #181 are duple rhythms (2/4, 4/4 8/4, 8/8),
  • Rhythms & Variations #182 - #270 are all examples of triple rhythms (3/4, 6/4, 6/8, 12/4 & 12/8).

Those first three sections cover the more common time signatures and the majority of those that will be of use to progressing and hobbyist players.

  • Rhythms #271 - 474 are what Kobi terms 'asymmetrical' rhythms and includes rhythms in such unusual time signatures as 17/8 and 29/16.
  • This section also includes advanced symmetrical rhythms but of extremely unusual character, 120/4, 22/16 etc.

Kobi worked closely with Dutch ethnomusicologist Wouter Swets on his research for this final section and has drawn in many European and Eurasian styles. Kobi makes the point that many of these beautiful rhythms have been lost with the standardisation towards common western metres, I am very happy that he has taken the effort to include these in this book as they shall now be forever recorded for future generations.

The CDs

The 6 CDs have been professionally recorded and are excellently executed.

For each rhythm Kobi announces the corresponding number from the book in both English and Hebrew and gives an oral rendition before going on to demonstrate on each drum. As you progress through the book toward the more complicated material you will find that Kobi plays the rhythms on each drum overlaid on top of each other plus some variations and a small amount of improvisation.

User friendliness

I don't believe that Kobi could have created this book with the end-user any more in mind. He has taken every step possible to ensure that even the most novice player can pick it up and be playing authentic middle eastern rhythms in only a few minutes. Those of us who have been playing these drums for years, often (in my own case) with a rhythmic vocabulary of only a mere handful of patterns, have suddenly been presented with a dream resource that we can dip into or we can use as a practise regimen to improve our drumming and knowledge of the richness of rhythm. This is customer-focus in action.


I didn't know what to expect from this book whenever Kobi spoke about it as he was preparing it and once it was eventually published. It is only now that I have it in my hands that I realise the significance of what he has achieved. This is a highly ambitious piece of work, it is not at all difficult to see how Kobi could have spent a decade researching and drawing it all together not to mention the mammoth task of presenting it in a coherent and user friendly format. From reading the introductory sections of the book, Kobi says that he is not yet finished cataloguing these rhythms, although I wonder where on earth he gets them from and has the tenacity to continue his search, I am extremely confident that there will be a sequel to add to this vault of Middle Eastern percussion information.

I have no difficulties in saying that this is a seminal piece of work in the field of percussion and ergo should rightfully become THE resource for any student seeking to move beyond mild interest in this subject. I am personally grateful to Kobi for his hard work and for the inspiration that I have already gleaned from it in the very short time that I have had it in my possession.

The only complaint that I can see anyone having in relation to the publication is in relation to the price. If you find yourself falling into that trap, please remember that this is a hard back publication with SIX bespoke Cds, it represents many thousands of hours of Kobi's time, time which he will likely never be compensated for.

To my mind the price is too cheap, for many players the book represents less than the cost of a single drum, I have hundreds of drums but this is the key to unlock many of them. I say bite the bullet, pay the price and be thankful that you didn't have to spend the time re-tracing these arduous and time consuming research paths.

I come away from this publication enriched as a player and fellow drum enthusiast with immense respect for Kobi the player, the researcher the author and the communicator.

Awesome just awesome

Paul Marshall

December 2003


Paul Marshall on Kobi Hagoel.

Kobi Hagoel is an actor and, since 1996 a professional musician. He formed and is the singer / percussionist with his band, Kav Hatefer, the name meaning seam line or border, reflecting the region from where he comes. Kobi is a regular contributor to many drumming fora on the internet, he is a contributor to the 2003 Frame Drummer Group (FDG) CD.

I have known Kobi from these fora for perhaps 3 years and during this time I have come to know him as a gentleman, a scholarly percussionist of great skill and clearly a devoted father & husband. We have talked much on and off the fora and we both have expressed the desire to work together at some point. We have not yet met or spoken directly however we acknowledge that this is only a matter of time. My friendship with Kobi could be construed by those not knowing Kobi or myself as an influencing factor in this review however I wish to state clearly that I have tried to remain impartial throughout and my excitement at receiving such an incredible resource should not be taken as 'friendly support' but as subjective opinion. How much weight you attach to my opinion is your decision.

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