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Special: Raquy Danziger | Interview with the World known Darbuka player, artist and musician

August 21, 2023 Raquay Danziger
Self Directed
Special: Raquy Danziger | Interview with the World known Darbuka player, artist and musician
Self Directed
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Meet Raquy Danziger - a celebrated Darbuka performer, teacher, and composer known worldwide for her expertise on the Middle Eastern Darbuka drum. 

We are a full-time traveling family. We love art, music, and people and interview some of the wonderful people we meet. We met Raquy in Istanbul, Turkey, where she is now based.

About Raquy
Hailing from unlikely Western roots, Raquy has distinguished herself as a unique phenomenon and earned a place of renown in the genre. She has collaborated and performed with some of the most famous Middle Eastern drummers in the world and has given concerts and workshops across the USA, Canada, The Middle East, Asia, Europe, Russia, and South America. 

Raquy specializes in the Turkish split-hand technique. This style was born twenty years ago when Turkish drummers began splitting the hand, thus attaining unprecedented speed and dexterity. In 2012 Raquy opened her “Darbuka Ofis” in downtown Istanbul, where she trains daily under the direction of her teacher, master drummer Bünyamin Olguncan.  Her Ofis has become a center for drumming, attracting drummers from all over the world who flock to Istanbul to learn from Raquy and Bünyamin.


(00:00:01) - Discovering Istanbul's Music and Art
(00:15:26) - Drumming Lessons and Online Classes

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0:00:01 - Jesper Conrad
When we travel to Istanbul in the summer of 2021, our dear friend Favit told us if you're going to Istanbul, then you really should meet up with my friend Raquy. She's a world famous Darbuka player and, on top of that, she's super cool and a fantastic artist. So we went there, met up with her and she's just fantastic and I would love to share her story with you. So, please, you'll enjoy this short special episode of our podcast. Hope you will enjoy it. 

0:00:30 - Jesper Conrad
Today I'm here with Raquy, whom we met in Istanbul, and we're going to have a talk about art and music and food. Raquy, it's a pleasure to meet you. 

0:00:41 - Raquy Danziger
Thank you, so nice to meet you guys too. 

0:00:45 - Jesper Conrad
You came to Turkey how many years ago? 

0:00:48 - Raquy Danziger
Ten years ago. 

0:00:48 - Jesper Conrad
Ten years ago, and what was it that brought you to Turkey? 

0:00:52 - Raquy Danziger
Well, I played the dirt book at Dran, yeah, and I used to play kind of an Arabic style. And I started seeing on YouTube what was happening in Turkey with this new technique that started about 25 years ago. Okay, they called the split hand technique, where they use the individual fingers on the drum so they get super, super fast. So I started seeing on YouTube like this crazy style. So I said I want to just go and learn the style. So I came and I took four of my best students all women and we rented a flat near Galata Tower and we just immersed ourselves in the drumming. 

0:01:32 - Jesper Conrad
And actually about the drumming and being a woman, then maybe I haven't seen enough drumming, but to me it seems like a more male dominated world. Is it that? Or? 

0:01:44 - Raquy Danziger
is it just a mistake? Yes, it is. It's a male dominated thing, but there's especially recently, there's more and more women doing it. 

0:01:52 - Jesper Conrad
And how did you feel and where did you first meet the drum? Which was it, the music instrument you started with, or what happened? 

0:02:00 - Raquy Danziger
Well, I grew up in a family of classical musicians, so I played classical music, classical yeah. So I played classical music since I was a baby. And what I played most of the piano a little viola, and then I just couldn't picture what I'm going to do as a classical musician. I couldn't picture being an orchestra. I couldn't picture being a concert pianist. 

0:02:24 - Jesper Conrad
But from the piano to the drum, that's still. 

0:02:26 - Raquy Danziger
Well, but it's. I mean piano is officially a percussion instrument you know, so I feel like the piano became the drum and then the viola became the camanche. So they kind of just morphed. But it was during a trip to India. I was traveling in India and I just I saw drum lessons. I just started taking drum lessons and completely fell in love with drumming. 

0:02:49 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, so all I wanted to do. And what is it that you fell in love with? Is it the rhythm or is it like the heartbeat? Feel the feeling of it. 

0:03:01 - Raquy Danziger
Well, a lot of things. I feel like the drumming is kind of a combination between like sports and music, you know, and math, sports and music and math. Because I love math. I was always like a math geek and I love cycles and fitting things into cycles, relationships in between numbers. So the especially when I drumming in India, it's very mathematical, so that really appealed to me, the math aspect. 

