Tablet elsett: Egyptian Women reclaim their drum beats

Amira Noshokaty , Thursday 17 Jun 2021

Tablet El-Sett (The woman's drum) is an Egyptian folk music troupe of women percussionists

Tablet elsett
Tablet elsett an Egyptian folk music troupe during their performance on stage on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Photo by Amira Noshokaty

An all-ladies troupe owned the stage and captured the audience from their first beat on 16 June. The performance was held as part of the the annual International Festival for Drums and Traditional Arts (12 to 18 June) in Cairo

Tablet elsett (The woman's drum) is an Egyptian folk music troupe of women percussionists. The group was founded by Soha Mohamed Ali in 2019, after she had studied the tabla with renowned tabla mentor Said Al-Artist.

“I wanted to play the tabla but I also wanted to integrate songs with it, then the scene of women holding the drum and singing crossed my mind. This scene is ancient, recorded on the walls of the temples of ancient Egypt. In a stage dominated by electronic music, we have lost the connection with real music coming from the tabla and duff," Ali told Ahram Online.

“In 2019 I managed to gather the group and sing folk and heritage songs as we played the tabla. In our troupe, the women are in charge of the beat, but we have two male partners playing traditional music instruments like the rababa and mizmar, “she noted.
The troupe started off with lyrics from famous poet Ibn Arous. Then they chanted the night away with famous folk wedding songs in Egyptian villages, as well as the heritage song Ya Salat El-Zein by renowned music composer Zakaria Ahmed and Lyrics by vernacular poetry pillar Beiram Al-Tonsy.

The audience were mesmerised, requesting encores as they sang along to the songs they knew and connected with.

“Though it seems a novel idea in this era, we are just reviving a traditional ritual. Our grandmothers, on any happy occasion, used to beat on trays, or on tablas that were usually ready on top of the closet,” she concluded.
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