A makan (or maqam) is a term used to describe the melodic structures of, typically, music from Turkey and the Middle East. Closer to Western modes than scales, each makan expresses a world of its own. That Kamilya Jubran, the peerless Palestinian singer and oud and qanun player now resident in Paris, has used this word for her latest album is significant. Makan makes not only a factual statement – that it is music from the Middle East – but also a more highly charged one. As the lyrics to the title track have it: ‘I have a place that is my own melody/ And that is the reason I wander and sing.’
Formerly a member of Sabreen, the Palestinian music ensemble that was at the forefront of the cultural resistance to the suppression of indigenous voices, for the past few years Kamilya Jubran has developed her individual voice. It’s an impressive one, crisscrossing common connections in jazz, art song, electronica and modern Arabic music. Makan is a consummate work of art, a deeply sophisticated album whose nine songs are all settings of contemporary Arabic poems, four of them written specially for her. (Translations are provided in French and English.)
It’s an elegant album, stripped bare to its poetry. Bass notes on the oud ground the songs wonderfully and Jubran’s voice is sinuous and expressive, full of colour tones.
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