0:03:31 - Jesper Conrad
So you kind of make two plus two is four, or how do you use the math? 

0:03:37 - Raquy Danziger
Well, in Indian drumming there's these long, long cycles and the whole art form is how to cleverly fit something into the cycle, like you do something five times and then boom, magically it falls on the one. You know what I mean. It's this whole thing of cycles and fitting things into cycles and modulating. You know, taking something and then modulating the time. It's like putting sound to mathematical equations. Actually, you know, the Indian stuff is like that. And then it's music. It makes people dance, it makes people happy. Drumming is a joyful thing and it's also sports. It's like the training aspect. I have a little competitive streak and I love that about it. Just, you know, training and getting faster and doing drills and exercises. 

0:04:29 - Jesper Conrad
So the drumming is really competing against yourself. Yeah, the thing I find not funny is that you are both a student and a teacher at the same time, and I wanted to ask about that because my idea was, like some people might be like now I'm a teacher, I don't need, I could teach everybody, I don't need to learn more, but why are you on that scale? Always on a learning journey. 

0:04:53 - Raquy Danziger
Well, I would hope that my whole life I'll be a student, you know, and yeah, no matter how advanced I get, I could always get more and learn of new things, and I love being a student and learning. 

0:05:09 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, and that is why you're also here to learn that technique. 

0:05:15 - Raquy Danziger
Well, that's why I originally came here to learn that technique, and you know I came for a month and then the second year, two months, and then the third year, three months, and I kept on adding months, and then I'm so in love with the city. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And that I just at some point when was it, I don't know several years ago, I just relocated and just stayed here yeah. 

0:05:44 - Jesper Conrad
And the city encompassed the mix between the Western and the Asian world and it's so cosmopolitan. We've been here for only two weeks and I can see how you easily can spend 10 years here, yeah, and still fall in love, yeah, but it also has the art. And can you tell a little about the cafe we are placed in now and why we're here? 

0:06:08 - Raquy Danziger
Yeah, well, this is called the Jaffara Madrese, and the Madrese is the old schools that were attached to the mosques, because the mosque wasn't just a mosque to pray, it was almost like a community center. So the mosques always have like a hamam next to it, the bathing, a madrese for studying Quran and the Islamic arts. And this is a very special madrese built by Meimar Sinan, who is the architect. He lived 98 years. He was the architect of Suleiman the Magnificent, who is the most powerful Ottoman Sultan, and he built so much of the beautiful things you see even today in Istanbul, and he built this madrese. And now it's still art school, which is. 

It just blows my mind that this is still here. You can still study here. It happens to not be in session right now, but I just was coming here all the time and being like what are the classes starting? What are the classes starting up, since I started painting recently and I want to study illumination art, which they teach here, and unfortunately, the classes from the pandemic stuff. They are going to start until October, but I found an alumnus who is giving me private lessons here, which is actually even better. 

So, I come once a week and she coaches me and tells me all the tricks and I hang out here all day in pain and order chai. 

0:07:42 - Jesper Conrad
And eat some wonderful food. 

0:07:43 - Raquy Danziger
Yeah, they have great food, they have great music, a nice bathroom. I mean it's right next to the Isophea, so it's just the location couldn't be better, it's like my new favorite place and I can walk here from my house and how is that? 

0:07:57 - Jesper Conrad
in your world? Does the drumming and the art? Are they balanced? So it's just two sides of you? Do they have something in common? 

0:08:10 - Raquy Danziger
Oh for sure. Well, I didn't really start doing art seriously until this past year and a half, when all my concerts were canceled and I spent so much time at home and I see these illuminated courants and the museums here and I just love them so much and I was like this is a time to start doing art, it's a good opportunity so, but to me it's almost the same art form. One is with sounds and one is with lines and colors. 

0:08:45 - Jesper Conrad
That's a lot of magic art forms. 

0:08:47 - Raquy Danziger
Exactly. It's math, it's cycles, it's creativity. There's so many similarities, but there's also some interesting difference, like when I sell a painting, it's like it's gone, you know. 

0:09:03 - Jesper Conrad
I sell it in a bag. It's like my baby, my baby. 

0:09:06 - Raquy Danziger
Which is a little hard for me, because in music you can play a song a million times, but you still have it. So that's an interesting difference. And the other difference is, like with the art, you don't need anybody Like, you just make a painting, be at home with your cats and make something and it's finished. 

