Tag Archives: Arabic music

Interview with Flamenco Arabic Ensemble Mujeres Mediterráneas

Mujeres Mediterráneas (Mediterranean Women) is an all-female ensemble based in Granada (Spain) featuring artists from various backgrounds, who combine Flamenco and Arabic music. World Music Central interviewed this rising act.

 

Mujeres Mediterráneas – Photo by José Asensio

 

How did the Mujeres Mediterráneas project come about?

Mujeres Mediterráneas is a musical ensemble based on the coexistence of music and cultures, specifically between Flamenco and Arabic Music. It was created in 2015 as a result of the vital encounter of our music on stage. The project arose from a musical encounter where Arab singer Habiba Chaouf coincided with flamenco guitarist Pilar Alonso; a musical and cultural exchange was created that grew and resulted in the current quartet incorporating flutist, Mixtlan Solomon and the then little known flamenco cantaora (singer), Ana Sola.

In the musical universe of Mediterranean women, Middle Eastern and Andalusian rhythms are interwoven between harmonies, flamenco songs, Arabic songs and Sephardic melodies. Thus, they discover and experience a personal musical language that dialogues between East and West in a free and playful way. Enjoying the musicality and diversity of the languages (Berber, Classical Arabic, French Dariya and Spanish). Between the “pinches” of the flamenco guitar, the melodies of the flute, the rhythmic variations of the bendir and flamenco palmas (handclap percussion), the Arabic and flamenco voices move between Morocco, the East and Spain, transporting us to a trip throughout the Mediterranean, remembering the essence that each culture entails.

 

 

How did the four members of the group meet?

Habiba and Pilar coincided in a fusion show. This meeting generated a friendship relationship by sharing the customs of their cultures in essays accompanied by the gastronomy of both countries. In each rehearsal the music was present in a natural way and likewise mixed, like a stew that requires different ingredients. The Arabic voice feels accompanied by the flamenco harmonies and rhythms and feels them as their own and the guitar is recreated in the Arabic melismas as “quejíos” (flamenco moans).

Mixtlan, recently arrived from Argentina, with much knowledge of flamenco and Arabic music, joined the group with flamenco singing sung with the flute in what we call the “flautaora”.

Ana, one of the most important cantaoras of her generation, joined later, providing with her vocal strength and her stylistic versatility a very personal vision of the flamenco side.

 

Mujeres Mediterráneas – Photo by José Asensio

 

What are the essential elements of your music?

We work with “the dialogue between the Arabic voice of Habiba and the flamenco voice of Ana” with the accompaniment of Pilar’s guitar and Mixtlan’s flute, along with the instrumental songs of the “flute” and the falsetas of the “tocaora” (guitar player). All this is completed with the rhythms of the bendir performed by Habiba and the flamenco palmas of Ana.

Who can be cited as the main musical influences of the group?

We are inspired by classical Arabic music and poetry and flamenco in general, giving our “personal touch”. Each of us carries a “backpack” of musical knowledge that, when put together, generates a particular sound.

What musical instruments do you use?

Flamenco guitar, Pilar Alonso.
Flamenco flute, Mixtlan Solomon.
Arabic bendir Arab, Habiba Chaouf.
Flamenco palmas, Ana Sola.

What has been the reaction of the public so far?

The public surprises us with their reaction every time we get on the stage. We are grateful for the coexistence of cultures and the naturalness that characterizes us when we present ourselves in public. We also see that they enjoy female complicity that is not frequent in the current music scene.

How’s the flamenco scene in your area?

Flamenco is very healthy in Granada. Since it was named a World Heritage genre, it is cared for and more powerful. Flamenco reaches every corner of the world and that makes it possible to mix with all cultures, being a very open music.

Have you recorded any albums?

We are currently in the process of recording.

Much of what is broadcast on the radio, internet and movies is pop and hip hop. How do you divulge your music?

We currently do it with music videos on Youtube and our live performances.

 

 

Is there any effort on your part to raise awareness of flamenco and the music of the Maghreb?

