RAMALLAH, September 12, 2013 (WAFA) – In a total abundance of words, three world musicians read miscellaneous chapters of what seemed to be their life and personal experience at start, but if looked at thoroughly turns out to be the musical notes of a shared experience and collective memory for millions of Palestinians across the world.
Duo Sabil of Ahmad Khatib (oud) and Youssef Hbeisch (drums and percussion), along with Hubert Dupont (contrabass), who came from France exclusively to share the night with his two friends and audience, performed at the Mahmoud Darwish Memorial on Wednesday night a tear-jerking and true Palestinian performance.
As the scribble of what is intended to read the name of the great Palestinian late poet and author Mahmoud Darwish stood clear behind the three musicians, the spirit of Darwish could be sensed in an atmosphere that celebrated several concepts of his such as nostalgia, alienation, joy, unity, destruction and solidarity.
The nine spotlights were more than enough to illuminate the darkness of the stage and the room in which 300 people sat still, while the music was more than enough to illuminate their hearts.
Watching with defining silence, the audience’s expression changed as the music changed. The show didn’t take into account the vulnerable emotions of the audience, but took them in a roller coaster of sensations.
The piece Sada (Echo), the highlight of the night, started with what looked like a sound of a tormented whale that swam in a sea troubled with an unrelenting thunder storm.
Khatib said that this piece was written when he found himself stuck in his apartment with his partner Hbeisch during the Israeli army invasion of Ramallah in April 2002.
Peering from his window which overlooked the then under Israeli mercy Ramallah, he put together what could at least be described as a tragic piece. Khatib and Hbeisch could not hide their emotions as they played with obvious grief the piece that reminded them of a gloomy part of their lives.
Khatib, through the musical dialogue with Hbeisch and Dupont, shared his past and story. He was certain that the message will be fully delivered.
“The music is a self-explanatory language. It can’t be explained with another one. The audience comes from an environment that enables them to understand what the music means,” said Khatib.
The trio seemed to be flying in their own world; Khatib’s facial expressions changed with the movement of his fingers, Hbeisch’s frequent smiles and grimaces resembled the musical notes and Dupont’s weariness yet fascination of the foreign notes could be evident to the listener.
Dupont pointed out that he doesn’t play eastern music notes and he didn’t study them either. He said, “I just try to catch them by ear. Ahmad taught me a couple of things about notes and Maqam (a system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music) and then I managed.”
Dupont, being a French musician, explained that he realized that he doesn’t have to play the same intonation all the time as the oddity of the music will also charm the audience.
He said, “It [the eastern music] is very interesting for me. I use it a little bit as a game and I really like it.”
Khatib insisted to play in the Galilee Hall at the Mahmoud Darwish Memorial as he thinks the small space brings him closer to the audience, enabling him to feel their emotions and them to feel his music in return.
He played a number of musical pieces starting with Marakib (boats) that tells the tale of the his journey in life, then Kalimat Etab (Reproach) where you could sense that he is regretting an unfortunate chapter of his life, probably his obligatory departure from his homeland due to Israeli compulsory restrictions.
He then played Flotilla, a piece compressed of notes floating between waves of music like the ship that aimed to end the illegal Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.
The trio then changed the mode of their music by playing ‘Ors (Wedding) and Fantasia Shahinaz (Shahinaz Fantasy), both pieces with a rapid rhythm celebrating life.
The evening ended with a piece titled Min al-Quds Ela Baghdad (From Jerusalem to Baghdad) expressing the feelings of the solidarity with the Arab wound that has been stretching for decades now.
Duo Sabil event could be least described as captivating. The audience cheered, applauded and praised the exceptional performance, however once everyone stepped outside the hall each had to face his own memories and past, which resurfaced at the hands of a oud, tambour and a contrabass.