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.
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.
Ud player and percussionist Nizar Rohana was born in the Arab village of Isfiya in Israel. He is a graduate of the Rubin Academy, Jerusalem; the Department of Classical Arab Music, and the Musicology Department of the Hebrew university where he completed his Masters. Nizar started his musical journey playing the piano. Later he discovered his father’s old ud, and since then has been exploring his own Arab music heritage.
He teaches Arabic music and ud at the Palestinian Academy of Music in Ramalla and East Jerusalem, and plays in various Arab music ensembles, as well as in world music ensembles. In the past he played with several ensembles, including Yemei Habentime, Between Times, and Yosef Wahed.
Riffat Sultana channels the musical wisdom of 500 years and eleven generations of master musicians in her family in India and Pakistan. But in all those years, she is the first woman to sing in public. For a Muslim woman in a very conservative country, such a career simply was not appropriate. Perhaps one reason her performances today have such overwhelming emotional power is that she sings for all the woman in her distinguished family who never had that chance before.
For Riffat, it took moving to the United States to free her musical soul. Now, her amazing voice is being heard around the world, including a featured spot in the 2004 We Are The Future concert, produced by Quincy Jones in Rome, Italy. Where doors were always closed to her, now they are opening everywhere, and Riffat has collaborated with singers and songwriters from all over the world. At last free to create and perform as she pleases.
Riffat’s father, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, was a musical icon, one of the most respected classical singers in India and Pakistan. In 1947, when Pakistan became a nation, he walked hundreds of miles from his Punjabi village, Sham Churasi, into Pakistan. At the time, Sham Churasi had no fame, but soon it would be widely known as the name of Ustad Salamat’s school & of music, or garana. Riffat’s mother Razia is also a gifted vocalist, from India, descended from a line of highly respected Shiite musicians. However, as with all other women in the family, she was never allowed to perform in public, only in Sufi ceremonies held in the family home. For Riffat, one of four sisters and four brothers, this prohibition became a torment. “Music is in my blood, my soul,” she says. “I saw my father wake up early in the morning and practice, my brothers sitting next to him, and me standing outside the room, so interested. I didn’t want to go to school; I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to be like my brothers and learn music.”
Denied the chance to study classical music, Riffat took to learning romantic ghazals and other traditional/ popular songs from relatives, tapes and the radio. Family friends recognized her unusual talent and remarkable ability to hear songs and sing them readily.
Some offered to teach her, but her father always refused. Riffat’s troubles compounded when her engagement to a cousin, also skilled musician, was unexpectedly broken, leaving her heartbroken and desolate. Despite his insistence that women not sing, Riffat’s father was a kind and loving man, and always a friend to her. It wounded him to see his daughter so unhappy, so he made the unusual move of offering to take her on tour with him in Europe and the United States in 1990-91. For a young woman who had not even seen much of Lahore, the city in which she lived, this was a remarkable opportunity. Riffat would still not be allowed to sing, and would have to work very hard to fulfill the domestic needs of her father and brothers during the tour, but she was allowed to play the tambura (a stringed, drone instrument) onstage, a great honor, and also an eye opener.
“I had never seen any of my father’s shows in Pakistan,” recalls Riffat. “The first show was in Holland, a big show in a beautiful church. I was so happy. I didn’t care how much work they gave me. I just felt that I was sitting in heaven.”
The family continued on to North America, where they were welcomed by adoring Pakistani communities. They performed in cities throughout the United States, basing themselves in among Pakistani friends and admirers in San Francisco when on the west coast, and Queens, New York, when on the east coast. Between performances, Khan Sahib and his sons took the opportunity to make collaborative recordings with several U.S. based artists. The group then returned to tour in India, but the next time they came to the United States, Riffat and her brother Sukhawat asked their father’s permission to stay longer. Riffat still ached from lost love, and her brother convinced her father it would be helpful for her to stay for an extended time in the U.S.. The presence of significant Pakistani communities, including several master musicians, in Queens and in San Francisco, helped give Khan Sahib confidence that his daughter would be in good hands, and he consented.
Working within these American-Pakistan communities, Riffat began to make forays into the world of public performance as a singer. Pakistanis in the U.S. loved and encouraged her, and in time, Sukhawat became the first of her brothers to accept her as a fellow musician. For years, though, things were complicated. If word of one of her shows got back to the family in Pakistan, she had to lie and say there must have been some mistake. Once, when the family returned for an extended tour and remained longer than expected in San Francisco, Riffat had to send her brothers to perform a concert that had been advertised under her name. The local promoter was disappointed and angry, but under the circumstances, Riffat felt compelled to honor her family’s traditions for women. With one foot in the restricted world of the past, and the other in a promising new realm of possibilities, Riffat’s life proved awkward and challenging.