Both Maghreb and Flamenco music are world-renowned, we take care of making them live together naturally, from the enjoyment of musical diversity and the complicity of common aspects from where they meet.

We like to share our music with all kinds of audiences including children that provides us their natural vision of mixing, from innocence without prejudice.

If you could gather musicians or musical groups to collaborate, who would you call?

We are open to collaborations from both the Flamenco world and the Arab world, as long as their music flows with our style.

Are you preparing any new projects

We are preparing the recording of our first album and a new show which shows the linguistic relationship between Arabic and Flamenco.

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Artist Profiles: Wissam Joubran

Le Trio Joubran

Wissam Joubran was born in 1983, and was introduced very young to ud by his brother Samir. He attended numerous local and international festivals, among them the Printemps de Palestine, in France in 1997.

He has inherited of his father’s vocation, a stringed-instrument maker master, and is strikingly talented in improvising and creating clever and appropriate transitions between the Arabic Maqams.

Wissam was the first string-instrument maker from the Arabic world to enter the Antonio Stradivari Institute (Italy) in order to bring his knowledge to perfection. Samir and Wissam started to go on tour outside of the Middle East on August 2002, and their reputation never stopped to grow while they performed in Europe, Canada and Brazil.

Discography

Randana (Randana, 2005)
Majaz (Randana, 2007)
À l’ombre des mots (2008)
AsFar, with Dhafer Youssef (2011)
The First Ten Years (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Samir Joubran

Samir Joubran

Samir Joubran was born in 1973 in Nazareth. He is a Palestinian ud virtuoso and graduate of the Abdul-Wahab Conservatory for Eastern Music, Cairo. He is a music teacher and a lecturer about Eastern Music History.

In 1994, Jubran founded the Al’Een Nazareth Group which participated in the Third Arabic Musical Festival in the Opera House in Cairo. He has also participated in various festivals in France and Palestine combining music and poetry.

Since his first appearance in France at the Nuits atypiques festival in Langon in 2002, and the release of his first album Tamaas in February 2003, Samir has unfailingly delighted the public.

The first musician to have received a two-year grant from the International Parliament of Writers (2003 – 2004) in Pontedera, Italy, his recent decision to settle in Europe has provided a platform on which to develop his reputation, touring France, Europe and beyond.

His success at the Cha?non Manquant festival in Figeac brought him a series of concerts in France. His performance at Strictly Mundial 2003 in Marseilles led to engagements at top European festivals including Moers in Germany and Sfinx in Belgium.

In 2004, Samir was selected for the Rideau 2004 project in Montreal, gaining his first opportunity to perform in North America.

Samir performs in duo or trio formations with his younger brothers: Wissam Jubran and Adnan Jubran under Le Trio Joubran.

Discography

Misunderstanding (Dar Productions, 2001)
Tamaas (daquí, 2003)
Randana (2005)
Majaz (2007)
À l’ombre des mots (2008)
Le Dernier VoL, with Chkrrr (2009)
AsFar, with Dhafer Youssef (2011)
The First Ten Years (2013) boxed set of 5 CDs and 1 DVD
The Long March (Cooking Vinyl, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Nizar Rohana

Nizar Rohana

Nizar Rohana is a Palestinian ud player living in the Netherlands. He stands out for bringing together virtuosity within fresh contemporary compositions, while maintaining the ud’s authentic language.

He was born in the village of ‘Isifya on Mount Carmel, near Haifa city, to a father who played ud in communal celebrations. His mother accompanied him on percussion. From a young age, Rohana played music, picking up the ud when he was 13.

After extensive studies in ud performance, composition, and musicology, Rohana immersed himself in developing contemporary ud compositions, taking inspiration from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Brahms all the way to Tanburi Cemil Bey, Kemani Tatyus Efendi, Muhammad Al-Qasabji and Muhammad Abdel Wahab.

In 2001 he was awarded a Bachelor of Music and Arts (specialized in ud performance and musicology) from the Arabic Music Department of the Jerusalem Academy for Music and Dance and the Musicology Department of the Hebrew University. For some time he then focused his work on the music of the great Egyptian composer Muhammad Al-Qasabji, completing his Master’s degree in 2006.

