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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Le trio Joubran

Le Trio Joubran’s music is rooted in Arab tradition

By Alexander Varty

Fuelled by media depictions of rioting and refugee camps, North Americans tend to view the Palestinian territories as a marginalized backwater: oppressed by Israel, and unable to govern themselves or rise above sectarian strife. But the musicians of Le Trio Joubran—brothers Samir, Wissam, and Adnan Joubran—wish to portray a different image of their homeland. Having grown up in an extremely sophisticated family—their mother is an acclaimed singer, while their father is a third-generation instrument maker specializing in the lutelike oud—they know they hail from one of the cultural centres of the world. Their music reflects that.

Majâz, the trio’s first internationally distributed CD, is rooted in Arab tradition, as the oldest of the oud-playing Joubran brothers, Samir, explains. “When we decided to make the trio, we decided what we didn’t want to use in the way of the compositions,” he says, reached at home in Paris. “We didn’t want to use western techniques because that’s not Arabic music. Arabic music is based on melody, and not in a harmonic way.…harmony is maybe two notes after each other and they sound nice, but it’s not our culture and not our music. So when you look at our compositions, either the three ouds are playing together to reach a powerful sound or there are three personalities, where everybody’s taking a line and there’s a lot of improvisation.”

Although their music is intensely personal, it is also part of a greater Mediterranean culture. Lovers of flamenco, for example, won’t find it a stretch to enjoy the trio’s speedy and passionate sound, which is produced exclusively on instruments built by Wissam, the fourth in the family line of oud-builders and the first Arab to graduate from the prestigious Antonio Stradivari Institute of instrument making, in Cremona, Italy.

“We are not just three brothers on-stage. We are six brothers,” Samir says. “We feel that the instruments are also our brothers.”

As for the notion that family bands have something special, the senior Joubran agrees. “I think it helps a lot,” he says, noting that he had an active solo career before founding the group, and that his younger siblings picked up his repertoire almost by osmosis. “As well, the relationship between brothers is something very intimate. We don’t have hours when we practise together…When we’re fishing, we speak music. When we’re in the car, we’re listening to music. So we don’t need to rehearse to make music—we are all together in the same spirit.”


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