Reviews and Testimonials
REVIEW OF MUSIC PERFORMANCE PRACTICE IN THE EARLY ABBASID ERA
“[George Sawa’s] description of performance situations [in medieval Baghdad] is what I consider to be a model of what the historians of Western medieval music ought to be doing . . . Not only the scholar and the interested reader, but also the practical musician will find much exciting material here for speculative sojourns into the performance of any music.” (Thomas Binkley, Yearbook for Traditional Music).
REVIEW OF RHYTHMIC THEORIES AND PRACTICES IN ARABIC WRITINGS TO 339 AH/950 CE
“A comprehensive book on Middle Eastern theories and practices of rhythms . . . of value to musicologists and performers alike, as well as to scholars across a variety of disciplines enquiring into the cultural and intellectual legacy of Arab Muslim civilization.” (Saida Daukeyeva, SOAS, Review of Middle East Studies. IJMES).
REVIEWS OF ARABIC MUSICAL AND SOCIO-CULTURAL GLOSSARY OF KITAB AL-AGHANI (BOOK OF SONGS)
“George Sawa’s Arabic Musical and Socio-Cultural Glossary of the Book of Songs is the first scholarly reference dictionary in Arabic devoted to the musical terminology of Arabic music in the first centuries of Islam . . . an excellent and really pioneering work. It looks beautiful and will be a standard reference work for all of us.
You opened a door to the next generation of Arab students for better understanding their own rich cultural heritage.” (Dr. Eckhard Neubauer, Institute for Arabic Sciences, Goethe University, Frankfurt).
It is such an important new publication! And it truly looks great as well. Congratulations and thank you very much that you published this long-term project of yours in our Islamic History and Civilization series.” (Prof. Sebastian Gunther, Series Editor).
“Your book is a major event. And just recently I had discussed the need for high level Arabic language material on music, and even Arabic translations of other cultural materials from Persian and Turkish.” (Prof. Zev Feldman NYU).
“Congratulations on your new book An Arabic Musical and Socio-Cultural Glossary of Kitab al-Aghani (Brill: 2015). It is a well-researched volume and clarifies many of the vague terms of one of the greatest books of Arabic literature and it explains vast areas of Arab culture. Thanks for your efforts of many years.” (Issa J. Boullata, Professor Emeritus of Arabic Literature, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Montreal).
REVIEW OF EROTICA, LOVE AND HUMOR IN ARABIA. SPICY STORIES FROM THE BOOK OF SONGS BY AL-ISFAHANI. TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY GEORGE DIMITRI SAWA
"It gives me great pleasure to hold this fine book in my hands. The cover is a tasty appetizer and the book really opens a door to a better understanding of some essential differences between the modern Western world and old Baghdad (plus contemporary Egypt). It is an excellent introduction, both from an educational and political point of view but without any didactic smell.
The book could even serve as a guide to a more human world. You give new first-hand insight into the private life of the golden days of Greater Arabia, and you do this with intimate knowledge, fine taste and a smile on your face. Personally I owe you a continuation and deepening of my own reading over the years with quite a number of new aspects. Of course, I have the advantage of knowing you and your wonderful sense of humor.
The selection of the anecdotes is perfectly balanced between the two parts of the book. By explaining the stories and pointing to all the smallest details that make the "clash of civilizations," you did a real great job. These explanations, together with your introductions to the single chapters, informative and well written as they are, are the icing on the cake." (Dr. Eckhard Neubauer, Institute for Arabic Sciences, Goethe University, Frankfurt).
“Finished reading it last week. It is a unique and interesting book. I cried for the whole last chapter!” (Yasmina Ramzy, Director, Arabesque Dance Company).
REVIEWS OF THE ART OF THE EARLY EGYPTIAN QANUN, CD VOLUME 1
“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).
“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).
“Your music is inspiring to all of us. This CD is a must and it is highly recommended to every dancer. Even in Cairo, such a wonderful music is missing as everyone is moving towards pop music. Your CD should be distributed in Egypt too.” (Nada El-Masreya, Hannan’s Belly Dance Studio, Toronto, Ontario, Canada).
“This is a fabulous new CD of Egyptian dance music, the most recent music out of Egypt performed by great musicians.” (CDBaby.com)
“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).
“Today I received your CD and couldn’t wait till I started running it. I ask you a question: ‘Why didn’t you produce this CD a long time ago.’ We are in a real need of such recordings, of such way of playing. Your performance is amazing, May God give you a long life to give us more. I really remember unforgettable ‘Aqqad, father and son, and ‘Abdel-Hamid el-Addabi and those who were playing qanun like that, though your style has a touch of George. It is excellent and I am waiting for more of yours.” (Mohammed S. M. Antar, Ney Player, researcher and conductor of Ensemble Munajah and Oriental Secrets Ensemble, Cairo, Egypt).
“Casual listeners will find much to enjoy in the unique timbre of the qanun and in the lively percussion performance. Middle Eastern dancers will discover a number of tracks they can use in their practice. Scholars of Arab arts and culture will appreciate the deep contextual information provided with these rare and beautiful pieces of music. In sum, these are two CD’s worth adding to any collection.” (Anne Elise Thomas, Jefferson Center, Review of Middle East Studies, IJMES).
REVIEWS OF THE ART OF THE EARLY EGYPTIAN QANUN, CD VOLUME 2
“Once again a masterpiece.” (Nada El-Masreya, Hannan’s Belly Dance Studio, Toronto, Ontario, Canada).