Since September 2013, Rohana has been based in The Netherlands, pursuing his PhD in improvisation and composition in solo ud performance at Leiden University Academy for Creative and Performing Arts. He is working under the supervision of Prof. Joep Bor, Prof. Frans De Ruiter and Dr. Anne Van Oostrum, as part of the doctoral program designed for musician-researchers, docARTES.

As a performer, Rohana’s wide-ranging stage experience as a soloist and within groups encompasses playing traditional, modern, experimental, and world music. During the last years, he performed in countries such as Japan, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey and in the USA and Europe, releasing his first album Sard (Narration) in May 2008.

In 2013 he formed his own trio together with Hungarian double bass player Matyas Szandai, and French-Lebanese percussionist Wassim Halal, releasing their debut album Furat (Euphrates) in 2016.

In 2015, Rohana was invited by the acclaimed Dutch bass player Tony Overwater to participate in the music recordings for the IKON documentary series ‘Om de Oude Wereldzee’ (‘Around the Ancient World Sea’), based on the travels of Dutch politician Abraham Kuyper. In 2016, Overwater and Rohana formed the Rohana-Overwater Ensemble together with the Dutch clarinetist Maarten Ornestein; Tunisian violinist and viola d’amore player Jasser Haj Youssef and Jordanian percussionist Nasser Salameh.

Between 2001 and 2007 Rohana was one of the main ud and music theory teachers at the Edward Said National Conservatory in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem, and in 2006 he also worked as the deputy for academic affairs.

Discography

Sard (2008)
Furat (Loplop Records, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Issa Boulos

Issa Boulos

Ud player, composer and teacher Issa Boulos was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, 1968. Issa Boulos comes from a family of both musical and literary traditions and began to study voice at the age of 7. At that early age, Issa showed extraordinary talent in singing Arab classical maqam repertoire. At the age of 13 he entered the Institute of Fine Arts in Ramallah to study the ‘ud with Abu Raw`hi ‘Ibaidu. He graduated in 1985 and worked in Ramallah as an arranger of folksongs and a musician in the ensemble of Sariyyat Ramallah Dance Group and Released al-‘Ashiq in 1986, and in al-Ra`hh’la, with composer Jamil al-Sayih and Released Rasif al-Madinah in 1989.

During the 1990s, under the influence of newly developed musical trends, Boulos’s career took a new direction. He pursued music composition in response to a contemporary concern for revolutionary cultural change and richer and more flexible responses to widely different dramatic requirements. He adopted the performance practices, educational principles and aesthetic values of Western art music while adapting his art to suit the sensibilities of Palestinian politicized taste and maintained a link with the maqam tradition by continuing its ancient line of oral transmission. From 1991 to 1993, Issa composed over 200 instrumental and vocal pieces and one large-scale work titled Kawkab Akhar.

He was appointed director of Birzeit University’s musical group Sanabil in addition to training Al- Funoun Popular Dance Troupe and Sareyyet Ramallah Troupe for Music and Dance. This era was the most experimental, challenging and yet prolific. It laid out conventional and modern compositional devices as abstract tools rather than absolute. His fascination with music towards higher levels of expression and interpretation encouraged him to examine other aspects of sound, and simultaneously broaden his artistic perspective, which was substantiated by the increasing number of questions concerning music making.

In 1994 he moved to Chicago, where he studied music composition at Columbia College Chicago with Gustavo Leone and Athanasios Zervas and later at Roosevelt University with Robert Lombardo and Ilya Levinson. In 1998 he co-founded the Issa Boulos Quartet, performing his original contemporary compositions that ranged from classical Arab compositions to jazz. After completing his Masters in 2000, he spent one year in his hometown where he was active as a composer, educator, ‘udist, and instructor of Western theory, ‘ud, chorus, ensemble and theory of Arab music at the National Conservatory of Music, Ramallah.