During this time, San Francisco-based guitarist Richard Michos, began spending time with the family, studying with Riffat’s father and brothers when they stayed in town between concert tours. Richard was a UC San Diego graduate with a degree in composition. He was working as a session player and doing live shows, and his passion for South Asian music led him to the door of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. Richard and Riffat found themselves spending a lot of time together, and in time, they fell in love. Ultimately, they would marry in 1996, and Richard would help give Riffat the clarity and confidence she needed to establish her own voice as a musician.
Riffat’s musical career became an open secret, and finally, her father acknowledged the fact and gave her permission to sing, teaching her the classical forms of his unique style of music and vocalization. Filled with a new love and given lots of encouragement, Riffat immersed herself in her music training. In 1995, she joined Sukhawat and Richard to form the Ali Khan Band, an acoustic group of world musicians that performed a variety of traditional and popular music from India and Pakistan. The group started out working in the Bay Area. Then Michos introduced a prominent Algerian DJ, Cheb I Sabbah, to Riffat’s father and brother. The meeting proved fateful when Sabbah persuaded Khan Sahib to let him record the family and mix the music for the dance floor. The 1996 release, Shri Durga, became one of the most successful DJ albums of the year, and introduced the music of the Ali Khan family to a whole new audience. Subsequently, the Ali Khan Band opened for Cheb I Sabbah at the Sound Factory in San Francisco, and word began to spread fast.
Soon After the group was asked to open for Ben Harper at the Fillmore, and then to record a single for compilation on the City of Tribes label, the buzz grew. Clearly, it was time to start doing some serious recording. Two Ali Khan Band albums for City of Tribes’ Tawsir (1998) and Zindagi (2000) did well on CMJ, and with a growing youth audience paying attention, the inevitable happened: the group went electric. By now Richard had become Riffat’s husband, and was developing an original approach to accompanying her Pakistani Sufi songs on guitar, as well as in producing the albums, and as he added electronics and other instruments, the soundscape continued to expand, allowing Riffat and Sukhawat to compete dramatically for the affection of audiences.
In 1999, the group came to the attention of entertainment manager and producer Dawn Elder, and then President of Mondo Melodia Records/Ark21. This label, owned by Miles Copeland, was receiving a lot of attention for its growing success in world music. Dawn signed the Ali Khan Band, but at this point, the name, so reminiscent of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, seemed unnecessarily confusing. The musicians wanted to establish a separate identity for their more electronic and Western fusion project. So, for their Mondo Melodia release, they became Shabaz, literally ‘King Eagle,’ but also a reference to the family’s beloved Sufi saint, Lal Shabaz Qalander.
Riffat participated in an international songwriters’ retreat that took place in the South of France in 2001. With such luminaries as Khaled, Hakim, Jeff Beck, and Simon Shaheen on hand, Riffat, working with Narada Walden, composed one of the most popular songs of the retreat, “Queenie’s Jam,” which became a track on the Shabaz album. Shabaz offered groove music with intensely exciting vocals from Riffat and Sukhawat. The album had the misfortune of being released in September, 2001, and did not get the attention it deserved. But many took notice, including Quincy Jones, who would later sign Riffat up for his mega-concert in Italy in the spring of 2004.
Riffat has grown to become a confident composer and performer. Along with Richard and her brother, she wrote more than half the material on Shabaz. But for the moment, she prefers to sing & compose acoustic renditions of beautiful compositions by her relatives in Pakistan. It is a way of honoring them, and showing the world more richly who she is. This return to her musical roots is the theme for her solo debut album, Sufi Folk & Love Songs.
Over the years, Riffat has performed Punjabi folk, devotional Sufi songs, classical music, as well as ghazal, geet, and electronic and acoustic fusion.
Tawsir (City of Tribes, 1998)
Sufi, Folk, and Love Songs (2005) Zindagi (City of Tribes, 2000) Shabaz (Ark 21, 2001) Shabaz (2006)
Sukhawat Ali Khan is the son of the legendary Indian-Pakistani Vocalist Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. Sukhawat belongs to the school called Sham Chorasi which was established by two brothers – Mian (maestro) Chand Khan and Suraj (son) Khan. They were the court musicians of Akber the Great. Akber the Great was one of the great artistic kings of India. These brothers belonged to the group of nine Jewels of the court.
Sukhawat Ali Khan started his training at the age of 7 and started performing with his father soon after. He toured with his father to England, France, Holland, India, Sri Lanka and America. He has performed at the Columbia University, the Asian Society of New York, The Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Museum of Washington, D.C. Sukhawat Ali Khan has taught music throughout the United States.
Sukhawat Ali Khan now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the lead singer with the Alikhan Band.
