"Sabil": A Palestinian Musical Dialogue Achieves Wide International Acclaim

The prize-winning album ‘Sabil’ showcases a new type of musical dialogue between the oud and percussion. A product of perseverance by the Palestinian musical duo, Ahmad Al Khatib (oud) and Yousef Hbeish (percussion), this debut album has proved its international appeal.

“Sabil” was released at the beginning of 2012 by the Insitut du Monde Arab in Paris, with support from the Culture and Arts Programme at the A.M. Qattan Foundation in Palestine. As soon as the album was released, it qualified to participate in the international award "Top Mezzo”, organised by “Mezzo TV”, the largest music station in Europe devoted to classical music. "Sabil" won first place in the jazz category, fending off strong competition from renowned international musicians. Hbeish stated, “The basic point here is that the station’s nomination came from the people, and not from the station alone, thus giving it more credibility. I am proud that our work was enjoyed by listeners and that it impressed them.”

"Sabil" is the fruit of an artistic collaboration between Al Khatib, 37, and Hbeish, 45, that began in 1998. The pair worked on multiple musical projects in partnership with different bands. The idea for the album was conceived many years ago, but it was some time before they were able to dedicate themselves to its recording and release. According to Hbeish, "The idea cooked on a slow burner over many years until we finally started working on it in 2011".

"Sabil" presents 11 original tracks composed by the duo specifically for this album. The two musicians also worked collaboratively in carrying out the mixing. The album is distinctive in its blending of oriental music with a modern spirit. It offers new content to the world of music through its integration of the oud, the archetypal oriental instrument, into a jazz genre, with the latter’s emphasis on improvisation.

The A.M. Qattan Foundation, through its Culture and Arts Programme, contributed to supporting this musical production. This support exemplifies the Programme’s role in supporting artistic projects based on criteria of excellence, gravity and originality. As Mahmoud Abu Hashhash, Director of the Foundation's Culture and Arts Programme stated, “We feel proud to have been a part, albeit a small one, of the success of this project. This initiative is a source of pride for every practitioner in the cultural scene in Palestine”.

The A.M. Qattan Foundation has approved a grant for the production of a second album by Al Khatib and Hbeish, based on the succcess of their debut offering and its belief in the ongoing potential of the artistic collaboration. The new album, due for release in summer 2012, is anticipated to include tracks featuring not only the oud and percussion but also western string instruments. Further, in October 2012, the Foundation is planning a special musical evening featuring the two musicians in London in cooperation with The House of Music in Shefa-Amr. Event proceeds will benefit the Gaza Music School and the House of Music.

Watch this video to hear segments of "Sabil":