Wednesday, December 02, 2020

The Joubran family’s long legacy of luthier

By Eli Lillis - October 22, 2018
Section: [Main News] [Culture] [IN PICTURES]
Tags: [culture]

The dusty workshop smells of fresh cut wood and the sweet smell of handmade lacquer.  Lying amongst the clutter and instruments in varying states of disrepair is an incredible story; that of a family history so rich in music and the story of the Oud in Palestine.

Considered the father of all Arabic instruments, the Oud is thought to have originated in ancient Iraq sometime during the Akkadian Empire in 2350-2170 B.C.E. However, it wasn’t brought to Palestine until very late 19th century when Dib Joubran, a carpenter in Nazareth, turned his skills to Oud craftsmanship. His legacy continues to this day.
African mahogany, European maple and Indian rosewood are all used for Oud making. Indian rosewood has the a far better sound, but it is now forbidden to cut down the tree.
Despite Dibs trepidations about his son taking up the craft due to fiscal insecurity, to the point he would stop work when his son would bring lunch to his workshop, Bassem Joubran eventually continued the tradition. Already a famed carpenter in Nazareth, it was only after his father's passing that Bassem started crafting Ouds.

Hatim Joubran’s house in Nazareth clearly displays the pride he has in his sons. Posters of Le Trio Joubran are everywhere, and his workshop is no different. Le Trio Joubran consists of Hatim’s three sons. All three brothers play Oud, and the band is one of Palestine’s bigger cultural exports.
Hatim made his first instrument as a young teenager, decorating it with an inlay from an instrument of Dib Joubrans. However it was only after he was forced to retire from his career as a metalworker due to severe back pain that he began crafting Oud’s in 1983, working alongside Dib Joubran’s son, Bassem.
Hatim made many of his own tools to craft the wood, drawing on his previous experience as a metalworker.
Times were harder then, Hatim explains with a laugh.
“The first two Oud’s I made, I cut the wood at a friend’s workshop, but the rest of the work, putting it all together, the glueing, all happened in my home around my family,” Hatim said.
Hatim has since extended his house and now has a workshop space dedicated to the making of both Oud and Violin.

An extremely attentive father, Hatim explains how from a young age, he knew his son Wissam could continue the lineage of luthier.  
“Wissam was sitting here with me, helping me build the Oud at only 9 years old. And I’m thinking, he has such good hands.”
Frames are used in the construction of an Oud, used to shape the wood for the shell. Over time the frame will move and distort with heat and humidity. Hatim still has some of Din Joubran’s original frames.
With his family’s support and assistance, Wissam eventually studied in Italy at the prestigious Antonio Stradivari conservatory, renowned for the fabrication of stringed instruments.
The first Arab ever enrolled in the college, with his previous experience Wissam was able to sit an examination, and started in the third year of the five year course. During this time he was awarded best artisan luthier.
Le Trio Joubran only use instruments made by their father.
When not playing with Le Trio Joubran, Wissam is a professional luthier.

Looking over a project from Wissam’s college days, a complete guide on constructing and playing Oud, that Hatim keeps proudly in his workshop, he muses over the family’s long history with music.
“We’re not sure yet if Wissams son will make instruments… Inshallah.”

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