Maqam Theory and Practice: Maqam Rast in Early 20th Century Egypt with Sami Abu Shumays

Mar 03, 2012-May 19, 2012

Teachers: Sami Abu Shumays

Saturday Afternoons 3-4:20pm
March 3-May 19, 2012
11 Sessions
No class Sat 5/5

This course will devote the majority of its 12 sessions to examining vocal improvisations in Maqam Rast by singers in Egypt in the first 3 decades of the 20th Century, including Abul-3ila Mohamed, Abdel-Hayy Hilmi, Sayyid is-Safti, Yusuf il-Manyalawi, Umm Kulthum, and Mohamed Abdel-Wahhab.

This in-depth comparison within a single maqam will reveal its vocabulary and phrase structure; students will learn to sing or play the basic units of melody used in Maqam Rast in this period, which will then enable them to compare that vocabulary with other “dialects” of the maqam from other regions and time periods. Other maqamat will be explored in reference to maqam rast, and students will also examine songs in maqam rast that use some of the same melodic pathways.

Class Structure: Sami Abu Shumays leads the class in singing and playing melodies in a particular Maqam (Arabic melodic mode, similar to Raga in Indian Music). Students imitate in a call-and-response fashion on their preferred instrument, or by singing, learning the building blocks of Arabic music in a way similar to how people learn language, by repeating common phrases. Sami makes these classes accessible to all by presenting musical phrases that are short and clear enough for beginners to imitate, but which have subtleties and details that only the most advanced students will grasp.

Group Instruction Pricing:

Single/Trial $20
4 classes $75 ($18.75/class)
8 classes $140 ($17.50/class)
10 classes $170 ($17/class)
12 classes* $200 ($16.67/class)

*Alwan members receive 10-15% discounts on lessons! Click here to learn more about membership options and view discount levels.

Group Instruction Policies

  • *One trial class may be taken per student. If a student decides to enroll in a package of classes, the trial session will count as the first lesson of the package and its price will be deducted from the overall cost.
  • Students enrolling in a single class or package of 4 or 8 may choose to attend any session throughout the semester.
  • If a student decides to enroll in a package after taking one single trial class, the trial session will count as the first class of the package and its price will be deducted from the overall cost.
  • Combination packages available and customizable to student’s preferences
    (e.g. 4 classes Maqam Theory and Practice: Maqam Rast + 4 classes Arabic Percussion=$150)
  • Class will be held so long as a minimum number of students is met by the end of the registration period.

To register for classes or private lessons (click here to learn more about private instruction) for the March 3-May 25 semester, email with:

  • Class(es) you're interested in taking
  • Number of sessions in which you'd like to enroll
  • Level and/or experience (so we can get an idea of the class composition, all levels encouraged to attend!)

Make sure to mention if you are a member of Alwan - many of our membership levels receive 10-15% discounts on lessons! Click here to learn more about membership options and view discount.

Ongoing registration throughout the semester -email for details 

**Students may attend classes without registering by paying the "single" class price of $20 cash or check made payable to the Alwan Foundation, but please check the website to confirm that class is meeting on the day you decide to attend, and, if possible, email to let us know when you plan to attend.

Please feel free to email with any questions related to music instruction at Alwan.

Sami Abu Shumays (Violin, maqam theory) directs Zikrayat, a NYC-based Arabic music and dance group dedicated to presenting classical vocal and dance forms of Arabic music side-by-side, with a special emphasis on repertory from the "Golden Age" of Egyptian musical cinema ( In demand as a teacher of Arabic Maqam across the country, Sami has taught at Lark Camp, Global Youth Village, FolkTours, the Arab Dance Seminar, the Arabic Music Retreat, the Arab Culture and Community Center of San Francisco, The College of William and Mary, and currently leads an Arabic music student ensemble at Wesleyan University. Sami was born in the United States of mixed Palestinian and American descent. Originally a composer and scholar of Western Classical music, he began studying Arabic violin with Simon Shaheen in New York, where he concurrently pursued graduate studies in composition and ethnomusicology at C.U.N.Y., after earning a B.A. in Music from Harvard. Seeking a deeper immersion in Arab musical culture, he traveled to Cairo, Egypt on a Fulbright Fellowship, where he studied violin with Dr. Alfred Gamil; he continued his studies in Aleppo, Syria, studying singing of classical Syrian repertory with Mohammed Qasas, and violin with Abdel-Basit Bakkar

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