Le Trio Joubran’s Majaz

cover art for MajazLe Trio Joubran is an ensemble of Palestinian oud players, the brothers Samir, Wissam and Adnan Joubran. They come from a very musical family: their father, Hattem Mdada Joubran, makes ouds and other stringed instruments; their mother, Ibtisa Hanna Joubran, is a singer. On Majaz, the brothers play 10 original compositions, based on traditional maqams (modal structures characteristic of the music of North Africa, the Near East and Central Asia). Yousef Hbeisch provides minimal and tasteful percussion accompaniment.

My notes characterize the music overall as hypnotic and mysterious. I imagined myself sitting in a coffee house somewhere in one of those ancient Middle Eastern cities (I thought of Damascus, but that’s just my current passion) with maybe a single barefoot dancer circulating around the room. I could almost smell the frankincense burning and see the candles flickering in the wall recesses. Some of the tracks feature rhythms that made me think of castanets or finger cymbals. I caught just a hint of vocals, chanting to be precise, on one track (the only one described as traditional and arranged by the brothers); otherwise, these are all instrumentals. The CD has a total run time of 50 minutes, plenty of time to get into the mood evoked by these pieces.

The CD comes in one of those cardboard folder cases with the liner notes tucked in the pocket. Alas, they are very sketchy, featuring photos of the brothers, listing the tracks with titles in Arabic and Roman text, and providing just the barest minimum of credits, e.g., that Samir produced this CD, which was recorded at a studio in Paris, while Wissam made the instruments.

Fortunately, their Web site provides a bit more background on the group. From this source I learned that Majaz (which means ‘metaphor’) is their second CD; their first, titled Randana, was released in 2005. Samir, the oldest brother, also appears on two solo albums, Taqaseem and Sou’Fahm (‘Misunderstanding’) and with the middle brother, Wissam, on Tamaas. The band has toured extensively in Europe and North America.

(Randana, 2007)

Donna Bird

I am a former lecturer of Sociology at the University of Southern Maine in the beautiful Portland area, where I have lived since 1992.

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