Hanine Y Son Cubano

Hanine Y Son Cubano perform” Albi we moftaho.”

ho says you can’t have it all? Hanine Y Soy Cubano, a celebrated Arabo-Cuban fusion group fronted by Lebanese singer Hanine Abu Chakra, has successfully merged Arabic oldies with some of the latest trends in international music. The result is a presentation of familiar Arab icons in a new light: renditions of Mohammed Abdel Wahhab you can salsa to, and Fairuz hits with a little Cha Cha thrown in.

The group’s latest album, released August 2, includes live performances from the Baalbek and Beiteddine festivals and is sure to delight eager fans. NOW Extra sat down with Abu Chakra.

Tell us a little about where you grew up.

Hanine Abu Chakra: I grew up in Mount Lebanon in a village called Ammatour. moved many times before the war. We went once to the Metn, once to the Bekaa and then to Ammatour again. Then after the war, we moved to Beirut.

What was your experience with music in your youth?

Abu Chakra:
I didn’t have any professional artists in my family.  But all of them liked the arts and enjoy music… I started singing early. I listened to good Arabic music and Arabic oldies. My father had a nice voice; my father taught me how to sing the Arabic muwel.

What is the muwel?

Abu Chakra: It is a kind of improvisation in Arabic music. It exists in all Arabic-speaking countries but in different styles.

When did you know that you wanted to become a professional singer?

Abu Chakra: I was studying oriental music at the conservatory and at the same time I studied law. I worked as a lawyer for three to four years, and I had a big conflict with the syndicate of lawyers because I wanted to sing at the same time. I failed the exam of law; it’s impossible to continue in two professions at the same time.

How did you end up in Hanine Y Soy Cubano?

Abu Chakra:
I met, by chance, a friend of Michel Elefteriades. He told me Elefteriades wanted to do this fusion between Arabic and Cuban music, and for me Elefteriades had a very good reputation in music… I found Elefteriades shared the same way of thinking about the arts. He heard my voice for the first time at the studio [of] Georges al-Safi, and he told me directly that I’m the one to be the oriental voice instrument, if you can say such a thing, to do this fusion with the Cuban band.

What about the rest of the group?

Abu Chakra: [The original lineup] were older musicians and very famous in Cuba. Then we started to change them, one by one, and today I have only Ludel and Reguardo from the old group. I also had with me Papagopio, a percussionist [who is] very famous in Cuba and in Latin America. So when we started, we started a little like Buena Vista Social Club -  like the classic Cuban music, and then we changed a little bit to the contemporary Latin music, salsa namely.

How long does it take to transform an Arabic song to Cuban fusion?

Abu Chakra: It depends. I start with the music, the notes, because I don’t want the Cubans to hear the song as it is. I want them to read the melody written on a paper and to think that it’s a Cuban melody and work on it without knowing how it was before. Then, I give it to them and we start to work on it… I think to work on a song, just to memorize it, takes maybe one or two weeks.

 What would you describe as your central audience?

Abu Chakra:
We can talk about generations - not about community or people. I think that, for the older Lebanese generation, I remind them of their youth. And the newer generation, they are hearing new music which is very fashionable, with nice melodies - which is Lebanese but they would not [necessarily] know it.

For more information on Hanine Y Son Cubano, check out their Facebook page here.

  • Miumiu

    different and very very nice

    August 3, 2010