Palestinian singer and songwriter Ruba Shamshoum is about to release her debut album Shamat (Beauty Spots) which merges innovatively Jazz music with different styles of the region. Ruba Shamshoum has been making music since 2011.
“When I think about creating art, I feel we have to think that our time should always be the beautiful time. We should always think and re-think art, we should never be static.” tells Ruba Shamshoum to an audience during her TedTalk in London talking about creativity in a society that worships the past. When thinking about artists and musicians who influenced her, Ruba explains that “the most important thing that inspires me is innovation and artists who really tell a story and think outside of the box.” The first time she started to write her own music was for the film Lamma Shoftak (When I Saw You) a film by Annemarie Jacir who is a Palestinian filmmaker and poet.
The song Ya Layl La Trooh (Oh Night Don’t Go) combines Jazz with familiar and unfamiliar sounds from the region. Her music reminds sometimes of musicians like Norah Jones, but having a different touch and sound. In one of the verses of Ya Layl La Trooh, Ruba sings of a paradise full of song. After releasing a couple of singles such as Fuqaati (My Bubble), she recorded her debut album in Dublin in 2016. Both of the songs, Ya Layl La Trooh and Fuqaati will be included in the Album as well, because it sets the tone of the album.
The debut album Shamat (Beautiful Spots) is a collection of old and new songs, and it is a story of “musical escapism”, because as Ruba explains the album is trying to create a world in a bubble, seeing the world through the perspective ot Ruba. The album is an attempt to form this world through music. “There are many things in each song, some of them delve into escapism. I was always a fan of science fiction and fantasy. My favorite character was Alice in Wonderland because I wanted to go somewhere else.” On her Croudfunding Page, she writes that “the songs in this album are from the heart of a woman who decided to take a leap of faith ten years ago, faith in herself to sing and move people, to create images and worlds with words and melodies.” One of her songs is dedicated to her grandmother, and Ruba is very much shaped by the woman in her life. “It is a tribute to my mother, my grandmother and my sister. I always grew up with women, they molded me and made me who I am.”
Her studies of Jazz Performance at Newpark Music Centre in Dublin helped her to give her the right tools to compose, and delve deeper into the world of Jazz, meeting new musicians and artists who collaborated with her. Many of the musicians who participated in the album are friends she met during her studies in Dublin. Even though her voice is the main instrument, she plays the piano too, and learned the violin when she was young, although she rebelled at some point against it. The way she composes songs differs with each song. While some of the songs come from a certain image she has in her mind, it can inspire her to write certain lyrics while on the other hand some songs are coming from improvisation. For Ruba, improvisation is very important. “If you improvise, and you record it, you can learn a lot from the session.” When talking about the time before and after studying Jazz Performance and how it affected her music writing, Ruba explains that “Before I started to study Jazz Performance, the way I made music was inspired very much by the music that I listened to. But studying music gave me the tools, to write music in a more innovative way like exploring harmonies and the way I write lyrics became different as well. I think my early songs were very innocent.”
One of her songs that are included in Shamat is Fuqaati (My Bubble). This song is an introduction to the whole album, defining the soul and sound of Ruba Shamshoum, harmonizing between Jazz and her own sound which she developed over the years.
The illustrations accompanying the song are created by Charlotte Shama. She is making illustrations for each song of the album as well, which are characterized as both dark and beautiful and Ruba’s sister Joanne Shamshoum, a graphic designer is working on the design of the album with Shama’s illustrations.
It is very important to her to play in front of an audience. Ruba says that “I think I become a better performer in front of an audience who doesn’t know Arabic.” This made her engage in telling a short introduction or short story before each song. The reaction of the audience encouraged Ruba to continue to create music in a innovative way, because even though there are artists in the region who combine Jazz with their own musical experience, the music that Ruba creates is new in the region. While connecting to her audience, she explains that “the greatest honor for me is, that even when the audience doesn’t understand the lyrics, they still feel connected to it through the music.”
The album is expected to be released this year, and currently a crowdfunding project is active where you can support her music. You can find it here.