Thursday, January 24, 2008

In Review--Le Trio Joubran

Le Trio Joubran
Randana/Harmonia Mundi

The Joubran brothers, Samir, Wissam, and Adnan all deftly play the Arabic oud. Palestinian by birth, but sporting Israeli citizenship, it's challenging to fathom that the beautiful music flowing from the newest disc, Majaz, hails from a place of turmoil. In recent news, we read that the Israeli government placed another stranglehold on the Palestinians living in Gaza, and now many Palestinians seek refuge in Egypt, causing an already overheated Middle Eastern situation to boil over while the rest of the world watches helplessly.

It's hard not to think of this political situation when listening to the three brothers play their ouds. These are young men who hail from a long lineage of Palestinian traditional musicians and instrument makers, and in fact, the middle brother, Wissam not only composes and joins his other two brothers on oud, but he also crafts the instruments. While performance of a 3-oud ensemble brings a contemporary veneer to the Joubran's compositions, a sense of tradition is never far behind.

And yet, these brothers find themselves immersed in the modern world. Samir, the eldest brother, who eventually recruited his younger brothers to join him, was inspired by a guitar trio that included Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucia and John McLaughlin. The brothers' first recording for their own label, Randana (also the title of the CD), featured an Andalusian flavor. On Majaz, the brothers bring in percussionist Yousef Hbeisch. And yet, the compositions feel dreamy, flowing and at times, otherworldly.

When I listen to these compositions played by virtuoso brothers, I can see that in life, and especially with music that hails from places of political tension, we are faced with a duality. While we cannot ignore the political tensions in the world, we also cannot ignore the healing power of music. And while it is not a musician's job to act as a peace diplomat for their respective country, in a way, this role cannot be avoided. Yet, listening to these master musicians from a long lineage of musicians and master instrument makers, it's difficult not to hope for peace. And it's difficult not to believe that peace is possible when beautiful and tranquil music flows from the hands of three Palestinian brothers.

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