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6Qs with Percussionist Simona Abdallah //

byLana Daoud

simonaabdSimona Abdallah is one of a handful of women in the world playing the tablah, the hand-drum used by Middle-Eastern ensembles. A Palestinian who grew up in Denmark, she has a lot to say as she brilliantly lets her tablah do the talking.  Hearing her newly released single, Reach Out is like listening to ethereal sounds engage in a passionate conversation. It’s the first track off of the album she’s currently working on, and we can also look forward to her upcoming tour with Natasha Atlas. When she’s not playing the tabla, she works as a life and business coach, “I love to play, and let the people feel the energy and the beats, she says. “But I also love to be on the other side listening and helping people reach their full potential.” Here, she tells us more…

Rock Band: Bon Jovi
Jazz Artist: Madeleine Peyroux
Bicycle or Car: Bicycle

1. How were you introduced to playing the tablah (darbuka)?
There are always so many weddings and parties to attend as an Arab, and it was during these weddings that the percussion player would fascinate me. It’s so little, yet so powerful — so many tones and beats. I started to play at around 14 years, and always listened to classical Arabic. It was a bit difficult with my upbringing to go out much, so I learned to play what I heard in my room.

2. How much did your choice of instrument have to do with shaping your identity?
I had to follow my dreams even if it was going to be rough. I asked myself what would be the worst thing to happen? People are going to talk? When I have interviews with Danish media, I have to explain how my family didn’t allow me to play. But I really don’t care, because people will talk no matter I do.

If I was married and had children, people were still going to talk. That’s how it is for an Arab girl. Today I’m very thankful to have this life, which I had dreamed of.

3. Is there a genre of music you would be curious to pair with the tablah?
I love old, classic Arabic music like Um Kulthoum.  I’m all for an Um Kulthoum remix done from a whole new perspective. Also remixes of the old songs by Abdel Haleem and the Rahbani Brothers. Originally, this is what inspired me — a love for mixing the traditional with the New Age beats and sounds. I’m curious about mixing anything with Arabic rhythms.

People want to be safe, and I say do something new, and just put it out there. Many cultures might identify with what they hear.

I also love to play with different musicians that have been playing jazz. A few days ago, I played with a oud player and a double bass/contra bass. It sounded so jazzy and special with just the three of us playing. I’m checking out electronic, indie, and ambient but that will take a little time. I love to get a piece of every culture, because there’s beauty in each culture.

5. What is Missing Voices?
After playing in public for five years, A Danish Muslim woman called me and said she’s starting a project. Even though I hate to use religion in what I’m doing, because it’s a private thing for me, she said she was collecting women who can play concerts all over the world to be an inspiration for Middle Eastern women. This includes concerts and workshops to help other women follow their dream. We have toured the UK and Holland, and will be in the Middle East, Sweden, and Norway this summer. It’s all about motivating women since there are often cultural preventions that keep them from believing in themselves. Whenever you hear about women from the Middle East, it’s always about how they’re victims. Missing Voices tries to be a role model, and help others reach goals in the process.

6. What has been the most interesting venue that you’ve played so far?
I have been part of the Middle East Peace Orchestra, which is a mix of Jews, Christians, and Palestinians playing for peace. One of my most unforgettable gigs was when we played for the Queen of Denmark. That was so much fun! We played, and then there was a reception where we all had to face her. We’re not allowed to stand to our back to her, or the prince, so there she was right in front of us!


About the Author: Born and raised in Southern CA, Lana Daoud can find herself at home just about anywhere. She has a degree in History with a minor in Middle East Studies, and is currently a fellow of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership For Change based in Los Angeles. Home is where the next great experience lies, heart belongs to her nieces, roots are in Palestine.

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