Learning to limp in music: a melody workshop on the semai

If you study music from Turkey or the Arab world, sooner or later you will encounter the ‘limping’ aksak semai, a rhythmic pattern or cycle (usul) that underpins some of the most celebrated repertoire, including the popular song Lama badda.

In the course we are going to explore pieces and creative exercises in order to become acquainted with the semai in practical and enjoyable ways. We will listen to the range of ways in which semai has been played in the past (some less limping than others!), learning how melody can interact in varying ways with it through historical and regional change. Our approaches will include improvisation and composition on the semai pattern, and comparison with melodies on ‘limping’ folk rhythms of the Balkans and central Asia (including 5/8, 7/8), and Persian rhythms recently designated as ‘ovoid’.

The course is open to everyone, from beginners to more experienced players and singers, because we will explore basic principles through fresh perspectives, and draw on recent research as we think about performance practice and perception. By the end of the course you will have learned some new repertoire and you may even have created your own melody on a semai cycle.

Timing: 3 x 2-hour meetings, 10, 13 and 17 May, 17:00 BST.
Price: £72 (register by 1 May).