Al Manara (meaning The Beacon) is a Belgian-Palestinian ensemble built on the collaborative juices and musical dialogue occurring between Ramzi and the Belgian pianist, conductor and composer Éloi Baudimont. The pair was introduced by Yanic Samzun, Secretary General of Cultural Presence and Action (PAC*), who viewed the two artists as possessing both great passion and the ability to cross musical boundaries. The repertoire builds on Ramzi’s and Éloi’s compositions, poems of the beloved Mahmoud Darwish, and an East-West blending of Palestinian melodies, European polyphony, big-band harmonies, Arabic and European instruments, and a host of historic and contemporary influences that have taken Ramzi into a yet-uncharted exploration of the possibilities brought to life by the bouzouq. The ensemble has toured France, Belgium and Palestine and has released one CD to date.
Named after a style of song performed in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, the word Dal’Ouna stands for the communal values of synchronicity, collaborative work and mutual support required for a successful olive harvest, for building a home, or producing a life cycle event. This reflects the collective spirit of the ensemble, whose repertoire features instrumentals and poetic genres based in folklore spanning from Egypt to Andalusia via the Middle East, as well as original compositions—all enhanced by jazzy, layered improvisations, hints of other world traditions, and a profound sense of bluesy lyricism. The body of work developed by the ensemble presents (and represents) the group’s wide-ranging talents and diverse backgrounds, creative exchanges between the soloists, and the sensibility that in music, there are no borders.
For the members of the PNEAM, the creation of a classical Arabic ensemble in Palestine was a dream come true, and judging by the ecstatic response of Palestinian audiences to the ensemble, it is an unforgettable experience for them as well. “The connection between me and tarab music was always through the recording, radio or television, but tarab is a live thing” Ramzi explains. Created in 2010 by Ramzi, who also serves as its musical director, The Palestine National Ensemble for Arabic Music (PNEAM) is reviving and breathing new life into the classical Arab musical heritage in Palestine.