Sukhawat Ali Khan, in his own words. . . March 1998:
“I am so glad to be able to live in this time. Music is becoming the melting pot, a place where cultures cross, boundaries break down. It’s an extraordinary time for communication through music. I hope it continues this way. I hope people reach new understandings of each other through the love of music. We are very small, [Ali Khan] but we can do something, and I believe that that something will count.”
“Each song I do has classical thought behind it and I know how to sing it properly, but my style comes from my life too. I spent time in New York. I go to clubs. I like the hip hop beat, Latin, rave… I’ve toured with Ben Harper, even opened for Jane’s Addiction. I’ve listened to a lot of Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, you know, all the classic stuff. I love Nat King Cole’s voice. These people have something that is really exciting. There’s a performing energy there that I also feel. Its the same kind of energy a good Qawwali singer has, and we can really express it freely in America.”
Ali Khan’s singers are heirs to a 500 year lineage of devotional Sufi Qawaali singing, a passionate style made popular by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Although Qawwali is becoming more and more popular, to be considered a true Qawwal (vocalist), one must have extensive classical understanding. Sukhawat Ali Khan and his sister Riffat come from a long line of Qawwals and have been singing all their lives. Their father and his brother were renowned singers in the 60s and 70s, and certainly Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who was in the next generation, looked to the Ali Khan brothers for inspiration at the time. The Ali Khan family’s musical lineage can be traced directly back to India’s Moghul Age, where two famed court musicians to Akbar the Great planted the seeds for one of the truly distinguished families in music today.
In 2001, Sukhwat and his sister formed a new band called Shabaz.
Zindagi (2000) Shabaz (Ark 21, 2001) Shukriya (Jah Nur Music, 2007) Samaya (A Benefit Album For Cheb I Sabbah) (Six Degrees Records, 2012)
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.
Sabil (Institut du Monde Arabe, 2012) Sirventés, with Gregory Dargent, Manu Théron (Accords Croisés, 2015)
Asrar, with Philippe El Hage (2016)
Babatunde Olatunji was one of the 20th century’s greatest masters of percussion. A beloved cross-cultural ambassadors, he made an unparalleled contribution in the saga of modern rhythm as he almost single-handedly seeded the sounds of African music into the American mainstream.
Born in 1927 to a Yoruban fishing family in Ajido, Nigeria, Olatunji arrived to the United States in 1950 to study political science at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where as an undergraduate he began performing informally and produced a popular show based on his country’s culture and traditions. He continued to play music intermittently during his graduate studies at NYU’s School of Public Administration, culminating in a Radio City Music Hall engagement backed by a full orchestra in 1957 – which brought him to the attention of the legendary jazz producer John Hammond at Columbia Records (whose other discoveries included Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Bruce Springsteen).
Olatunji’s debut album, Drums Of Passion, was released in 1959 and was an unprecedented smash hit; selling over five million copies, it was the first record to broadly introduce the sounds of African music to western ears. Early career milestones included that fateful performance at Radio City Music Hall, another at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and national TV appearances on The Tonight Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Bell Telephone Hour.
Olatunji’s dedication to the preservation and communication of African culture led him to establish his dream – the institute of African Cultural Studies. Headquartered in the heart of Harlem, he made his commitment to education by offering affordable classes in a wide range of cultural subjects to adults and young people – including not only “just plain folks” but also such major cultural icons of the era as Malcolm X and John Coltrane. His expertise in the area of African music and dance led to a diversity of new projects and roles throughout his life: as director of an educational television series; as co-author of the book African Musical Instruments, Their Origins and Use; and as an authoritative consultant for innumerable museum exhibits, media documentaries, and publications. He was active in the Civil Rights movement of the early 1960s, traveling with the Reverend Martin Luther King as a fixture at NAACP gatherings.
In the late 1980s, Gratefu! Dead percussionist Mickey Hart released the classic Drums Of Passion: The Invocation as part of his groundbreaking The World CD series for the Rykodisc label, followed by a multi-artist collaboration with Olatunji called Drums Of Passion: The Beat. Baba became an integral part of Hart’s award-winning At The Edge in 1990, along with jerry Garda and Zakir Hussain, and appeared regularly on tour with the Grateful Dead during the height of their fame and popularity – becoming a seminal influence in the drum circle phenomenon which blossomed from those halcyon days. In 1991, Olatunji and Hart co-founded the pan-global percussion supergroup, Planet Drum (the ensemble included Hart, Olatunji/ Zakir Hussain, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Sikiru Adepoju and Vikku Vinayakram) – winning the first-ever Grammy? Award for Best World Music Album, and selling out a national U.S. tour including legendary shows at New York’s Carnegie Hall and the historic Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.
Olatunji penned many original compositions, including scores for both the Broadway and Hollywood productions of Raisin In The Sun. He assisted fellow Morehouse alumnus Bill Lee with the music for She’s Cotta Have It, the hit film produced and directed by, and starring, Bill’s son Spike.
