Halim El-Dabh


Born in Egypt in 1921, 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.

El-Dabh attended the First International Ethnomusicological Conference (Cairo, 1932), graduating from the University of Cairo in 1945. He was invited to study at the University of New Mexico, and received scholarships to Brandeis University and the New England Conservatory of Music as well. The latter granted him an Honorary Doctorate in 2007. In 2001, he also received an Honorary Doctorate from Kent State University, where he has taught since 1969. El-Dabh has also taught at Howard University and Haile Selassie University. At Haile Selassie, he organized the Orchestra Ethiopia, comprised of musicians from various ethnic groups within that country. Some of the topics that El-Dabh has researched or written about include the Zaar in Egypt, Ethiopia and the Congo; Candomble and Umbanda in Brazil; Zebola the Crocodile; Zikre in Egypt; and Ethnodynamics in African Music. From 1974 to 1981 he was cultural and ethnomusicological consultant to the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Programs for their project on Egyptian and Guinean puppetry. El-Dabh’s African puppeteers took part in the celebrations of the second centennial of the United States (Washington, 1976). He was also consultant to the Middfest Folklife Festival in Middletown, Ohio which featured puppeteers from Egypt. El-Dabh also performed and directed combined percussion ensembles from Japan, Korea, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, India, and other nations at Middfest International's 20-Year, 25-Nation Retrospective (Middletown, 2005)

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.

Spring 2009 brought a round of New York, DC and Paris with performances of Clytemnestra and Cytemnestra Suite.

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 upcoming March 4th when El-Dabh turns 90. Halim El-Dabh Music has produced 12 CDs which represent the range of styles of his writing over his lifetime.

Email: deboraheldabh@yahoo.com

Work List


Symphony Orchestra

Agamemnon (Ballet Suite)——Perc—Pf—Hp—Str

Iphigenia (Ballet Suite)——Perc—Pf—Hp—Str

Symphony No. 3——Perc—Str

Saladin (Citadelle) (Ballet of Lights)——Perc—2Hp—Str


One More Gaudy Night——Perc—Hp—Str

Vision at the Cross Road——Timp—3Perc—Str

Clytemnestra (Ballet Suite)——Perc—Pf—Hp—Str

Nomadic Waves
Orchestra I: 4(2Picc).3.4(B-Cl).3(Cbsn)—;
Orchestra II:——6Perc

Lucifer (Ballet) 1(Picc).1(Ca).1.1——Timp—Perc—Pf—Hp—Str

Ramesses the Great (Symphony No. 9) 4(Picc, A-Fl).3(Ca).4(Eflat, B-Cl).3(Cbsn)—— 4Perc—Hp—Str

Solo Instrument(s) and Orchestra

The Ghost (Yulei) Dramatic Soprano Solo———Str

Chamber Orchestra


Fantasia-Tahmeel Timp—Str

Spectrum No. 1——4Hp—Str(

Tahmeela Fl Solo—1(Picc).1(Ca).1.1——Timp—Perc—Str

Chamber Music

Solo Instrumental

Mekta in the Art of Kita Volume 1 (Books 1and 2)- piano solo

Mekta in the Art of Kita Volume 1 (Book 3)- piano solo

Sonic No. 7 and No. 10 Derabucca Drum (Timp)


Thulathiya El-Ob, Vln, Pf


A Look at Lightning Fl.EH.Bsn-Hp

Large Chamber Ensemble

Juxtaposition No. 1 Percussion Ensemble (1st version: 4 Players; 2nd version: 6-8-10 Players)

Tabla Dance Pf, Perc Ensemble

Tabla-Tahmeel No. 1 Perc ensemble (3 or 6, 7, 9, 12, 14 players)

Hindi-Yaat No. 1 Percussion Ensemble (3 to 5 or 6, 9, 10, 12 players )

Mosaic No. 1 Pf—Perc(Double Traps) 3 or 5 Players


Leiyla Ms solo—TTBB chorus—Pf (Timp.Cel.Xyl.Db ad lib)


The Eye of Horus Bass Solo—Perc(2)—Pf


Music Theatre

Clytemnestra An Epic Dance Dancers, Intoned Voices (Dramatic Soprano, Dramatic Baritone with

Falsetto Range)———Perc —Pf—Hp—Str

Music of the Pharoahs Part I: Lamentation de Pharaoh S.Bar Soli—SSAA Chorus 1(Picc).0.2.0——2Perc— 2Hp-Str(no Vln)

Works available in Library


  • Belly Dance Classic (percussion & cello) – Score
  • Two Minute Trio (violin, viola, cello) – Score
  • It is Dark and damp on the Front (piano solo) – Score
  • Announcing a Newborn (solo voice) - Score
  • Mekta in the art of Kita (piano solo) – Part
  • Aria for Strings (str. Orch.) – Score

Page last updated: Monday 09 July 2012