A Doumbek, Upside Down

Photo by Michael BaxterLeon Manoogian was a drummer and former member of George Abdo's "Flames of Araby". He and our Phaedra were a couple for a long time. You often saw them together at shows and events. In addition to being a talented musician, Leon liked to cook and eat. His favorite animal was the pig, and it is said that he never met a potato he didn't like. Leon was kind and generous...of his time, his talent, and his resources. He treated all dancers, including baby beginners, with respect.
 

He died last week, way before his time, from cancer.

 
It was old home week at the wake. Many musicians and dancers stopped in to pay their respects and ended up staying to catch up with old friends and colleagues. Someone remarked to me that the atmosphere was a little strange - festive, yet sad. Tears and laughter, happiness at seeing old friends and sadness at saying goodbye. Leon wanted a party (and there will be one)...but I think he would have been pleased with this impromptu one. 
 
What touched me most was the drum. His doumbek was set on a stool at the head of the casket - upside down. Another musician, John Mitaras (also a former Flame), told me that it was a symbol of respect for the departed musician. Had he played a stringed instrument - a bouzouki or oud - it would have been set there with its strings cut. 
 
I'm not sure how I feel or think about the afterlife. But it's nice to think of Leon sitting in somewhere with the likes of George Abdo, Mike and Buddy Sarkissian, Udi Hrant, and Roger Krikorian. In that place, I imagine, the drum skins are always warm, the strings are always in tune, and your voice is always in perfect form.
 
And best of all... the music never stops.