“Though hundreds of miles away and days after the performance, You touched my heart with your music. I have tears in my eyes and I miss you so much. Thank you, George, for being who and what you are. You are truly what every artist should aspire to be.” (Linda Riyad, Professional Middle Eastern dancer, Tennessee).
“A great performance for great and carefully selected compositions. Our master, you cannot imagine what you are giving to our Arab musical heritage. You're documenting pieces which were not known to the majority of the musicologists in Egypt or the Levant. May God give you the power to give us more and more albums of the same rich musical heritage. I wish you the best of luck and success.” (Mohammed S. M. Antar, Ney Player, researcher and conductor of Ensemble Munajah and Oriental Secrets Ensemble, Cairo, Egypt).
“Yesterday I listened again to the two peshrevs from the Kantemir collection on your new CD and read the transciptions of the pieces made by the “theoretician” Owen Wright and the “practitioner” Yalcin Tura. It gave me great pleasure to see how vivid the music becomes in your interpretation. It is a landmark in historical recording. When I realized that the piece by Kemani Mustafa was also written down by Ali Ufki I compared the latter's version with that of Kantemir and was amazed to see how similar the two versions are. Even more astonishing was the fact that the style of your interpretation resembles more the version of Ali Ufki, who was a santur player himself and consequently wrote down a kind of santuri version of the piece. Apparently the historical technique of playing santur and qanun was related to one another and still is when it comes to intelligent traditional interpretation.
At the beginnning of Kemani Mustafa's piece you are playing (1 = a quaver) 2 1 1 2 2 4 4 instead of 6 2 4 4 in Kantemirs version. Your division of the first note into four is exactly that of Ali Ufki! His version continues in the same style: George Sawa knighted by Ali Ufki or the other way round.
I also like the text of the booklet for it is limited to precise information. The reader understands that not only the hand of the player was involved but also the head of a scholar. As for Owen Wright's article on the peshrev nihavent by Dervish Mustafa I agree with you. I would also have referred the reader to it without comment. For my understanding there is no sufficient reason to reject the authorship of Dervish Mustafa, and it was normal that in the course of time the same composition was attributed to different composers.
Regarding the “Zeybeqli” Syrian dances (No. 8), the word zeybeqli seems to be an allusion to the Turkish dance called zeybek (with k, not q). The etymology of the Turkish word is unknown. The Arabicized zeybeq/zaybaq may be a popular etymology to make the word more familiar and interesting for an Arab speaking public.
Last but not least: We applaud the most charming and beat-conscious darabukka, duff and mazhar player outside Egypt, and, we very much hope you can continue your recordings of the traditional qanun repertory for the benefit of the next generation.” (Dr. Eckhard Nerbauer, Institute for the History of Arabic and Islamic Sciences, J. W. Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany).
REVIEWS OF EGYPTIAN MUSIC APPRECIATION AND PRACTICE FOR BELLYDANCERS
A 4-book in one comprehensive reference work featuring Dr. George Sawa’s unique teaching system based on his background as an Egyptian musician, educator, theorist and historian. The 32-page book comes with 2 CDs containing 65 tracks. It has 4 parts: rhythms, maqams, instruments and musical forms.
“AWESOME in the true sense of the word! Beautiful packaging, high quality recordings that do justice to the music, perfectly organized for use in a teaching environment. I’ll highly recommend it to dance students and teachers, in my workshops and soon on my new website. Bravo - and thank you!!!” (Prof. Lynette Harper, Anthropology Department, Vancouver Island University).
“This reference work should be part of every dancers’ library, it is a great resource for bellydancers.” (Bozenka Arencibia, Bellydancer Superstar, Crete, Greece).
“Thank you for creating such a great resource for belly dancers.” (Rachel Kay Brookmire, Founder and Creative Director, Sahara Dance, Washington, DC).
“Dr. Sawa has just published a comprehensive, masterful 4-chapter manual that is accompanied by 2 CDs with 65 tracks, 21 rhythms and cymbal patterns, 8 Maqams along with photographs and descriptions of 32 musical instruments and 6 musical forms. The book features the beautiful Bozenka on its cover and is truly a must have for every serious student of Egyptian dance. I am honored to endorse Dr. Sawa's incredible CDs and now his new book which is a must have for every serious student of Egyptian dance. We are very fortunate to have such an expert and talent such as Dr. Sawa in our Toronto dance community. Please visit his web site to read more about this fascinating historian, musician and teacher.” (Joharah Kolishenko, Bellyup, Oakville, Ontario).
See also Zummara’s review in the gilded serpent: http://www.gildedserpent.com/cms/2010/09/09/brigid-dr-sawa-music-theory-course/#comments and on Facebook “Egyptian Music Appreciation for Bellydancers.
REVIEW OF DVD: APRECIACAO DA MUSICA ARABE PARA BAILARINAS, TEORIA E PRATICA, LULU AND GEORGE DIMITRI SAWA
The 2-DVD set illustrates most of the tracks of the educational "Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers" and 5 tracks of "The Art of the EArly Egyptian Qanun, vols, 1 an2."
“Great project! Congratulations! George, you look and sound terrific and I love the project with these beautiful, polished and refined dancers. Lulu Sabongi is a lovely dancer and as I can see, a very good teacher. This is a terrific project. Thank you for sharing it with me! Thank you again for all your great work and efforts. All the best.” (Bozenka Arencibia, Bellydancer Superstar, Crete, Greece).
"I have this! And it is indeed a fabulous addition to any dancer's library. I highly recommend it!" (Rivkah Sultana, Professional Dancer, Fort Worth, Texas).