Palestinian musician Kamilya Jubran on ‘Wa,’ her new collaboration with Swiss composer Werner Hassler

The album — ‘Wa’ — was released in November. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 March 2020

Palestinian musician Kamilya Jubran on ‘Wa,’ her new collaboration with Swiss composer Werner Hassler

  • With just one 45-minute track, the album is the pair’s latest attempt to ‘unravel a musical universe of possibilities’

CAIRO: “Contemplating my faraway homeland/Has long been a habit of mine/Some prefer repose/I crave motion.”

Palestinian musician Kamilya Jubran sings these words (in Arabic) on her latest collaboration with Swiss producer, composer and trumpeter Werner Hasler. The album — ‘Wa’ — was released in November, and the pair recently performed it in Haifa, Ramallah, Alexandria and Cairo. 

It features Jubran on oud and vocals and Hasler on trumpet and electronic instrumentation as they “continue to interrogate their listening and their expression, their research and their desires, to unravel a musical universe of possibilities,” according to the press release, resulting in, “a unison of timbres, cultures complementing, the complicity of verses, and modes and languages confronting each other.”

Jubran and Hasler first collaborated in 2002. (Supplied) 

Jubran is a prolific collaborator. Aside from the music she makes with Hasler, she is currently working on a new project with French singer and musician Sarah Murcia — set for release next year — and continues to work as the artistic director of the Zamkana Association, which she co-founded in 2014 in Paris and which she tells Arab News “aims to encourage new and young projects from the Arab world and beyond. We provide artistic accompaniment and encourage creativity and secularism.”

One of its most ambitious projects is Sodassi (sextet), which brings together some of the most exciting performers in alternative Arab culture: Youmna Saba, Dina El-Wedidi, Maya Khaldi, Ayed Fadel, Rasha Nahas and Sama’ Abdulhadi. According to the project description on Facebook, the six artists “interrogate their musical heritage, their relation to digital, their aesthetics, and (the evolution of) musical writing, of micro-tonality, of improvisation, and of rhythmic language, among other issues.” 

The pair recently performed it in Haifa, Ramallah, Alexandria and Cairo. (Supplied)

For now, though, Jubran’s focus is on ‘Wa’ (which translates literally as ‘And’, but — as Jubran explains — “could be seen as a process of questioning and/or an answer in and of itself”). The ambitious album consists of a single, 45-minute-long composition that is based around a traditional compound musical form known as ‘wasla.’

“We knew we had a [powerful] effect on the audience whenever we planned our live concerts as a continuous performance, by either playing more than one song without a pause or linking two songs that were somehow similar,” Jubran tells Arab News. “When we started working on ‘Wa,’ Hasler and I wanted to produce a continuous composition, so that instead of an abrupt pause between tracks, we would have a buildup (of sounds). That’s how the idea of playing a wasla came about.”  

The lyrics reflect this buildup. They begin with a meditation on nomadism as a way of life, move on to examine personal suffering and tension — including the contradictions between affability and aloofness, and conclude with a contemplation of the concepts of space and time. Apart from text taken from an 11th-century poem called “Affability,” Jubran wrote the lyrics herself.

“This is my first attempt writing song lyrics. I started off by charting the words that summed up my daily reality — I thought of the first thoughts that come to my mind upon waking up every morning and tried to map a visual relationship with every word,” says Jubran, adding that a “taboo” still exists over the use of standard Arabic and the extent to which “people should take risks and bring in their own work.”

‘Wa’ is music unfettered by caution or concern about ‘target markets.’ (Supplied)

The lyrics play on multiple contradictions and suggest several associations. “Each word takes us a bit further, each feeling lets us experience a more difficult one,” says Jubran. “Take, for example, the buildup of associations here: ‘Fate, boredom, hope, drenched, but, kisses/ Rushing kisses, eager kisses/ Sweat tears, drowning drench/ reluctant waves, drained waves.’” In Arabic, the construction of these lines — each word building on the foundations laid by the previous words — is clearer.

