Moroccan artist Karima Skalli is one of the leading classical Arabic music vocalists, inspired by the great voices of classical Egyptian music. At the age of 9 she sang one of Umm Khaltum’s songs in its entirety for her family. Her influences include Umm Khaltum, Suad Mohammed, Leila Morad, Mohamed Abdelwahab, and especially Asmahane.
She has collaborated with top composers and poets, specifically the great Moroccan ud player and composer, Saïd Chraïbi, who discovered her, and the eminent poet Abderrafie Jwahri. Both masters have composed elegant songs for her.
When she was invited to the Festival de la Goulette in Tunis, Karima skalli sang compositions by Nasser Shemma, the Iraqi ud master.
In November 1999, Karima was invited to perform at the Cairo Opera accompanied by the Egyptian Philharmonic Orchestra, a high point of her career. There, she dedicated the evening’s performance to the Egyptian diva Asmahane, who remains Karima’s model and inspiration.
Karima released one album, Wasla, for French label Institut du Monde Arabe.
Refugees for Refugees is a Belgium-based ensemble that
includes musicians from Syria, Tibet, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Belgium
who are united by their aspiration to intertwine links between their
music. The group has developed an
original repertoire that fuses various traditions.
Influences include Afghan, Tibetan, Arabic, Pakistani, and European music. Refugees for Refugees uses a wide range of musical instruments, including nomadic Tibetan chants, the South Asian sarod, Arabic ud and Middle Eastern percussion.
The lineup in 2019 included Asad Qizilbash on sarod (Pakistan), Aren Dolma on vocals (Tibet), Fakher Madallal on vocals, percussion (Syria), Kelsang Hula on dramyen, vocals (Tibet), Mohammad Aman Yusufi on dambura, vocals (Afghanistan), Simon Leleux on percussion (Belgium), Souhad Najem on qanun (Iraq), Tammam Al Ramadan on ney (Syria), Tareq Alsayed Yahya on ud (Syria) and Tristan Driessens on ud (Belgium).
U.S.-based Egyptian composer, violinist and educator Dr. Riad Abdel-Gawad creates music that acknowledges the oneness of humanity. His new album Words of Peace comes out at a very difficult time for Riad Abdel-Gawad and his family. Their home was destroyed during the catastrophic Woolsey fire in 2018. Luckily, the CDs manufactured for this release were stored in a warehouse.
Riad Abdel-Gawad traveled to Cairo to record this album. There,
he worked with 17 vocalists, chanters and instrumentalists. Words of Peace is a
world music album that contains new musical compositions with elements of western
oratorio and eastern wasla and nuba musical suite traditions.
Words of Peace proposes healing, spiritual and practical implements to our current-day existential predicament, delivering a social critique of the human species’ racism, corruption, and materialism, as well as its climate change disaster that directly affected Riad’s life.
“The CD tells the story of humanity through Adam and Eve; speaks about the wisdom from religions actions againust racism; tells the little heard story in the West about Prophet Mohamed’s striving towards peace through the activism of politics, as well as speaks about the plight of our planet and its inhabitants through contemporary Arabic ands Nibian (African) poetry,” says Riad Abdel-Gawad . “This time there are also some incredibly improvised solos from singers, chanters and instrumentalists.”
Words of Peace is a beautifully-crafted, gracefully elegant album, highlighting Riad Abdel-Gawad’s mastery as a musician and composer. He’s joined by a outstanding ensemble of top talent from Egypt’s Arabic and Nubian traditions.
The CD booklet includes a striking cover, booklet and
inside-tray art from two female contemporary Arab artists: Carelle Hosmsy and
Behia Shehab. The liner notes contain fascinating details in Arabic and
Personnel: Riad Abdel-Gawad on violin; Ahmed Asteeka on electronic keyboard; Yaser Ontar on vocals; Mohamed Atef on kawala (flute); Mohamed Foda on nay; amal Ibrahim on vocals; Moustafa Abdel-Khalek on qanun; Taha essayad on cello; Islam El Qasabgy on oud; Ashraf Issam on riqq and duff; Hussein Darweesh on bass; and Khaloud Adel (soprano), Rahma Adel (alto) and Mohamed Khaked (tenor) on chorus.