And with music you need the band members and you need the audience and you need the sound man and you need it's like there's so many you know. So for me, the pandemic was a perfect time to, just to, to boost myself in the art and it's really become a big passion for me. I mean, I just I have so much fun sitting there and and painting. You know I don't even feel the time passing. You know, I just get in the zone and do you listen to music while I? 

listen to music and I just, I just get in a zone. You know it's just, and I'm painting these shiny golden colors and it's just so fun. 

0:10:05 - Jesper Conrad
I mean, it's wonderful that you can make a living where you're first being a musician traveling all over and then, okay, the concerts are canceled because of the pandemic what can I do? And then taking your art to that level and and and then we also talk about food just before, and I would love to to talk to you also about that. You sometimes make your food into mandala. 

0:10:31 - Raquy Danziger
Yes, and that's the madden again, yeah, exactly, yeah so. 

0:10:37 - Jesper Conrad
But so there's art and there's music, art and food, but you, I know you're working on a vegan cookbook as well. Yes, and it's a little about it. 

0:10:47 - Raquy Danziger
Okay, well, you know, I've I've been vegan now for over 25 years and I'm it's it's a really important to me and it's important. One of the things I feel I could do good in this world is to show people how easy and delicious it is to be vegan and healthy, and to convince other people to turn vegan, like Mati, my student. 

0:11:13 - Speaker 1
I think he's vegan. 

0:11:14 - Raquy Danziger
Now I've been hanging out with him for a week and when I do my drum camps, it's all vegan. I refuse to to have any dairy or meat, and so many people that come to the camps Afterwards they at least from vegetarian, if not vegan. So I think of myself as like an advocate for veganism and I'm very passionate about that. You know, I think the meat and dairy industry is disgusting and an evil thing and I'm hoping that someday we'll look back on this and be like what Humans did that. 

0:11:52 - Jesper Conrad
I mean just like how we look now on slavery or you know these horrible things that humans did. 

0:11:59 - Raquy Danziger
You know it's horrible and I you know. I hope everyone becomes vegan. 

0:12:05 - Jesper Conrad
Absolutely, as a vegan myself. Shorter years, not 20. I think we're on five or seven as a family, but it is as we talked about earlier. It cleans your mindset on so many levels. It's fantastic. 

0:12:21 - Raquy Danziger
Yeah, yeah. 

0:12:23 - Jesper Conrad
Your music you have. How many albums is it you have behind you now? 

0:12:27 - Raquy Danziger
Well, I've released, I think, about 15 albums, almost all of original music. 

0:12:33 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, yeah, that is. I remember laughing when you told it to me I was like that's a crazy streak of albums. 

0:12:42 - Raquy Danziger
Yeah, yeah, I mean I just I'm composing all the time. 

0:12:47 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah. I'm composing and so it's a need to get it out there and scare it. 

0:12:51 - Raquy Danziger
Well, I mean and there's so much I've composed it I mean, it's like I just don't have time you know, but like if a song get in my head and it won't leave me alone until I get it, you know, and it'll just, it'll just be stuck in my head and I'll be like I don't have time for you, I already have so much music. 

But, like it, just like, won't leave me alone, and I just, okay, okay, fine, make you you know, and I'll, yeah, I just but now, when you also have taken up art and also going further with your cooking, then when are you dropping the next album? 

0:13:24 - Jesper Conrad
Is there one? Are you working on something? 

0:13:26 - Speaker 1
Well, I'm. 

0:13:27 - Jesper Conrad
Or I presume it delays it a little when you also have the arms and the feet. 

0:13:30 - Raquy Danziger
Yeah, yeah, I have a lot that I'm doing, but I just released an album a few months ago. My last one is called Mirror Mirror. 

0:13:38 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, and why is it called Mirror Mirror? 

0:13:40 - Raquy Danziger
Well, one of the songs is called Mirror Mirror, and that's a good question because the rhythm. It's a rhythm that I call a mirror rhythm because it's in 14, but it's three, four, mirror, four, three, I don't know One, two, three, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. So it's like the rhythm is looking in the mirror. So the name of the song is Mirror, mirror, and I just thought that's a great name for an album. 

I also love to practice in front of the mirror and, you know, I think mirrors are magical things and so yeah, so that's why it's called that. 

0:14:19 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, yeah, and so one came out a couple of months ago. 

0:14:23 - Raquy Danziger
Yeah, and yeah, and then actually since then I've I've reported some other songs and yeah, yeah so uh, yeah, I just uh. Actually today it's gonna be ready, I'll show you guys. But I did a really funny music video for a new song and then I'm actually singing for the first time in my life so that that's gonna that's gonna be really fun. 

