Halim El-Dabh Biography
Halim El-Dabh is University Professor Emeritus of African Ethnomusicology at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. He continues to teach African Cultural Expressions. He has conducted ethnomusicological research in the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Zaire. Within the African Diaspora, his research includes Brazil, Jamaica, and the United States.
Egypt in 1921, El-Dabh attended the First International
Conference (Cairo, 1932), graduating from the University of Cairo in
was invited to study at the University of New Mexico, and received
to Brandeis University and the New England Conservatory of Music as
The latter granted him an Honorary Doctorate in 2007. In 2001, he also
an Honorary Doctorate from Kent State University, where he has taught
1969. El-Dabh has also taught at Howard University and Haile Selassie
University. At Haile Selassie, he organized the Orchestra
of musicians from various ethnic groups within that country. Some of
that El-Dabh has researched or written about include the Zaar in
El-Dabh has written for African instruments and African themes. His works in opera, symphony, ballet, orchestra, chamber and electronic music are inspired from the heart of cultures in Africa and Asia. Information about his 300 scores can be found through C. F. Peters Publishers and Broadcast Music Inc., both in New York City. He composed the music for the Sound and Light show performed in several languages at the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. Every night the show recounts the stories of the Sphinx and the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.
Some of El-Dabh's recent activities include being the keynote speaker for the Fela Sowande (1905-1987) Memorial in Cambridge, England in 2005, which acknowledges the many achievements of the Nigerian born Sowande as Yoruba Chief, ethnomusicologist, music composer, and musician. Known as the "Father of Nigerian Art Music," Chief Sowande and El-Dabh were close friends and colleagues at KSU during the 1980's. In 2005 El-Dabh and a group of KSU musicians performed El-Dabh's works with the String Orchestra of Alexandria at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in Egypt. He performed with prominent African musicians, including Ismael (Pops) Mohamed, in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the UNAZI ("lightening" in Zulu) conference (2005). This was the first African Electronic Music Festival in history. In 2005 El-Dabh presented "Africa meets Asia," a series of workshops that explored the encounter of African and Chinese music, at The Central Conservatory of Music, in Beijing, China. While here, he also explored the idea of African pianism with Akin Euba, a distinguished African ethnomusicologist and composer. El-Dabh and Euba continued this exploration in conferences held in Cambridge, England, and St. Louis, Missouri. Note that Ghanian born William Chapman Nyaho has played El-Dabh’s compositions relating to African pianism. In 2007 El-Dabh’s concerto “Invisible Bridge,” commemorating the Underground Railroad, was premiered in Dayton, Ohio by the Dayton Symphony Orchestra and Black American cellist Karen R. Patterson. Together with the African ethnomusicologist, Kwabena Nketi, El-Dabh has participated in African Music workshops at Northwestern University (1968). El-Dabh has also collaborated with KSU professors on a regular basis. In 1983 he transcribed ballad music recorded by Manuel da Costa Fontes (Romance Languages) on the island of Sao Jorge, Azores. El-Dabh wrote "Egyptian Calypso" for “Flash In The Pan,” the KSU Trinidadian style steel drum ensemble, and has written for the KSU Orchestra and several chamber ensembles performing at KSU. Students who have studied El-Dabh’s drumming techniques in depth, such as Blake Tyson, Associate Professor of Percussion at the University of Central Arkansas, have continued to perform and teach his works. Tyson also accompanied El-Dabh and performed his works at the UNAZI Festival and at the Beijing Conservatory. El-Dabh wrote “Symphony for 1000 Drums,” which was portrayed by one thousand drums in Cleveland (2006) and in Fort Collins, Colorado (2008). This symphony invokes the goddesses of ancient Egypt and Yorubaland. El-Dabh also participates regularly in activities in the Kent community. One highlight is his annual birthday party, which is hosted by Standing Rock Cultural Arts in downtown Kent and will be celebrated again this coming March 4th when El-Dabh will turn 93.
El-Dabh's upcoming programs and concerts include Cairo, Egypt in February 2009 and Montgomery, Alabama in March 2009. He will appear as the drummer in the upcoming film directed by Traci Williams from the Department of Pan African Studies at Kent State.
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