On December 20th the Tunisian musician Dhafer Youssef gave a concert at the Royal Opera House Muscat. Again, this was a rare opportunity for ex-pats and non-Arabs working in Oman to experience a renowned vocalist, composer and oud player.
Although educated and trained in traditional and classical Arab music, Dhafer Youssef is a leading figure in today’s avant-garde realm of world jazz, who draws inspiration from spiritual forms of music such as Sufi.
Dhafer grew up in a traditional fishing village in eastern Tunisia. He came from a family of muezzins and was educated in a classic Qur’anic school. Because of his unusually beautiful voice he was asked to record the call to prayer – when he was only five years old.
While still a child, Dhafer discovered a love for jazz, which he pursued despite all the challenges he faced. He taught himself the oud and went on to study at the Music Conservatory in Nahj Zarkoun. He later left for Vienna where he felt he could widen his musical horizons.
It was in Vienna that he discovered and participated in the exciting live music scene in the city’s jazz clubs. Here he made his first album and became a regular performer at the the renowned Viennese club Porgy and Bess.
Youssef’s unique style of music combines mystical and jazz influences from World Music with Arab influences. Through the beauty, clarity and range of his voice Dhafer creates a hauntingly atmospheric vocal style.
On stage Dhafer Youssef plays an electric oud. He has managed the almost impossible feat of bringing the oud, an instrument foreign to the realm of jazz, out of its traditional role and making it a serious instrument for jazz and contemporary electronic music.
His videos are on YouTube. Here are two links.