Jubran and Hasler first collaborated in 2002 and ‘Wa’ is their third studio album as a duo (they have worked on other projects together with other people in that time too). Their latest release is a natural progression from their earlier work, and it’s also clear that — as they begin their 18th year of working together — the two musicians have developed a level of understanding and trust that can only come over time.

‘Wa’ is music unfettered by caution or concern about ‘target markets.’ It is the sound of two musicians who have discovered “a common space to play and experiment,” which Jubran says was their aim from the very beginning. 

“When Hasler and I first started working together, we both knew that we weren’t interested in creating ‘fusion’ (music) or soft music highlighting (themes) of peace and love,” Jubran explains. “We’ve discovered each other’s worlds, and it is this knowledge that allowed us to trust each other and to become more courageous (in our pursuit of ideas).”

Missing your salon? How to care for your hair while you #StayHome

We speak to a hair expert on the dos and don’ts of at-home hair care. (File/Instagram/@jessicakahawaty)
Updated 3 min 24 sec ago

Missing your salon? How to care for your hair while you #StayHome

DUBAI: As salon-goers face the closure of spas, salons and barbershops, we speak to Haneen Odeh, owner of UAE’s Snob salon for her take on the dos and don’ts of at-home hair care.

Many men and women who rely on salon visits to keep their lengths healthy could be left wondering what to do between now and their next visit to a professional hair stylist. But just as important is what not to do (read: DIY trim job) to avoid ruining your hair and having to impose your own personal period of self-isolation once the pandemic is over due to a ruined haircut you tried to pull off in the bathroom mirror.

Don’t bleach your own hair
“For those who usually go to the salon to dye their lengths blonde, roots may be starting to show now. And while it might be tempting, I would strongly urge to not bleach your own roots. Lightening dark hair is a very complex multi-step process that requires years of experience and professional grade products only available at salons. Bleaching your hair incorrectly might result in burning and damaging your hair. Instead, opt for a root spray such as the L'Oreal Paris Magic Root Cover Up Concealer Spray. Otherwise, you can always conceal your dark roots with a headband or try wrapping your hair up with a scarf.” 

Do deep conditioning treatments
“Use this time to nourish your hair with a deep conditioning treatment. A lot of people simply apply it in the shower on wet hair for a few minutes and call it a day, but that way means that your lengths aren’t getting the full benefits of the product. Think of hair like a sponge, when it’s wet, it’s already full of water and cannot absorb anything more. So to make sure the product is fully absorbed into your locks, towel dry your hair after shampooing and then apply the treatment. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse. You’ll see a huge difference.” May we suggest The Let It Go Circle hair mask from Davines, which is designed to boost hydration and revitalize dry and brittle strands?  

Don’t pick up the scissors
“When you’re bored, it might be tempting to pick up the scissors but, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t trim your own bangs or make any big changes to your hair cut on your own. It will inevitably go wrong and you will end up paying more to get it fixed in the long run. Try out some new hairstyles instead. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube so experiment a little and get your hair professionally cut once it’s safe to do so.”

 Don’t over wash
“The more you wash your strands, the more you strip the scalp of its natural oils, and that in turn makes the scalp produce even more oil, which causes you to wash your hair more often — and the cycle goes on and on. Now is the perfect opportunity to give your lengths a break and cut down on the washing. Your hair might get oily, but once the adjustment period is over, you will notice that it will require less frequent washing.”

Do try scalp treatments
“Too often, we pay attention to the lengths of our hair and give our scalp no attention. But caring for your scalp improves the overall health of your tresses, stimulates hair growth and gets rid of dandruff due to product buildup. Scalp treatments range from serums to salt scrubs, so pick a product that suits your hair needs. Le Labo's basil-scented Scrub Shampoo uses black sea salt and menthol to clear away dirt and cool scalps down.”