More recent independent recordings, Celebrate Freedom, Justice, and Peace and Healing Rhythms, Songs and Chants -along with the Grammy?-nominated Love Drum Talk (Chesky Records, 1997) – found Africa’s musical ambassador to the west still forging forward with vitality and dedication, despite his advancing age and the increasing pain and debility he endured as a diabetic.
As a faculty member in his final years at both the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, Olatunji tirelessly pursued his mission of spreading African culture through the teaching of traditional drumming, dance, and chant. He lectured and taught at Universita Degli Studi Ni Napoli (Naples, Italy); Kodo Drum Society (Sado Island, Japan); Tantra Galarie (Interlocken, Switzerland); Frankfurter Ring (Frankfurt, Germany), and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond, Virginia). In 1996, he was named Impresario of the Ghana Dance Ensemble, one of the two national dance companies of Ghana, and for many years led annual workshops at the International Centre for African Music and Dance at Ghana’s University of Accra.
In 1996, he also received an honorary doctorate from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York for his outstanding and selfless service to the arts
Babatunde Olatunji passed away Sunday, April 6th, 2003, at Esalen Institute, California, with his family by his side.
Drums of Passion (Columbia, 1959)
Flaming Drums (Columbia, 1962)
Drums!, Drums!, Drums! (Roulette, 1964)
Soul Makossa (Paramount, 1973)
Dance to the Beat of My Drum (Bellaphon, 1986) Drums of Passion: The Invocation (Rykodisc, 1988) Drums of Passion: The Beat (Rykodisc, 1989)
Drums of Passion: Celebrate Freedom, Justice & Peace (Olatunji, 1993)
Drums of Passion and More (Bear Family, 1994)
Babatunde Olatunji, Healing Rhythms, Songs and Chants (Olatunji, 1995) Love Drum Talk (Chesky, 1997)
Drums of Passion [Expanded] (2002)
Olatunji Live at Starwood (2003) Healing Session (Narada, 2003)
Circle of Drums (Chesky, 2005)
This is a largely instrumental album of world fusion music, featuring multi-instrumentalist Alain Eskinasi (of Brainscapes) on bass and guitar, Richard Hardy on wind instruments, and husband-wife team Aziz Paige on sitar and guitar and Khabira Paige on tanpura.
The album is smooth and well-textured, and the 11 tracks are a jazzy but mellow listen. We would recommend the tracks Equinox (upbeat, with fine sitar texture) and the joyful Pipers of Beltane. In sum, the album delivers what it promises: healing and ecstatic music in an East-West blend.
Chinmaya Dunster was born in England in 1954, and has studied Western and Indian classical music extensively, particularly guitar and sarod. Dunster was also part of the fusion band Terra Incognita, with Prem Joshua. He later founded the Celtic Ragas Band.
Devotees of meditation, yoga and Buddhism would love the music and the superb liner notes on this CD, which describe the associated colour, image, element, direction, and emotional quality of each of the eight tracks.
The album also features Don Lax on violin, Sambodhi Prem on guitar, John Zagando on flute, and Alistair Couper on drums. In sum, this is a good fusion of East and West, though brief at barley 45 minutes in length.
Musician and actor Sola Akingbola has spent most of his life in London, UK, but his roots are in Oregun, Nigeria, where he was born to Yoruba parents. Describing his relationship to Nigeria as a musical odyssey in which he finds his way home via exploration of the unique melodies, rhythmic structures and philosophical poetry of the Yoruba people. Sola reveals his passion for the language of music: “I was always seduced by the sound of the Yoruba language and the way it was expressed within the drumming. When a Yoruba drummer plays, it’s not just music: he’s talking, reciting, teasing, invoking and praising. These qualities open up other worlds of interest for me that go beyond music; worlds that lead me to history, to the essence of my people. ”
Inspired early on by Afro-fusion bands like Fela Kuti and Manu Dibango, Sola’s first journey into Yoruba music was playing percussion and then kit-drum for fellow Nigerian percussionist Gasper Lawal of the Oro Band, who was also based in the UK: “Gasper opened my ears and eyes to a rhythmic perspective that I always felt, but due to a lack of knowledge and technique was unable to realize. The first music I heard was Yoruba. It was inside the language I heard my parents speaking and pulsing through the drumming I soaked up as a child, listening to my dad’s favorite Yoruba artists: King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Ayinia Kollington, Yusuf Olatunji and Haruna Isola.”
Entering the jazz scene in the early 90s with the Ronny Jordan band and then finding his feet for the last decade in the jazz-funk of Jamiroquai, Sola has toured the world and played innumerable major international venues.
His 2007 solo CD, Routes To Roots: Yoruba Drums From Nigeria, took Sola way back to his roots exploring the unique melodies, rhythmic structures and philosophical poetry of the Yoruba people.