French event Arabesques Festival will take place September
10 to 22, 2019. For this 14th edition,
Arabesques will showcase many artists from the Arab world who incorporate their
African roots and transform them: Aziz Sahmaoui, Oum, Alchimix, Imed Alibi and
New collaborations reflect the creative vitality of the African continent, like the 3MA project bringing together the leading artists of Morocco, Mali and Madagascar: Ballaké Sissoko, Driss el Maloumi and Rajery.
There will be an opportunity to break boundaries as with the
creation of Soundjata (Sundiata Keita), a recovery of the Manding epic by storyteller
Jihad Darwiche and Malian kora player Tom Diakite.
Additional shows include: The Whirling Dervishes of Damascus and the Al-Kindi Ensemble; Jordi Savall & Waed Bouhassoun, with the Orpheus XXI project; well-known world music acts: Marcel & Rami Khalife featuring Aymeric Westrich, Takfarinas, DuOud …
The festival will present a circus performance of the
Acrobatic Group of Tangier with Halka.
The new Arab scene will be featured: Alchimix, Imed Alibi,
Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda, Le Lanceur de dés Walid Ben Selim, and Faraj Suleiman
Trio as well as the Count of Bouderbala’s One Man Show.
Shubbak Festival will return to London’s Barbican Hall on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 with a special tribute concert to the late Palestinian singer, songwriter and composer Rim Banna. The show will include musicians who knew her best as well as close peers in the Palestinian music scene.
The performers include Lebanese visual artist and singer-songwriter Tania Saleh, Palestinian composer and pianist Faraj Suleiman and Syrian producer/MC Bu Kolthoum who will be performing newly re-orchestrated versions of Rim Banna’s material, accompanied by a specially assembled band.
The event is called “The Trace of the Butterfly,” which is the name of one of Banna’s songs as well as a poem by Mahmoud Darwish.
Le Trio Joubran is an acclaimed ensemble featuring the Joubran brothers: Samir, Wissam and Adnan. The three musicians are oud (Arabic lute) maestros and play a superb fusion of Arabic music and global music influences.
Le Trio Joubran’s most recent recording, The Long March is the number one album on the March 2019 Transglobal World Music Chart. Adnan Joubran talked to World Music Central about the trio and the Long March.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
Depth of emotions, is one of the essential elements of our music, Le Trio Joubran do their best to understand why they use a note better than another, how a melody becomes a melody, an image first, a direction, a feeling, and a message, some melodies start with a moment of a life for one of the group, and this develops into a concept, and then a melody.
As composers, we aim to bring back or revive emotions that we human beings began to put a side, unfortunately, media, social media has made us numb, and made us live an illusionary life of strength, beauty, power and glory, which isn’t much of a reflection of reality.
Other musical element such “Improvisation” which we always make sure that the album has, or the performance has, to keep our musicality on alert, and or brotherhood on motion, us improvising means alive, means changing, from concert to another, means discover yourself, and let the other discover you better.
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
Lately, quiet few! Hard not to mention the career of Paco de Lucia and Keith Jarrett for Adnan, and classical artists such as Abdel Wahab for Samir, and the influence of traditional Arabic singing for Wissam.
In the same time, we all listen to different music, jazz, tango, pop, rock, tango and classical Western and Eastern! I believe one should listen and keep listening to all types of music, we find elements that inspire in every genre of music.
How did the ensemble evolve from your first recordings?
The first recording I reckon was experimental in a way that we were trying to see if it works, and it did!
To have three oud players, composers, virtuosos, is a big challenge. We achieved success because we are brothers and we could handle this quiet tough mission well because we allowed ourselves to unveil hidden sides of us, others could like or dislike, but trust, which is another meaning of “brotherhood” could allow this.
At that period, the composition was a secondary target, although today, we have proved to ourselves that it works, that there should be no limit in composition, and there isn’t always a need to prove our technical skills. Today, we stop by the title, and we stop by the message. We make sure that the message is there and the composition should serve it, by complexity, length, directivity, sounds and instruments, and notes.
