Concerts - visiting Musicians, Fusion & World, Post Millenium, USA and Beyond

Beautiful Tunisian Oud Jazz

These You Tube live recordings will please some while others will dislike them.  That is of no real matter because Jazz has never tried to be all things to all people.   Jazz is a restless music and throughout its history it has taken on the voicings and ethos of other musical traditions (often making them its own).   Dizzy, Miles, Coltrane , Latef and others never stopped listening for new and exotic sounds and a lot of excellent music resulted from their interest in non-American music traditions.  

I saw Dhafer Yussef at an International Jazz festival and I will never forget the experience. His band performed breathtaking improvised music, jazz as we know it, but often around very ancient themes. It felt to me like a wonderful addition to the Jazz lexicon. Dhafer is a Sufi and the Sufi traditions are an ancient expression of Islamic culture. Sufi’s follow a mystical peaceable tradition which is gradually becoming better known in the west. Great poets, like Rumi, Hafez, Bulleh Shah and Khwaja Ghulam Farid are of this tradition. Qawwali is the best known form of Sufi music, however music is also central to the whirling dervishes and the ceremony of Sema uses a slow, sedate form of music featuring the Turkish flute and the ney. The West African Gnawa is another form (Randy Westen and Dizzy referenced this).

Dhafer Youssef (Arabic: ظافر يوسف‎) (born 1967 in Teboulba, Tunisia) is a composer, singer,and oud player. He developed an interest in jazz at an early age and clandestinely listened to it during his education at Qur’anic school.[1] He later left Tunisia to start a jazz career and has lived in Europe since 1990, usually in Paris or Vienna. He has played at many of the premier mainstream Jazz Festivals in the world and is mentioned on the USA based ‘All About Jazz’ website. I have been interested to note the number of Arab and Israeli Jazz musicians routinely mentioned in Down Beat and Jazz Times lately. The second clip features a stunning young Arab pianist Tigran Hamasyan and his Moorish Jazz style is quite beguiling. In this second piece the music builds in intensity and I suspect that this is part of the tradition (note the movement of the hands to enhance the vocalese).

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4 thoughts on “Beautiful Tunisian Oud Jazz

  1. I liked both of those tracks John – I’m in no doubt that they are Jazz to me – the vocalisations in the second track took me right back to the 2 years I spent in Beirut as an 11 year old and the popular Arabic music I frequently heard emanating from cafes at the time.

    1. Yes I think that the cafe culture of the Med is very relevant to this type of blended Jazz. Oud players often mention a local cafe in liner notes and the music is intimate and strangely hip. Like you Stu I have heard Moorish, Gypsy and Arab music in that region and have felt a connection to it. To have the music Jazz infused is very satisfying. Django was perhaps the torch bearer?

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