إقبال التميمي

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Palestinian ‘Asylum’ Oud musicians Trio Joubran resurrected Nazareth at St George’s Hall

by Iqbal Tamimi

The fine Oud music did not need a crutch of words to explain its mission to the British music lovers. For the first time campaigning and praying for justice and peace in Palestine took the shape of music at St George’s Hall, where the senses kneeled in the presence of glorious art.

On Wednesday night 29th September the Palestinian musicians ‘Trio Joubran’ and the brilliant Palestinian Percussionist Yousef Hbeisch held a concert at the marvellous St Georges Concert Hall in the city of Bristol, that is dedicated to promoting high quality by hosting almost 200 events every year.

Le Trio Joubran, Samir, Wissam and Adnan are the fourth generation of a Palestinian family of « Oud » makers.

Samir told us that their last night’s Concert was the 11th in a series of performances within a tour. Even though the group is called Le Trio Joubran, the fourth member, the percussionist master, the son of Palestine’s’ Galilee, Youssef Hbeisch is not a member of the Joubran family but he is a main pillar in the Trio's compositions. His rhythms and notes were the magic that made the packed concert Hall of St George, echo with applauds while the Ouds of the Trio were creating a marvellous dialogue with his drums and tambourines.

Le Trio Joubran Oud masters, are three brothers from the city of Nazareth, north of Palestine. Samir the leader of the band was introduced to Oud by his father at the age of five, and by the age of nine, Samir joinedthe Nazareth Institute of Music. In 1995 he graduates from the highly prestigious Muhammad Abdul Wahhab Conservatory of Cairo in Egypt.

Samir’s first album, Taqaseem, came out in 1996, followed by his second album Sou'fahm (Misunderstanding) in 2001. Until this date, Samir is the only Palestinian musician performing outside the borders of his country. He is also the first musician to be awarded, a two-year scholarship to Italy in 2003-2004 through the Writer's Asylum Program organized by the International Parliament of Writers.

Last night, Samir, who is now based in France, expressed his sorrow that a large number of talented musicians and creative Palestinian colleagues of his, are suffering the oppressive policies of Israel, denying them the right to travel to participate in international activities. The Trio themselves suffered all sorts of harassments including cancellations of their performances in their own home city of Nazereth by Israeli arbitrary orders. Samir said " we want to be known as musicians from Palestine not as Palestinian musicians".

On the stage, Samir gave tribute to the renowned great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish who contributed to his musical poetic understanding by saying ‘ I learned from Darwish what no collage can teach me’.Samir’s Music allied itself with the spoken word bringing back to life the traditional Palestinian tune of the well known song of ‘Hal Asmar Eloun’ that revived the audience at the back seats who found themselves humming along with him, the British enthusiasts just hummed the tunes, while the Arab expatriates sang along with his music for the homeland that has a moon made of silver, ‘Ya-boo Qamar Faddah’.

The Trio played some tunes that must have been tailored for a great documentary production back tracks. This was not surprising since Samir has good experience in this field. He composed the original sound track for Rashir Masharawi's Ticket to Jerusalem and three tracks from his album Tamaas were included in the sound track of Inguélézi. Three titles from Randana were also used in Parvez Sharmas' documentary ‘A jihad for love.’

Samir said ‘we will travel the world with our music for it is our weapon against oppression and no one can take our music or our Palestinian heritage away from us’. He also said: ‘We are fighting for peace, we are campaigning to end the occupation in Palestine and this is our message to the world’.

Samir Joubran, the eldest brother, started his music career in 1996, nearly a decade before the formation of the Joubran Trio. He released two albums, Taqaseem in 1996, and Sou'fahm in 2001 before inviting Wissam, to join him on the third album, Tamaas released in 2003. Adnan. Joined his brother’s band in August 2004, and at the Parisian' Luxembourg garden, the Joubran Trio came to life.

The second son of Hatem Jubran is Wissam whose father signed him up for violin lessons at the Nazareth conservatory and gave him a small Oud for his ninth birthday. Wissam performed in local Palestinian concerts and played on the theatre stage the role of a singing Oud player in a play about the life of the renowned Iraqi poet Moudaffar El Nawab. When Wissam was twelve, he seized the opportunity to take his dreams and talent all the way to Paris' Arab World Institute, where he shared the stage with his brother Samir. In 2005, Wissam was the first Arab graduate from the Antonio Stradivari Conservatory, in Cremona, and at the same time he followed his father’s footsteps by becoming a master luthier making the Joubran Trio's Ouds, carrying his four-generation’ family legacy into the future.

The third brother, Adnan, wanted to become a percussionist since he was young. Yet, he was captivated by the Oud. By the age of fifteen, he took part in Oud-playing contests, that he was one of five winners of a contest held in Palestine. Adnan provides musical accompaniment for the Fattoumi-Lamoureux dance company, in addition to his work with the Trio and performing for the Parisian audiences the combined music and circus show called EKO DU OUD (the Oud's echo). I have asked Adnan why their mother Ibtisam Hanna Joubran who is known for her mastery of singing the Mowashahat, (a form of singing that originated in Arab Spain) is not joining them. He said that it is not easy for her to leave Nazareth and travel abroad besides the difficult nature of their long tour which is not an easy option for her.

The Trio are haunted, like all Palestinians by exile and by the feeling of being forced to keep on the move searching for a home away from home like almost 6 million Palestinian refugees. This can be felt by the titles of their Albums. At the end of the successful concert, the four Palestinian musicians played a piece called Asfar which means ‘travels’, then signed a number of their albums for the audience. But what was interesting, is as Adnan said, we are Palestinians and we identify ourselves as such, no one even notices that we are Christian Palestinians, because for us Palestinians it does not matter what faith we are, we are campaigning for the freedom of our country through our heritage and music. The Trio got the biggest applause when Samir said " our instruments were the only weapons we picked up in our fight for Palestinian freedom and identity".

For me as a Palestinian in exile, the Joubran’s concert was a dream that brought my home country right to where I was. When the audience started stamping their feet, applauding the musicians and demanding more music, the sound of Palestinian Dabkeh sounds was brought back to life, I could swear that I can visualize the seasons of harvest in Palestine’s’ summers and smell the toasted wheat in its fields.

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