Two years of discussions and two other years of recordings! Not that it should take that long! But we have been busy touring with previous album, and small projects on the side, such as music for films and important shows, and also because we live apart now, each with his growing family, and each in a different country. We get to meet in tours and discuss and then dedicate a period of recording. But this time has given maturity for the tracks and the ideas.
In this album, we tried to achieve a wider listeners, and introduce the oud to a bigger public, also we tried to introduce new sounds to the listeners of the oud. We have electronics, orchestral, tribal sounds, and vocals. The oud is the singer, and all the other elements support the singer to represent the story.
The body of the album is the poem of Mahmoud Darwish, which says the message of the album. The tracks titles are extracted from this text that is trying to tell this world of industry and world of power, that we are humans. Before and after all, our humanity should remain, despite the reality of wiping it away, and before this power can wipe it away, we will defend everything we have, even our final songs.
We have collaborated with the musical producer Renaud Letang, which an amazing experience, to hand over our baby (composition) and another musician and master of production looks at it and takes the essence of it.
Also we had the privilege to collaborate with Roger Waters for two tracks: one single which we released as a video clip under the title “Supremacy” before the album; and another track, “Carry The Earth” in the album as a dedication to four boys killed on the beach of Gaza by the Israeli forces.
As well with Mohammad Motamdi, an amazing vocalist and singer from Iran; an oriental orchestra from Turkey; as well as a western orchestra from Macedonia; and many other talented musicians!
We have succeeded to color the album. Each title to have a different color and influence, and in the same to have a one message uniting the while tracks.
The three brothers play oud, the Arabic lute. Where did they get the training?
We come from family blended with music and oud making, our father is the third generation in the family who builds the instrument.
Samir, the eldest, had his elder brother the Oud in the house! He studied with a local teacher, and then went to Cairo to learn music.
Wissam started at a young age learning music and violin, and then took the oud as his language as well as studying in Italy (Antonio Stradivari Institute) violin making.
Adnan, had two brothers that are oud players and one father oud maker, so he had no choice to escape this world! Only at the age of 16, he took the instrument in his hands and tried to play, and by the age of 18 he was on stage touring after self-training and listening to his brothers and many other music and musicians.
Who makes your ouds?
Where are your currently based?
Adnan in London, Samir between Paris and Ramallah, and Wissam in Paris.
Do you have any initiatives to transmit Palestinian and Arabic music traditions to new generations?
Of course, in each album we make sure there is a track that is a traditional way of composing and playing, and we make sure the on stage we have one traditional improvisation. Still, there is more initiative for a more dedicated album only for traditional music.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?
Some of them died. Many of them are alive! Hard to mention names, because there are too many! Me, personally, I’d love to play with Keith Jarrett.
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?
We are very proud of our last album, we have just finished it and glad to share it with you and the rest of the world. There will be soon a very big collaboration with a mainstream artist, but we are not to uncover this surprise now 🙂
The Long March by Le Trio Joubran is the number one album in the March 2019 Transglobal World Music Chart. Le Trio Joubran features three Palestinian brothers who are ud masters: Samir, Wissam and Adnan.
Anouar Brahem was born in 1957 in Halfawine in the Medina of Tunis. Encouraged by his father, an engraver and printer, and music lover as well, Brahem began his studies of the ud (Arab lute), at the age of 10 at the Tunis National Conservatory of Music, where his principal teacher was the ud master Ali Sriti.
An exceptional student, by the age of 15 Brahem was playing regularly with local orchestras. At 18, he decided to devote himself entirely to music. From 1981 to 1985, Brahem lived and studied in Paris, seeking out points of congruence with other cultures. He was, nonetheless, first heard on disc with an all-Tunisian trio on Barzakh (ECM 1432) in 1991. This was followed by the collaboration with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the late Pakistani tabla master Shaukat Hussain on Madar (ECM 1515) and by an album reworking, with an international cast, music Brahem had written for the Tunisian cinema.
In 1985, he returned to Tunis and an invitation to perform at the Carthage festival provided him with the opportunity of bringing together, for “Liqua 85”, outstanding figures of Tunisian and Turkish music and French jazz. These included Abdelwaheb Berbech, the Erköse [Barbaros Erkose] brothers, François Jeanneau, Jean-Paul Celea, François Couturier and others. The success of the project earned Brahem Tunisia’s Grand National Prize for Music.