Issa has given workshops and lecture-demonstrations at several American institutions and colleges. He is cofounder of Sama Music, leader of the al-Sharq Ensemble, the Boulos Ensemble and member in Lingua Musica, and has recently been appointed director of the University of Chicago Middle East Ensemble. Although he has continued to write instrumental and vocal compositions, Boulos is best known for his theme works: Kawkab Akhar (1993), a large-scale instrumental work that capped his early stylistic development composed during the Palestinian Intifada, which was followed by ‘Arus al-Tira (1994), composed while he was an undergraduate; Samar (1998), and his extended work al-Hallaj (2000) which is a series of composed Sufi poems penetrating the philosophy and tragic ending of Abu al-Mughith al-Husayn Ibn Mansur al-`Hallaj.

His subsequent works include traditional Arabic compositions and arrangements, jazz, and film and theatre scores, notably those for Lysistrata 2000, Catharsis and recently the film The New Americans. In his orchestral composition, Shortly After Life, Boulos used a variety of Western classical compositional techniques; the work is a tribute to his father Ibrahim Boulos.

Boulos’s music still depends extensively on the melodic material of maqam; by treating this material through improvisations and using various musical techniques. His blend of tradition and innovation has forged important musical links between the Arab world and the West. Issa is currently involved with the Arab Classical Music Society (ACMC) that he established in 2003. The Society is launching an archive for Arab classical music and preparing for the release of the first volume of the Anthology of Arab Classical Music. As for his current personal projects, Issa is applying final touches on his new work Reef for kemenche and percussion. It will be released later in the Spring of 2004. http://home.uchicago.edu/~iboulos/ Contact Issa Boulos directly at iboulos@uchicago.edu. Palestine Middle East

Discography

Rif (Nawa Institute, 2007)
Al-Hallaj (Nawa Institute, 2008)
Being Peace (Nawa Institute, 2010)
Shams W Hawa (Nawa Institute, 2011)

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Artist Profiles: Youssef Hbeisch

Youssef Hbeisch

Youssef Hbeisch is an Arab percussionist of Palestinian origin, who developed contemporary ways of playing and combining complex Arabic rhythms.

Born in 1967 in Galilee, he began playing percussion at seven. His brother taught him the basics then very quickly, took the child prodigy to play in weddings. Youssef later studied philosophy and musicology and researched rhythm in different cultures (Indian, Persian, African, Latin).

He taught for seven years at the Edward Said National Conservatory (East Jerusalem) and for ten years at the Beit Al Musica Conservatory (Galilee). He gives university seminars and master classes in various countries. Animating percussion workshops in a perspective of therapy by art, for battered women, children with disabilities, prisoners …, is also close to her heart.

He plays along some of the most prominent musicians in the Arab region and beyond: Simon Shaheen (Ud player), Süleyman Erguner (Ottoman and Sufi music), Aka Moon (modern jazz), Ibrahim Maalouf (world fusion), Bratsch (gypsy , balkan), the Oriental Music Ensemble (classical Middle Eastern) and Trio Joubran. He also forms a duo with Ahmad Al Khatib.

He now lives in Paris.

Discography:

Sabil (Institut du Monde Arabe, 2012)
Sirventés, with Gregory Dargent, Manu Théron (Accords Croisés, 2015)
Asrar, with Philippe El Hage (2016)

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Le Trio Joubran to Perform at Barbican in London 2019

Award-winning Palestinian oud ensemble Le Trio Joubran is set to perform on Sunday, February 3rd, 2019, at Barbican Hall in London.

The three musicians will present new material from their sixth album The Long March (Cooking Vinyl). The new recording includes collaborations from poet Mahmoud Darwish and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

Le Trio Joubran features brothers Samir, Wissam and Adnan Joubran. They come from a well-known family with rich artistic heritage: their father is one of the world’s most acclaimed oud makers and their mother is a muwashahat singer.

The trio’s music is inspired by Arabic music, jazz and flamenco. Earlier recordings include Tamaas (2002), Randana (2005), Majâz (World Village, 2007), À l’ombre des mots (2008), Le Dernier VoL (2009), AsFâr (World Village, 2011) and The First Ten Years (2013) boxed set.