0:14:48 - Jesper Conrad
That's a new step. 

0:14:50 - Raquy Danziger
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I never sang ever so. Yeah, so that that that that was really fun. I just made that a couple weeks ago and yeah. 

0:14:59 - Jesper Conrad
And, um, what would you give of what was? I'm a little curious again about the block that hit you, about the drumming you said it was back in India. Have you tried to play drum before at all? No, no, I mean I played the piano so you were walking on the street in India hanging out, and then you saw a sign. 

0:15:21 - Raquy Danziger
I was in Varanasi, which is a holy city, and there's a music ashram. It's an. Indian drumming lessons and I said, uh, oh, I want to try it you know, and I took a lesson and I got totally hooked. And I was traveling at the time with a girlfriend and she wanted to continue traveling and I was like I just want to stay here and take lessons. And uh, and I did, and it changed. 

0:15:45 - Jesper Conrad
And not what career. 

0:15:47 - Raquy Danziger
Well, yeah, then I, at the time I was living in Tel Aviv, so then I got back home and I was like drumming, drumming, you know, and I found the Darbuka, which is the indigenous drum of the Middle East, and, um, it happened, it was almost overnight, one year after I started playing the Darbuka. I didn't need any other job I had so much work I had, so I it just boom. It was like it was such a omen. You know it's such a it's happened so fast. 

0:16:17 - Jesper Conrad
And you could take some of the, the knowledge you have from the piano and put it into play. 

0:16:23 - Raquy Danziger
Well, you know, my one of my favorite things as a classical pianist was accompanying people, because my mom was a violinist or my sister was a cellist and I I just love that supportive role of accompanying somebody and supporting another musician and how to make the other musicians sound good. So that's why when I even when I first started drumming, I didn't have such a great technique but all the everyone wanted to play with me because I'm a good accompanist, I know. 

I know how to you know they say, the sign of a good drummer is you don't even notice them because they're doing something so tasteful something that fits the music so well that you don't even notice. And so I had skills of how to be a good accompanist, how to listen, how to follow, how to make the other musicians shine. So that's I think that's why I got so much work really early on, when I was nowhere near virtuoso, you know, because I was a good accompanist. 

0:17:17 - Jesper Conrad
And now you're giving the joy of drumming. You have online classes. 

0:17:24 - Raquy Danziger
Yeah, yeah. 

0:17:25 - Jesper Conrad
If people want to find it where they're going to look. 

0:17:28 - Raquy Danziger
Well, I have a website. It's called dargookeschoolcom, and, and that's my online school. 

0:17:35 - Jesper Conrad
And how does it function for people there? 

0:17:37 - Raquy Danziger
Well, I have like different levels, I have different, different topics, different courses. 

0:17:41 - Jesper Conrad
Is it recorded or is it live? Some of the it's, it's all. 

0:17:46 - Raquy Danziger
Most of it is all pre-recorded, but I have some a couple times a week. I have live classes that we started doing since the pandemic live classes once a week me and once a week when you mean my teacher, and it's it's cool because we'll have somebody in China and somebody in Mexico and somebody in the States and they're all you know, and we don't see them in the live classes, but they can comment, they can ask a question and you see who's watching, and it's just so cool to be able to do that, yeah and can you see when some of them are bitten by the bug, by the drumming bug in their eyes, when you teach? 

Oh yeah for sure you know, yeah, yeah, for sure, like even Mati. You know, he's just, he's just a beginner, but he he's totally inspired. 

0:18:33 - Jesper Conrad
The spark is there. Oh yeah, for sure, the drug of the drumming. 

0:18:38 - Raquy Danziger
Yeah, for sure. 

0:18:39 - Jesper Conrad
And then do you have drumming camps. Do you have some solely for women, or do you combine them? 

0:18:44 - Raquy Danziger
Well, no, not just for women, for anybody. And I mean it's been a while. We haven't had one in a couple years now. But I would have at least one or two a year where I would rent this place in upstate New York and we'd all live there and spend the whole day, you know, drumming and yoga, exercise, meditation, eating, vegan food you know, just like all the good stuff, yeah, which is like really yeah, and I know a lot of people are missing those including me. 

0:19:20 - Jesper Conrad
Oh, yes, yes, yeah, so thank you for your time. 

0:19:23 - Raquy Danziger
Oh, my pleasure, my pleasure. 

Discovering Istanbul's Music and Art
Drumming Lessons and Online Classes