In 1987, he became the director of the Musical Ensemble of the City of Tunis. Instead of keeping the large existing orchestra, he broke it up into variable size ensembles, giving it new orientations: one year in the direction of new creations and the next more towards traditional music.
On the recording of Khomsa, his partners were Tunisian violinist Bechir Selmi, Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson, Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, and three musicians from France – accordionist Richard Galliano, keyboardist Frangois Couturier, and saxophonist Jean Marc Larche. Although Dave Holland and John Surman both contributed compositional material to Thimar, Brahem’s following album,most of the writing stems from Brahem’s pen.
Two of the pieces were written originally for the Musical Ensemble of Tunis, two more for the Tunisian Theatre, and one originated as a sketch for the Khomsa ensemble. The majority of the music, however, was prepared specifically for the Thimar session. Dave Holland: “I hadn’t known what to expect. Anouar gave us a pile of music the day before the session. There were no bar lines – and of course there were no chords, because that’s not a reference point in this music. But there were these complex melodies, and one phrase might have seven beats in it, and another phrase nine. And when John and I started to play this, at first we were stumbling all over ourselves. But we persevered, put some pencil marks on the music, talked about how to approach the structures… At the session, things started to fall into place, as they so often do. The moment impresses itself upon you, and you rise to the occasion. Bringing these traditions together is by no means simple, and I think what we ended up with is music that has real value.”
As was the case with Kenny Wheeler’s Angel Song, the drummerless music of Thimar places special responsibilities on Dave Holland to shoulder most of the rhythm duties. The demands seem to bring forth some of his finest playing. “With John and Anouar, although my main function was to be accompanist and rhythm player, I felt I was getting support from both of them because of their ability to maintain a sense of rhythm independently…” Holland was invited into the session after producer Manfred Eicher played Brahem Angel Song. Brahem: “I listened to that album following the bass. It’s like the heartbeat of the music. And Dave’s sound is so beautiful. Powerful, but rounded, not at all aggressive or harsh.” The ud player first became aware of John Surman’s music with the release of the solo album Road To St. Ives in 1990. “This extraordinary sense of melody that John has. ..I liked that so much. It touched me very deeply. Since then, I’ve listened to everything he’s done.”
In 1994, Surman and Brahem toured Japan together but separately, playing opposite each other in concerts to mark ECM’s 25th anniversary. “We got to know each other and got along well and talked then about making a record one day. His playing on all his instruments is exceptional, but I especially like the blending of the bass clarinet and the ud. The wood in the sound makes it a very satisfying combination, I think. “I was really impressed with the engagement of both Dave and John in the making of this album. Collaborations of this kind can be quite…dangerous. Sometimes musicians of different cultures meet only superficially. But they were both concerned to get to the essence of the music.”
In 1995, Brahem released Khomsa, featuring Richard Galliano, Bechir Selmi and François Couturier. This was followed by 1998’s Thimar with John Surman and Dave Holland.
The Astrakan Café album came out in 2000 as Anouar Brahem Trio with Barbaros Erköse and Lassad Hosni.
In 2002, Brahem released Le Pas du Chat Noir, recorded with François Couturier and Jean-Louis Matinier, followed by
2006’s Le Voyage de Sahar withe the ame lineup.
In 2009, The Astounding Eyes of Rita came out. Lineup: Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Khaled Yassine.
Souvenance was released in 2014, recorded with Francois Couturier, Klaus Gesing and Björn Meyer.
Anouar Brahem released Blue Maqamns in 2017 with Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland and Django Bates.
Sonia Mbarek was born in Sfax, Tunisia in 1969. She graduated from the National Music Conservatory in Tunis. She has won many prizes in Tunisia and France, including the Diapason d’Or for her CD Takht.
Over the last years she has taken part in many music festivals in the Arab world, in Europe and in the USA.
Liberté (1992) Tarab (1994) Tawchih (1997) Takht (Network Medien, 1999) Tir el Miniar (2003) Romances (2007)