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Artist Profiles: Souhail Kaspar

Souhail Kaspar

Master percussionist Souhail Kaspar is known for his brilliant technique, scintillating performances and impeccable teaching skills. His musical sensitivity and ability to improvise and embellish the basic rhythmic patterns familiar to Arabic Music, as well as his extensive knowledge of ethnic musical history have made him unique.

Mr. Kaspar was born in Lebanon, and trained at Nadi al-Fonun al-Arabia (conservatory of Arabic Traditional Music) in Aleppo, Syria, where he became proficient in both classical and ethnic rhythmic patterns and techniques and received a Degree in Classical Arabic Performance. In his career, he has traveled extensively throughout the world. His expertise has found him performing with Arabic superstars such as Feiruz, Faiza Ahmed, and working with legendary Egyptian composers such as Farid El Atrash, Sayyed Makowi and Hanni Mehanna, and playing in front of many celebrities and dignitaries as Pope John Paul II, as well as Ronald Reagan.

Additionally, he has an extensive body of recorded work, including credits on the soundtracks for the movies The Prince Of Egypt, The Siege, Sinbad and as a guest percussionist with the cutting edge Kronos Quartet.

Though his primary instrument is the Egyptian drum known as tablah [also spelled tabla]or dumbek, he is also proficient on tar (a large frame drum), large and small tambourines known as mashar and riqq, respectively, as well being an expert in various Persian and Turkish instruments. His skillful presentation and comprehensive teaching technique has led to him performing and conducting master seminars at prestigious institutions such as The Brooklyn Academy of Music, UCLA, as well as a yearly stint at Mendocino Middle Eastern Music Camp, an intensive week-long series of workshops held in Northern California. He often performs (and teaches ) with peers such as renowned oudist John Bilezikjian, multi-faceted musician Simone Shaheen, and prominent ethnomusicologist Dr. Ali Jihad Racy, Professor of Ethnomusicology at UCLA.

As a teacher, Mr. Kaspar is gifted, passing on not only skills but academic knowledge of Middle Eastern music to his students, many of them Westerners not previously familiar with the complex patterns of Arabic music.

Currently, Souhail Kaspar lives in Los Angeles and is performing, recording, and teaching both nationally and internationally.

Discography:

Mystical Legacies, with Ali Jihad Racy (Lyrichord, 1997)
Awzan – Arab Rhythmic Modes (Near East music, 2005)
When The Soul Is Settled: Music Of Iraq (Smithsonian Folkways, 2006)

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Artist Profiles: Marcel Khalife

Marcel Khalife

Marcel Khalife was born in 1950 in Amchit, Mount-Lebanon. He studied the ud (the Arabic lute, also known as oud and l’ud) at the Beirut National conservatory, and, ever since, has been injecting a new life into the ud. “My grandfather was a fisherman and he used to sing songs of the sea,” Khalife recalls. “Then I used to go to church and listen to Christian music, and also to Islamic recitations of the Koran. In Lebanon we have a marriage of Islamic and Christian culture. That really helped to form my musical awareness.”

From 1970 to 1975, Marcel Khalife taught at the conservatory and other local institutions. During that same period, he toured the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the United States giving solo performances on the ud.

Ud playing was traditionally constrained by the strict techniques that governed its playing. Highly talented and skillful musicians such as Marcel Khalife were, however, able to free the instrument from those constraints and thus greatly expanding its possibilities.

In 1972, Marcel Khalife created a musical group in his native village with the goal of reviving its musical heritage and the Arabic chorale. The first performances took place in Lebanon. 1976 saw the birth of Al Mayadeen Ensemble. Enriched by the previous ensemble’s musical experiences, Al Mayadeen’s notoriety went well beyond Lebanon. Accompanied by his musical ensemble, Marcel Khalife began a lifelong far-reaching musical journey, performing in Arab countries, Europe, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia, and Japan.

