“The kind of gig you watched and prayed would never end, charged with such magic that you knew you would be telling people about it in years to come.” —Straight No Chaser
Tunisian-born singer and oud (Arabic lute) virtuoso Dhafer Youssef’s hypnotic, Sufi-inspired music connects the ancient with the modern, the East with the West in an enticing coalescence of culture. Youssef draws on the evocative sound of his Islamic heritage, combining it with new directions in European jazz and “a voice that could stop wars” (Songlines) to create timeless atmospheres of sound. Youssef makes his Minnesota debut on Thursday, September 27, at 8 pm in the Walker Art Center’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater, joined by a string quartet—Todd Reynolds (Ethel, Steve Reich), violin; Daisy Jopling (Triology), violin; Caleb Burhans (Alarm Will Sound), viola; Mark Helias (Anthony Braxton, Dewey Redman), bass—and omnidextrous percussionist Satoshi Takeishi (Randy Brecker, Paul Winter, Erik Friedlander). The concert opens the Walker’s three-part series New World Jazz, featuring leading composers-performers fusing elements of jazz, chamber music, and innovations on centuries-old world musical traditions.
Born in Teboulba, Tunisia in 1967, Youssef has been living and working in Vienna, Austria, since 1990, during which time he has performed on stages in Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland and other European countries as well as his native Tunisia (where he began singing in the Islamic tradition at age 5). He has collaborated with Renaud Garcia-Fons, Markus Stockhausen, Carlo Rizzo, Nguyên Lê, Jatinder Thakur, Sainkho Namchylak, Paolo Fresu, Arto Tuncboyacian, Linda Sharrock, Wolfgang Puschnig, Christian Muthspiel, Jamey Haddad, Iva Bittova, Tom Cora, and other acclaimed improvisers influenced by world music concepts. While leading ensembles, he recorded albums in 1993 and 1996. With his poetic approach on the oud, his complex Arab-colored compositions, and his deeply affecting singing, Youssef is one of the most impressive voices to emerge in this musical field in many years. His critically acclaimed 1999 ENJA release, Malak, is a thrilling statement incorporating Arabic lyricism, rhythmic power, visionary strength, multicultural influences, and jazz-oriented improvisation that opens the way to a new definition of East-West crossover.
Youssef performed with his quartet (Markus Stockhausen, trumpet, Dieter Ilg or Renaud Garcia-Fons bass, Patrice Heral drums) throughout Europe in 1999, 2000, and 2001. In addition, he performed with trumpeter Nils Petar Molvaer and percussionist Marilyn Mazur in Scandinavia and bassist/producer Bill Lasswell invited him to take part in the World Festival of Sacred Music in Hiroshima, Japan in 2001.
The CD Electric Sufi was produced and recorded in New York, Cologne, and Paris featuring the excellent ensemble of Will Calhoun on drums, Doug Wimbish on electric bass and electronics, Dieter Ilg on bass, Mino Cinelu on percussion, Wolfgang Muthspiel on guitars, Markus Stockhausen on trumpet, and Deepak Ram on bansuri providing the perfect setting for Youssef’s emotive oud playing and his intense vocals.
Tickets to Dhafer Youssef are $22 ($18 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.