This is Ramzi Aburedwan, who grew up in Al Amari refugee camp in Ramallah, and won a music scholarship to study the viola in France, where he and fellow students created Dal'ouna in 2002. In concert, as in this photo, he plays the bouzouki.
Last night, Dal'ouna played a wonderful two hour set at Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre (It's a mouthful, but the alternative is DUCTAC. Oh, puhlease...) up at the top of Emirates Mall*.
None of these pictures are from that concert, but whether they're playing in Dubai, Jerusalem, Angers or Abu Dhabi, you get an ensemble of fine musicians and singers, and an evening of delightful Palestinian music, from soulful ballads, to traditional folk songs, to contemporary jazz fusion.
You can find the Dal'ouna French language website here.
And here's a translation from the programme:
Dal'ouna's music is ......... a confluence between Palestine and France and a fusion between purely traditional singing from the Middle East and jazzy melting compositions played with classical western instruments (viola, clarinet, flute, guitar, piano) and... traditional Arabic instruments (bouzouki, oud, derbouka, bendir....). The work is not frozen in either traditionalism or classicism: it is on the contrary open to outside influences.
[Since 2000, the group has played in Palestine, or for Palestine in France, Belgium and England.] Most of the concerts take place in Palestine, where, twice a year through Al Kamandjâti (The Violinist) Association, Dal'ouna and other musicians crisscross Palestinian refugee camps, villages and cities. They bring music to children, through music-training workshops and concerts.
If you live in Abu Dhabi, grab the chance to listen to Dal'ouna. This visit has been organised by the Friends of Bethlehem University.
Last night's concert was so good! Dal'ouna's line-up varies from tour to tour, but on this one there's Ramzi Aburedwan himself, Tareq Rantissi on derbouka (an hourglass-waisted drum that you tuck under your arm and rest on your thigh) and other percussion instruments, Ziad Benyoussef on the oud (Arab lute - and if you've never heard jazz lute, here's your chance!), Mohammed Najem on clarinet (and a flute that looks like little more than a length of cane) Mohammed Al Quttati on accordion, and singers Ouday Khatib and Noura Madi.
Highlights - too numerous to list - but musicianship - oh yeah.
The percussionist was amazing. Very serious too. He never left the stage, played a variety of instruments, and played the most extraordinary array of rhythms and sounds throughout the concert.
The clarinettist - well, I've never heard Arab-style clarinet, before, but this instrument was made for those slow low melancholy swoops, and long high notes. If you've heard Fairouz (or if not, Cleo Laine), and you've heard clarinet (Mozart, Weber, Acker Bilk playing Stranger on the Shore), play them in your head, and you'll hear what I mean.
I'm not a fan of the accordion, but in concert with the strings, or playing musical tag with the drums and clarinet, this works: there's a long piece about the sea, in which the accordion trots out the central phrase; reduces it to a dropping pattern of only two notes, to accent a long improvisation, at least an octave below, on the oud; and then picks up again. Some of the pieces are plain old jamming sessions!
Of the two singers, Nour had a strong clear voice which really had the range for these apparently straightforward songs where the chorus routinely highjumps an octave from the verse, and she sang with great simplicity, allowing the songs to shine. She began her first song unaccompanied, and I should have liked to hear more.
Listening to her, I was humming choruses (with the people around me) discovering that these Arab folksongs have melody patterns remarkably similar to their European cousins (as I now recognise them), but with distinctive Arab characteristics in the trills, slides and those jumps. Lastly, Ouday, who was perhaps fourteen or fifteen, with his strong boy's voice as yet unbroken, came on to sing a long, long song of such power and delicacy that it seemed beyond the scope of anyone his age, but with such clarity and integrity that we were all mesmerised.
The singers came and went throughout the set, as did the accordionist and the clarinettist, and the evening rolled on in a finely blended programme of solos, duets, and ensemble pieces.
All in all, though I did not understand the words of the songs, or indeed of Ramzi Aburedwan's introductions to the songs, I had a very good evening out! Just one thing, when I mentioned the two hour set, that's what it was: they played without a break. Take your water bottle in with you if you go tomorrow!
Dal'ouna is on at Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation on WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 7th!
I'd post a link, but the main Time Out ticket page is down, but so you'd better contact the venue direct:
The Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, Old Airport Rd (02 6215300 email@example.com)
Situated beside Qasr al-Hosn, the foundation is housed in a delightful modern building of Islamic design with arching white colonnades, cool courtyards and restful gardens. The Cultural Foundation has an important library, theatre, cinema, lecture rooms, meeting rooms, an exhibition centre and coffee shop. The centre hosts numerous cultural events, including concerts with international and local artists, classic film festivals, art exhibitions and workshops throughout the year. Open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
So now you know!
Such talent. Such music. Such an important cause. Just go!
*DUCTAC: Great arts centre, very poorly signposted. The entrance is from the top T-Z carpark or escalator, directly opposite the top entrance to Magic Planet, almost completely hidden by an escalator and a fire exit sign................. Here's the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre webpage. I'm good to you!