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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Palestinian composer Issa Murad moves across cultures in new album Joussour

Following its release in France, Issa Murad’s first album is now available in Egypt

Lamiaa Al-Sadaty, Saturday 1 Apr 2017
Issa Murad
Issa Murad
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Joussour (Bridges), Palestinian composer Issa Murad’s first album, was recently released in Egypt. The album, released in France a few months ago, is getting great attention in the jazz music scene.

The title of the album, Joussour, was not chosen at random. In common language, the word “bridge” is used to designate a construction built to overcome an obstacle by passing above it; in music, the bridge is a more or less developed transition between two musical phrases or sections. Murad wanted to be like this medium, bringing cultures and even bringing people closer together.

To achieve this, he founded a band in 2012, also called Joussour, which consists of three French musicians —pianist Richard Turegano, bassist Marc Burnofosse, and percussionist Frederic Chapperon — as well as Indian bansuri (an Indian instrument) player Rishab Prasanna, Syrian percussionist Samir Homsi, and Murad himself on the luth (oud).

Featuring 10 of the band’s tunes, Murad’s album is a voyage transgressing the borders of genres and culture: jazz and Balkan influences are blended with Arab and Indian music. The album was recorded in La Buissonne studio in Avignon, the sound and mixing were done by Sylvain Thevenard, and the mastering was done by Marwan Danoun.

In La Mer (The Sea), which was given Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafi cultural foundation’s award for best soundtrack in 2015, the composer reflects on a personal experience.

“Born in Bethlehem, I was forbidden from seeing the sea. When I went to Jaffa, I was moved to see the sea for the first time in my life. I started to compose this piece. I did not finish it until a few years after my stay in France, when I saw the Atlantic ocean for the first time," says Murad, in amazement. This tune greatly resembles the sea: simultaneously calm and lively, rich in opposite emotions.

With L’Egaré (The Lost One), Murad goes from this very personal experience to one that is shared by many. This piece was originally composed for one of the scenes in a documentary (one that was never released for financial reasons), and tells the story of a Palestinian-Egyptian young man who goes through an identity crisis, clearly expressed through the rhythms and derviches.

With La Folle qui danse (The Crazy Woman who dances), he wanted to experiment with a new and unexpected genre. “The intent behind this piece was rather technical. The idea was to do a variation between scales and rhythms. Since the rhythm is not constant, it is impossible to dance to this tune, unless the dancer is crazy: which explains the title,” Murad explains.

This variation between cultures, genres, melodies and rhythms is indeed very characteristic of the artist.

Born in Bethlehem, Palestine, Murad took an early interest in music. At the age of 16, he enrolled in the national Edward Said Music Institute, where he learned to play the luth and to sing. In 2001, he received the Marcel Khalifa Award for the best oud player in Palestine. After earning his diploma, he travelled to Cairo to join Beit-Al-Oud, founded by prominent oud player Nassir Shamma. As years go by, nothing is constant for Issa Murad.

His travel to France was also an important step on the young composer’s journey. The musician earned his Master's degree in ethno music from the Sorbonne, opening many doors into ethno jazz and world music.

Thus his music is essentially based on jazz structures from the perspective of theme and improvisation, but his rhythms and harmony are inspired by world music, particularly Asian music. This is one of the reasons why he was chosen to take part in a number of festivals around the world dedicated to world music, among them the World Sacred Spirit Festival in India.

Murad released his album in Egypt without playing his music in any concerts in the country. “The Egyptian scene still prefers singing concerts to instrumental ones!” he said.

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