During Lebanon’s civil war, he risked his life performing in bombed out concert halls, bringing his music and the great poetry of the Arab world to his war-ravished country. “Since I was born,” he says, “I’ve felt I had a rebel’s soul within me. I rejected things that might be inherited, but that were wrong.”

In 2002, European television networks broadcast a documentary on Marcel Khalife. A DVD, entitled Voyageur, expands the original 90-minute program into a three-hour feature with additional performances filmed at concerts and in studios. In all, the DVD presents 33 selections from Khalife’s repertoire, which ranges from compositions for solo ud and vocal settings of Arabic poetry to orchestral compositions, films cores and ballets.

In 2003, the San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) and The San Francisco World Music Festival announced a commissioned project for the creation of a new evening length orchestral work with libretto by Marcel Khalife, in collaboration with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra (music director, Benjamin Simon) and women’s vocal ensemble, KITKA (artistic director, Shira Cion) and soloists Omayma Al-kalil (vocals), Rahman Asadollahi (garmon: Azerbajani accordion), Hai Pu (Chinese percussion) and Zhang Xiao-Feng (erhu: Chinese fiddle). The theme of the new work was “Embracing Global Peace.”

About his CD Caress Khalife says, “This work attempts to elevate Arabic music to a level that allows it to express profound human emotions, not by mere performance, but by empowering the music to mature and develop into a universal language of expression.”

His composition is noted for being deeply attached to lyrical text. Through his association with great contemporary Arab poets, most notably Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, he seeks to renew the character of Arab song, breaking its stereotypes and advancing the culture of the society that surrounds it.

“I do not fit in a cultural box, nor do I want to,” says Khalife, who now lives in Paris. “I have strived all my life to break free of old traditional constraints, to let music speak for itself unshackled by predetermined traditional rules. I have defied identities and categorizations, which only serve to blind us to the vastness and complexity of humanity. There are no set lenses with which I should be looked at. My music, it all comes together for the sake of humanity.”

The second trait has been a consistent message of peace and justice. In 2004, during his US tour, he said: “More than ever, we all have to work much harder for peace…Peace cannot be imposed upon a people by a certain political power or agenda. Peace is achieved through respect, understanding of others and their culture; it is achieved by giving up fear of others; it is achieved through dialogue.”

Discography:

Promesses De La Tempête – Promises of the Storm (Le Chant Du Monde, 1976)
Ghinä’iyat Ahmad Al Arabi (1984)
Dreamy Sunrise ‎(Nagam Records, 1990)
Peace Be With You ‎(Nagam Records, 1990)
Ode To A Homeland (Nagam Records, 1990)
Summer Night’s Dream (Nagam Records, 1992)
Of All The Beautiful Mothers (Nagam Records, 1994)
Arabic Coffeepot (Nagam Records, 1995)
Jadal (Nagam Records, 1995)
Magic Carpet ‎(Nagam Records, 1998)
The Bridge ‎ (Nagam Records, 2001)
Concerto Al Andalus (Nagam Records, 2002)
Stripped Bare (Nagam Records, 2002)
At The Border ‎(Nagam Records, 2003)
Happiness ‎(Nagam Records, 2003)
Caress (Nagam Records, 2004)
Taqasim ‎(Connecting Cultures, 2007)
Sharq (‎Connecting Cultures, 2007)
Fall Of The Moon (Nagam Records, 2012)

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Artist Profiles: Naser Musa

Naser Musa

A Jordanian of Palestinian descent, singer/songwriter Naser Musa started playing ‘ud, a Middle Eastern lute, at an early age while living in Amman, Jordan. In addition to the ‘ud, he also studied singing Arabic music. He moved to the United States in 1982 and earned a degree in music from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Musa performs regularly at concerts and festivals around the world. An ‘ud virtuoso and a valued studio musician,

Discography:

Hope Is The Way (BCBG Max Azria Entertainment, 2004)
Body Of Lies, soundtrack (Varèse Sarabande, 2008)
From Night To The Edge Of Day (Six Degrees Records, 2011)
Sumud (Six Degrees Records, 2012)

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