Le Trio Joubran, a Palestinian band comprising of three brothers from Nazareth, played to a packed audience at the Barbican, London on Sunday night. They sang alongside renowned Algerian singer Souad Massi whose music mixes Arabic sounds with rock and folk influences alongside Portuguese Fado and African soul.
They did not disappoint. Brothers Samir, Wissam and Adnan played their instrument of choice, the four thousand year old pear- shaped stringed instrument called the oud, in perfect harmony to an enchanted audience. Normally the oud is played in backing work and alongside vocals, but Le Trio Joubran's repertoire showcases its beautiful sound. "This is the first time in Arabic music that three ouds play together", said Samir Joubran to Memo. "The repertoire of instrumental music in the Arab world is not a big repertoire….We are making something very new for the Arab world."
Music is in the Joubran family blood- their father was the third generation of the family to make ouds and is considered one of the best oud makers in the world, while their mother was a muwashahat singer. "The oud was born before me in the house," says Samir. He chuckles: "We didn't have the chance to be a football player or something else, just musicians." He fell in love with the oud at five years old. His first encounter with the instrument led to a lifelong passion and he embarked on a successful solo career as an oud player. After he invited his 13 year old brother, Wissam, to perform a duet with him on stage, the idea of forming a band with his two brothers came to his mind. Since turning that idea into reality 11 years ago, Le Trio Joubran has released 5 albums and travelled the world.
One of these albums is À l'ombre des mots, a tribute to the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The trio collaborated with the poet before his death and the album is dominated by the powerful voice of Darwish, reading his poetry in Arabic. "I played with Mahmoud Darwish for 12 years, 32 concerts all over the world," says Samir. "Mahmoud Darwish is not just the greatest poet in Palestine but for me or maybe lots of people he is one of the greatest poets in the world in the last century." He adds: "Mahmoud Darwish is the other word for Palestine for me."
"When we perform in Palestine we don't have the stress about explaining about our nationality, or about our identity, because in Palestine we play to give love and to give happiness and to give hope," tells Samir. Performing outside Palestine is different. It's a chance to disprove the Zionist narrative, he says. "Because then we say this is our culture, this is our language. We are saying 'we are not coming from nowhere.'" He adds: "The only weapon is our instruments and our music. And at least with this we make people smile or love"
Despite the importance of raising awareness of the Palestinian cause, Samir does not want to be known as a Palestinian musician. "I want to be a musician from Palestine," he says. "I don't want the people to clap hands for me because they feel sorry…I want them to clap hands because I'm a musician, and a very good musician." He adds: "When I am a very good musician, then I can explain more about the Palestinian case."
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.