Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In review--Ouds, Tears, Poetry

Le Trio Joubran
À l’ombre de mots
World Village

In 2008 I had the great pleasure of interviewing Le Trio Joubran for an arts supplement article. Unfortunately I missed the trio’s concert at Western Washington University, though I was told that the musicians performed for a receptive audience. The Palestinian oud-playing brothers compose and play seamless pieces performed on ouds crafted by their own hands. The music wraps sublime, melancholic, and fiery emotions into its own poetic expression. But mostly, this recording with its CD and DVD (same program) provides a requiem for a favorite Arab poet.

You can see those ouds and the brothers’ passionate performance on the DVD portion of À l’ombre de mots, which features a concert commemorating the death of the renowned Palestinian poet and activist Mahmoud Darwhich (Darwash). And in fact, the late poet’s voice appears ghostlike reciting his poetry along with the oud compositions. The camera zooms across the musician’s faces, sometimes lingering gently or gazing at a distance, while tears and anguished looks accompany the throaty sounding lutes.

Watching the DVD, but only understanding a word here and there in the French subtitles, (the poetry is recited in Arabic) I intuited that the poet’s death tore the musicians’ hearts with grief. And since this performance took place during the wake of Darwhich’s death (40 days after to be exact), emotions were as raw as an onion stinging the eyes and leaving a sense of profundity behind. It’s as if Le Trio Joubran captured a piece of history, but one that affected the musicians on a deep level. You can’t help but shed a few tears with them, if even my case where I’m not familiar with Mahmoud Darwich’s poetry.

The recording features music compositions interlaced with Darwhich reciting his poems. And while I would have loved to have more of the oud music and had access to English subtitles, the recording features such gorgeous music, some which you can find on Le Trio Joubran’s Majaz. The passionate outburst, Masar, not only proves the virtuosity and sensitivity of the brothers’ talent, but that single short track is worth the price of the CD/DVD. The other tracks, also familiar to my ears, Safar, Majaz and Shajan adopt new meaning in this context.

The brothers that comprise this trio have known their share of heartache due to the Palestinian political situation. They also hail from a musical lineage of instrument makers and oud players. No doubt poetry plays a huge role in their lives and their tribute to another Palestinian national treasure Mahmoud Darwich offers a cathartic experience to anyone who chooses to listen.

World Village Music