Meeting people of all kinds and from different creative professions is another very beautiful aspect of being a traveler. I count this interaction as one unique experience from my Dubai trip.
I met Simona Abdallah at Atlantis Palm, Dubai. We met in the green room where she was sitting with other artists who were supposed to perform at the 5th BMR Annual Conference. While everyone was busy preparing themselves for their upcoming performances, it was only Simona who noticed me sneak in the room. AND events were organizers of the event and they had invited me to cover the event on my blog. With no intention of disturbing anyone, I plonked down on the closest empty chair to observe the back stage preparations. Next moment, I saw a lady occupy the seat next to me. She had an affable demeanor and an infectious smile. Before I could mutter a hello, she said a quick ‘Hi’ and asked me ‘What are you performing today?’ I explained her that I was a blogger, covering this event and I was here to take back yet another interesting experience from Dubai. For some time, we discussed around random things and at last when I asked her, she introduced herself as Simona Abdallah. She further added that she was booked to give a tabla performance for the night. I tried to remember when was the last time when I had seen a lady play a tabla and the flashback returned me no images. Female tabla players are a rarity. I only knew about Anuradha Pal from India but I had never seen her perform live.
In the same context, I was also reminded of a story that I had read a couple of months back. It talked of a young woman who was passionate about percussion but she had been told ‘Oh, you can’t do it. It is just too difficult.’ I was curious to know about Simona and her indulgence in percussion. But before I could ask more, she was interrupted by one of the members in the room and informed about the timing of her performance. She bid a quick goodbye and promised to meet me after the show. She handed over her business card and left the room. After interacting with few more performers, I made my way towards the events ground. On my way back, an idea struck to me and I began to look for Simona on Google. What I read between the lines made me scurry to the lawn because I could not afford to miss anything about her performance. She was the first Arabic/Palestinian professional female percussionist in the world. Darbuka is a goblet-shaped drum.
I was thrilled to know that Simona was among the very few women, first from the Arabic background who played Darbuka, a musical instrument which is considered more of men’s job. When she took over the stage, she surpassed every word that was written about her. And her performance left me with goosebumps. Not just I, an audience of more than three hundred was transported to a different world. I was completely in trance. It was a very powerful performance, one of its kinds. The Arabs who are generally shy in dancing couldn’t control themselves and they all began to dance around the round tables. She was unstoppable for a wholesome fifteen minutes and the whole ambiance was overpowered by her scintillating musical prowess. After her performance came to an end and the rage settled down, I walked to her, hugged her and thanked her for the amazing performance. She gave me an equally warm hug. Next, thing I uttered, I want to interview you and there she agreed. Here is all that I could put together that evening.
Anything is possible for those who believe in them self and their goals….. says Simona
1) How was your childhood like and how did you connect with music?
I was raised in a very traditional old school Palestinian home in Denmark, where the only things that were allowed for me were to study and to prepare myself to be a housewife, but I ended up being an internationally booked tabla player.
My story is very long, so it’s difficult to make it short. I have spent many days, hours and years in my room with my 500 Arabic music cassette players. When I was 14, one of my brothers gave me a tabla. It became my best friend and my therapy. I began to teach myself to play by listening and watching how the other drummers played on television and from the weddings in our neighborhood we attended when I was young. With age, my love for music grew stronger. It was difficult for my family to deal with my interest. They resisted soon.
But after many years of challenges they have come to accept my lifestyle and today I truly believe that whatever you desire will become your reality and that anything is possible for those who believe in them self and their goals.
2) How easy or how difficult it is to be a female percussionist when it is considered to be a masculine instrument?
It takes a lot of practice, an open mind and lots of patience. And today I’m happy to see that females are learning to play the Arabic tabla. When I used to play in Middle East, most of the audience would get surprised to see me (female) alone on the stage.
I love to play my heart out. People enjoy my performance but many of them still get surprised, especially when I tell them that it’s my full time job to perform on my tabla. The difficulty or the challenge is when you are ready to make a living out of it. It took me 3 years of hard work to make it as my full time job. But I do believe that the love, believe and trust you put into your goals; it conspires to become your reality.
3) I have seen you play and I can vouch for it that you transport us to a different world. When you play, what’s on your mind?
I do a little meditation before every performance, and I try to be in the absolute moment. I perform my best, from the heart by letting go all my present thoughts. It’s kind of a meditational mode I enter and I drown myself in good energy. Next, I close my eyes and play.
4) Tell me about your dreams and how close you have been to achieving them.
I feel that I am living in my own dream and I can’t ask for more. I do what I love most; I have the most wonderful friends and a great network around the globe. I keep on having goals to achieve such as recording an album and producing music videos so that would be my goals today and in the future. Making good music is an ultimate goal of every musician.
5) How does it feel to be as famous as the most successful and only Arabic women percussionist?
I do not see myself as famous, but rather successful. It feels absolutely good that I’m making a living with what I love most and I feel truly grateful that I have the opportunity to travel around the world and meet people from different societies.
6) Tell me about your most memorable concert.
Every concert has its own beautiful vibe. I can’t think about one specific show that was different or extraordinary. But I must say that I really adore the moment when the audience shows their excitement, their smiles, and cheerful faces. When people just stand up and dance together, it makes my heart dance with them.
7) When you are not practicing or playing Tabla, what do you love doing?
I really enjoy being in the beautiful nature and have good long walks with a close friend. I love boating, I love hiking in the forest and I love being in the lap of nature. I also enjoy going out and listening to some good live performances. I love to travel around, learn and get inspired. I love hanging out with friends and meditating.
8) How has music influenced your life?
Music is giving me the opportunity to meet so many great souls from so many different cultures from all over the world. Music is my life and my healer and I feel gratitude where ever I go. I took a life and business coach education because I really love to help others achieve their goals and passion. If I can make it, you can make it. Music gives me so much energy that I want to share it with everybody though motivational musical speeches.
9) I am sure you love to travel. Which is your favorite place where you love returning again and again?
I find beauty everywhere I go and in every country. My favorite places would be around the beauty of the nature and that’s to be found all over the globe. I really love being in the nature, and I do love to perform outdoors under the sky as long that it’s warm and nice 🙂
10) When you started, it was tough to fight out with your family and follow your passion. How have things changed now?
Well, not every family member is proud of my musical career. I mean, even in my own family I have supporters and I have members who have yet not understood my choice in life. But everyone is accepting it gradually and I am grateful for that.
I love meeting such creative people and I am glad that I met Simona.
Did you check her work yet?
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