Episode 4: The Ecstasy of Music

In the fourth episode of the Shubbak Festival podcast DJ Nooriyah explores tarab.

Tarab has no exact equivalent in the English language, so the most common words used to capture its meaning are “ecstasy,” or “transcendence.” Widely encountered in medieval texts on music and musicians, it is still current today and refers to  certain styles of music, particularly an aesthetic associated with the 20th Century that is rooted in Egypt and the East-Mediterranean Arab world. But tarab isn’t just a form of music. It also refers to a state of being and since medieval times it has been renowned for the ecstasy-inducing power it has on its audience, be it through lyrics of joy or sorrow. In this episode of Shubbak Festival's podcast, DJ Nooriyah will dive into the power of tarab as a way of experiencing music and fully surrendering to the moment. Her guests include the leader of the London Syrian Ensemble, Louai Alhenawi and the world-renowned, oud musician and composer Adnan Joubran.

A musician playing a wind instrument.
Louai Alhenawi

Louai Alhenawi is a composer and ney soloist who studied and taught at the eminent Damascus Conservatoire. He is the leader of the London Syrian Ensemble and recently held the position of the Musical Director for the first Arabic Musical Um Kulthum which made its worldwide premiere at the London Palladium. In 2019 he directed The Mediterranean Dimension Ensemble in Malta. He is also Co-Musical Director for Tafahum orchestra and the SOAS Middle Eastern Ensemble. Louai has recorded and toured worldwide with many artists including Firouz, Shakira, Brian Eno, Damon Albarn, Terry Hall, Gabriel Yared, Natacha Atlas and many others.

A musician sitting on a stool holding an oud
Adnan Joubran

Renowned oud player and composer, Adnan Joubran was born in 1985 into a Nazarene family with a deep-rooted passion for music and oud making. His father, Hatem Joubran, is a well-established luthier (oud maker) while his mother, Ibtisam, along with his sister Suha are both known as talented singers. At the age of 18, Adnan joined his two older brothers Samir and Wissam to form the world’s first oud trio, known today as the award-winning Le Trio Joubran. Their debut performance at the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris marked the beginning of Adnan’s dynamic career.

Adnan has travelled extensively since, performing at the prestigious Carnegie Hall and mesmerising audiences at the Paris Olympia and the Théâtre de Champs Elysées. Le Trio Joubran has released five albums since 2005, one of which topped the Word Music charts in France, and composed for multiple award-winning documentaries and films, most notably the Oscar-nominated Five Broken Cameras. The trio has also collaborated with the late Mahmoud Darwish, Chkrr and Dhafer Youssef.

After a decade working with Le Trio Joubran, Adnan launched his solo career with the release of his debut album Borders Behind which incorporates Indian, flamenco, jazz and classical influences with his signature sound. Adnan has also featured as a guest for Ibrahim Maalouf and Rodrigo & Gabriela, and created the show Eko Du Oud with the French juggler Vincent Berhaut.