Birds Requiem Dhafer Youssef

Album info



Label: Okeh/Sony Masterworks

Genre: Jazz

Subgenre: Nu Jazz

Artist: Dhafer Youssef

Album including Album cover

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  • 1Birds Canticum "Birds Requiem" Suite03:18
  • 2Sweet Blasphemy06:03
  • 3Blending Souls & Shades (to Shiraz)09:29
  • 4Ascetic Mood05:40
  • 5Fuga Hirundinum "Birds Requiem" Suite04:19
  • 6Khira "Indicium Divinum" Elegy for My Mother03:55
  • 739th Gülay (to Istanbul)06:49
  • 8Archaic Feathers "Birds Requiem" Suite03:00
  • 9Sevdah (to Jon Hassell)08:00
  • 10Ascetic Journey09:00
  • 11Whirling Birds Ceremony "Birds Requiem" Suite04:45
  • Total Runtime01:04:18

Info for Birds Requiem

With his new sixth studio album Birds Requiem, the Tunisian singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef once again dedicates himself to the fusion of traditional Muslim Sufi singing with modern nu jazz sounds.

The album is an excursion through different genres. Experimental jazz melodies mix with guitar sounds, the trumpet supports the foundation of the rhythm section and complements the musical diversity of the instrumentation. The Sufi chant and the oriental motifs create an impressive fusion between tradition and modernity. Once again, he relies on the proven collaboration with Norwegian jazz luminaries Nils Petter Molvaer (trumpet) and Eivind Aarset (guitar). Together they form one of the strongest live formations of the genre, which can be experienced regularly in concerts worldwide.

"Tunisian oud master, vocalist, and composer Dhafer Youssef is globally renowned for his restless musicality. He has used his ancient instrument -- five millennia and counting -- to explore jazz, classical, and blues, in addition to the classical and folk musics of the Middle East, North Africa, and Mediterranean regions. The ephemeral Birds Requiem is his debut offering for Sony's resurrected Okeh imprint. The players on this date include his trio with pianist Kristjan Randalu and trumpeter Nils-Petter Molvaer, and the complete ensemble (which recorded primarily in Sweden) features clarinetist Hüsnu Senlendirici, bassist Phil Donkin, drummer Chander Sardjoe, and electric guitarist Eivind Aarset, which also provides various electronic treatments. Aytac Dogan plays the zither-like kanun. The four-part "Birds Requiem Suite" is, as expected, the heart of the recording: it introduces it, plays two distinct parts in its middle section, and closes it. There are elemental theme-like qualities in each section, none of them predictable nor pat; neither do they act as mere showcases for Dhafer's virtuosity, but instead are carefully conceived ensemble pieces with the oud at their collective heart, with distinct harmonics, timbres, and interplay. There are seven other compositions as well. "Blending Souls & Shades (To Shiraz)" is the set's longest track. It commences as a sparse folk lament and becomes a labyrinthine jazz improv workout, with a stellar guitar break by Aarset and gorgeous falsetto by Dhafer. "Ascetic Mood" is a slow, brooding trio work for oud, clarinet, and piano. According to Dhafer, "Khira 'Indicium Divinum' Elegy for My Mother" was a spontaneous improvisation between his voice, Molvaer's trumpet, and Randalu's piano. It is easily the most moving and beautiful thing here. Other oud greats, from Rabih Abou-Khalil and Anouar Brahem to Titi Robin and Hamdi Makhlouf, have furthered the instrument's reach and juxtaposed it with jazz, improvised, and other world musics, but Youssef's Birds Requiem -- for its range, formal historical considerations, emotional expression, subtle yet distinctive colors and textures, as well as its truly stellar musicianship -- has used it to create a musical language that, while readily acknowledging the traditions that have informed it, is truly of his own creation." (Thom Jurek, AMG)

"An impressive album that defies categorisation." (Jazzthetik)

"Youssef's contact with the Norwegian nu-jazz scene is getting closer and closer and leads to fascinating results. It's amazing how organically the oud or an oriental zither (kanun) complement each other with Nils-Petter Molvaer's ethereal trumpet. And Dhafer's singing seems out of this world anyway." (Fono Forum)

"Birds Requiem is again a big hit. Oriental harmonies, rapid jazz improvisations and roaring rock guitar organically blend with Youssef's Muslim vocal acrobatics to create sound panoramas of fascinating beauty." (stereoplay)

"Youssef's ethereal vocals, the pared-down oud, the mishmash of impulses thus add up to a chamber-jazz gem whose pan-cultural openness reconciles opposites." (Audio)

"Amazing how organically the oud or an oriental zither (kanun) complement Nils-Petter Molvaer's ethereal trumpet." (Stereo)

Dhafer Youssef, oud, vocals
Husnu Senlendirici, clarinet
Nils Petter Molvær, trumpet
Aytac Dogan, hanun
Eivind Aarset, electric guitar, electronics
Kristjan Randalu, piano
Phil Donkin, double bass
hander Sardjoe, drums

Dhafer Youssef
Born in 1967 in Teboulba, Tunesia, cosmopolitan composer, singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef has been living and working in Europe since 1990. With his deeply affecting vocal style, a straight approach on the oud, charming Arab-coloured compositions, spacey electric lounge vibes and a variety of fusion sounds, he is among today's shooting stars on the electronical/world music scene. World beat magazine Songlines read: "This man is pushing the roots-digital envelope like no-one else can."

Dhafer Youssef recorded two previous CDs in 1993 and 1996 before he started his collaboration with ENJA. Over the years he has been working with Iva Bittova, Mino Cinelu, Tom Cora, Paolo Fresu, Renaud Garcia-Fons, Jamey Haddad, Patrice Heral, Dieter Ilg, Nguyên Lê, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Sainkho Namchylak, Wolfgang Puschnig, Deepak Ram, Carlo Rizzo, Linda Sharrock, Markus Stockhausen, Jatinder Thakur, Arto Tuncboyacian and other great individual improvisers influenced by world music concepts. He always kept finding new soundscapes to go with his intense vocals and his poetic oud playing and finally started adding electric and digital sounds. With the support of Nils Petter Molvaer, Bill Laswell, Doug Wimbish, Eivind Aarset, Bugge Wesseltoft, Rune Arnesen and others, Dhafer Youssef has become one of the most imaginative artists on the crossroads of electronic, acoustic and ambient musics.

Rooted in Islamic traditions, Dhafer's singing is dignified with an aura of spirituality. The Guardian read: "Every time Youssef opens his mouth we are treated to a soaring sound that seems to echo back through the centuries (…) evoking images of dark and ancient temples." When his dark, haunting baritone voice leaps into a hair-raising falsetto, listeners feel "the earth move" below their feet. As an inventive oud player and composer, Dhafer Youssef creates original music both majestic and refined. "Youssef's oud sometimes evokes Bert Jansch's mournful brand of scary folk, at other times it takes on the measured bombast of heavy metal," Time Out read.

Taking world/jazz fusion into electronic trance music with trip-hop elements, Dhafer Youssef is at the core of current cutting-edge trends heading for a bright future. Says the Evening Standard: "No question about it, Dhafer Youssef is a major new voice."

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