Coldplay may have turned to outer space for inspiration when announcing their coming album, but it’s worth remembering the muse for its predecessor is in the Mena region.
As the UK rock group prepare to release Music of the Spheres on Friday, of which they offered the first preview in May by premiering lead single Higher Power on the International Space Station, former collaborator Adnan Joubran recalls Coldplay travelling to Palestine, seeking inspiration for their 2019 release Everyday Life.
The trip, two years prior to the album's release, was supposed to be off the radar.
With erroneous reports circulating of Coldplay playing concerts in Palestine and Israel, however, singer Chris Martin took to Twitter to confirm their location and deny the rumours.
"We are in Israel and Palestine to listen and learn and that's all. There is no concert scheduled," he wrote, in February 2017.
"We are just having an interesting and enlightening trip to learn about the area."
A genuine collaboration
Joubran says Martin was seeking to collaborate with the band on Everyday Life, which Coldplay eventually debuted in Jordan's capital Amman, and that the group met the British singer in Ramallah to spark a connection.
“The way Le Trio Joubran are is that we really need to understand the people we want to work with and essentially find out about their motivations,” Joubran tells The National.
"Chris explained that the whole idea of the album was to present a little bit of peace in the Middle East.
“He was very genuine about it and we thought this was a good initiative from someone that is not Palestinian. It was very sweet actually.”
Martin also wanted Le Trio Joubran to add a new dimension to the tracks Coldplay were working on.
"I remember him saying my music is too straight and that it's too dance-y," Joubran says.
"Chris said he wanted more emotion to the new songs because of the concept of the album.”
An epic and experimental affair
The end result is Arabesque, the epic seventh track of Everyday Life.
The near six-minute piece is easily one of Coldplay's most daring compositions, with its cocktail of global sounds veering from Afrobeat and jazz to traditional Arab folk music.
Le Trio Joubran's seductive and careening oud-play courses through the piece, alongside fiery horns by Nigeria's Femi Kuti, the lilting croon of Belgium's Stromae and darting strings by Italian violinist Davide Rossi.
As for vocals, Martin delivers some of Coldplay's most strident lines.
In a forceful ode to the healing power of the arts, Martin says: "We share the same blood. Music is the weapon, music is the weapon of the future."
Joubran recalls how it all came together.
“After our meeting, we were sent the song and then we added our parts to the mix,” he says.
“I think it is a beautiful piece and it was initially up to nine minutes, but the producers eventually shrunk it to what it is now."
With Music of the Spheres, Coldplay are returning to their trademark pop sounds and collaborating with K-pop behemoths BTS, so Joubran is grateful the band took an artistic leap with Everyday Life.
It remains an album where the spirit of Palestine shines through.
“That’s why they came here,” Joubran says.
“They wanted more emotion to the music. To do that Coldplay came to Palestine, which is the source of emotions and spirituality.”