The question: Can Arabic music really harmonize with electronica?
The answer: Of course. With talent like Kamilya Jubran’s, anything is possible.
Tuesday night’s concert at Al Azhar Park fused the obvious beauty of Jubran’s voice with the subtle genius of Swiss electronic musician Werner Hasler.
Colored spotlights illuminated Jubran with her oud, Hasler with his equipment, and little else on a bare stage below the picturesque neighborhood behind.
While electronic music is generally loud and unnatural – associated with raves, club mixes, and experimental strangeness – Hasler’s music is understated and complementary.
“Interaction would not have been possible if there was a strong beat, he says.
Using his analog synthesizer, laptop, and samplings, Hasler produces few beats and muted sounds but a lot of ambiance and brilliant interaction.
He trained as a jazz trumpet-player, which he says is more limiting than electronic music.
Electronic music represented “a kind of freedom, an area he would not have to study formally to explore.
Jubran told The Daily Star Egypt that she selected Hasler after they shared an unexplainable “natural click.
“Werner was a tabula rasa; he did not have any clichés about Arabic music.
Both Hasler and Jubran admit the collaboration had a great risk factor, but Jubran says she was convinced from the beginning that she wanted to do it. She claims to have no idea whether or not it has been a success, but says it is “a different world than singing solo.
It was clear to the audience though that the collaboration was indeed a success. The concert was a rare experience of true, noncommercial talent moving the souls and spirits of its listeners.
For Jubran, it is more “about liberty, it is about spaces.I am still trying to find exits.
What makes the collaboration work is “equality and respect, both for each other and for each others’ cultures.
That was obvious to the listeners as well. “It was like he wanted to be as unimposing as he could be, said one attendee.
Jubran sings in heavy classical Arabic, which is difficult to understand even for Arabic-speakers. She still manages to convey the meanings of her lyrics through desperate body language, pained facial expressions, and controlled tones, which is kept a packed audience of mixed nationalities riveted and silent through the very last note.
Those who could understand enjoyed powerful lyrics like “Generations descend, generations ascend in every sunrise and sunset, And witnesses in circles move towards the gods of the dead with offerings, Of the living, from Mirror of Stone.
Words and rhythms are soulful, provocative, and engaging.
Palestinian Jubran was born in Galilee to musical parents, singing and playing the oud and qanoon from an early age. Originally, she toured for 20 years with Palestinian group Sabreen (The Patient Ones).
Wameedd, which means ‘flash of light,’ resulted three years ago through efforts by the Pro-Helvetia, or Swiss Arts Council.
Jubran also performed solo Wednesday at Al Azhar, the first two concerts she has performed in Egypt in three years.
For more information, visit www.kamilyajubran.com.