Le Trio Joubran: A path to Palestine

By l??Faïza Ghozali

Posted on June 17, 2011 10:57

Good-looking ­ambassadors of Palestinian culture, ?the Joubran brothers have revitalised ?interest in an old instrument and found popularity amongst a more politically engaged and youthful fan base in the ?Middle East and ?North Africa.

Three brothers joined by a string, the Joubran trio is back at the forefront of the world music scene with a fourth opus, AsFâr. ­Refined melodies and the oud are the marks of these Palestinian musicians. As soon as the first billow reaches your ear, you immediately recognise the Joubran touch, made up of the ancestral melodic structures known as maqâmat, enriched by their own creative flights.

Less than two years after A l’Ombre des Mots, an homage to Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Samir, Wissam and Adnan Joubran have released their fourth album. AsFâr, a play on the Arabic word for voyage and the English ‘as far’, serves as a link between Palestinian identity and the trio’s opening to the world. Quickly, the group’s influence is spreading from Boston to Paris via Ramallah, Essaouira, Cairo and Beirut. But this album is also a musical voyage that includes collaborations with the Tunisian singer Dhafer Youssef and the flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía.

The brothers – the fourth generation of a family of lute players – have breathed new life into the oud, a traditional Middle Eastern instrument. “You play the oud?” asked Samir’s friends in astonishment. “But it is out of style, it is an instrument for old men.” At the time, in the 1990s, it was true: Michael Jackson ousted Marcel Khelifé throughout the Middle East.

“Today our fans in Palestine are above all young people,” says Adnan. “I would have never thought that an 18-year-old would have a photo of Le Trio Joubran on her mobile phone.” ?

“Here,” laughs Chanhez, a young Algerian, “oud players are found in the old people’s orchestras: they have moustaches, big bellies and a sad air about them.” It is from here that springs the Joubran brothers’ success each time that they set foot in Morocco, Tunisia or Algeria.

Youth and the revolution on the Arab street are intimately entwined. “I admire and am very proud of the Tunisian people,” assures Adnan. “I cannot say that I knew the reality of the regime because I do not know the country well, but to see Tunisians so happy, I say Mabrouk! And I hope to be able to say it for all the Arab world one day.” Wissam hopes “that Israel and the United States are not going to try to exploit the events. The Arab world is weak today.”

The Joubran brothers are the ambassadors of an art and a people, carried by the words given to them by the poet Mahmoud Darwish: “Do not be Palestinian musicians, be the musicians of Palestine!” Darwish wanted their talent to glorify an identity and belonging, rather than the opposite. “We carry the message of the Palestinian people,” argues Wissam. “This message is our culture, our music is our resistance. Our art is the proof that Palestine exists.” ?

Last year, a concert that they were due to give in Nazareth, their home town, was cancelled at the last minute by the Israeli authorities. They were given an ultimatum, recalls Wissam, “If you go ahead, we will go into Nazareth like we went into Gaza.” The brothers’ reaction? “We gave a bigger concert in Ramallah in the presence of [Prime Minister] Mahmoud Abbas and the mayor of Nazareth in front of all of the television channels.” ?

As an act of resistance, art can be a political weapon. This provided the brothers’ inspiration to take the AsFâr tour back to their homeland. In late February, two concerts in Ramallah were followed by a third in Haïfa before the trio set off for faraway lands again.

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