New Arab American Theater Works program Yalla Drum! teaches local community to play traditional Arabic percussion instruments in an ensemble environment, and provides an opportunity for the larger Twin Cities to interact with our rich traditions. These percussion instruments have existed for many centuries in South West Asia and North Africa, played by Muslims, Christians, Copts, Druze, Jews and Turks.
Yalla Drum! ensemble will grow by continuous training, and also by adding more drummers to the group as we expand. We strive to pass our rich traditions onto future generations, offering them the opportunity to experience the music in and from our communities. We believe that creating spaces to share our multiple traditions strengthens solidarity with each other.
2023 Season Drummers
Audrey Jansen Keirstead
William Nour, Assistant Director
Khaldoun Samman, Director
2022 Season Drummers
2021 Season Drummers
Sun Yung Shin
2020 Season Drummers
Margot Abdo O'Dell
Documentary about the YallaDrum! Program, 2020
Lead Drum Instructor
Khaldoun Samman is widely known as a local master of Arab percussion who has been teaching Arabic drumming in the Twin Cities for the past several years. Growing up in Zarqa Jordan, his favorite memories of childhood usually involved listening to the beautiful sounds of Arabic music. When Khaldoun’s family moved to New Jersey, a lot of this came with them. Khaldoun has been studying Arab percussion intensively over the past 13 years traveling across the United States and to Jordan to study with the masters of Arabic drumming. He has performed widely in the Twin Cities, including venues like the Science Museum in St. Paul, the Festival of Nations (multiple performances), the Fringe Festival in Minneapolis, as well as in Mizna sponsored events, and in several local Twin Cities Arab weddings.
The derbeke is goblet shaped and made of ceramic. It is unique to the soils of the Levant and Egypt. Traditionally, the skin would come from the fish of the Nile, and contemporary versions use synthetic material to enhance their utility in more humid regions. It provides tones that are unique to Middle Eastern percussion. Because of its unique high tones, this drum is usually played by the lead drummer. Photo taken by Kevin Hartnell
The riq and daff also use the same fish skin, but the shells are round and wide and provide more refined and softer tones that are sought after by melodic musicians.
The big tabl, otherwise known as dohola, is the bass drum and is essential to creating the deep tones of the ensemble to provide the lower tones that are essential to the drum ensemble.
This is the largest of Arabic drums. It is often played with one stick and one bass paddle and is the preferred drum in weddings, especially during the entrance of the bride and groom. These percussion instruments are often played on the streets, in festivals, and in religious ceremonies. They are also used regularly in weddings, played in the homes where they are often used as decorative ornaments and immediately recognized by those who hold an Arab identity.